by Rich Roberts
The fourth annual Butler Cup, an ISAF Grade 3 match race and the third and final stop on the California Dreamin’ Series, takes place this weekend at the Long Beach Yacht Club.
Dustin Durant (at helm) has a good shot at winning this year’s Butler Cup and is currently second in points in the 2012 California Dreamin’ Series
The winning skipper of the series receives an invitation to compete in this year’s Ficker Cup, March 22-24, and if they win the Ficker Cup is then given an invitation to compete in the Congressional Cup, March 26-31.
Leading the series is St. Francis Yacht Club’s Nicole Breault with a 50 point lead over second place Dustin Durant of LBYC. Doing the math, Breault can win the series by placing no worse than fourth in this weekend’s event.
'We know the competition in this series has been solid,' said Breault. 'Many of our races were determined in the final boat-lengths after duking it out around the course. As a result, our strategy is to bring the best fight we can to every race this weekend, to keep it simple wherever possible by avoiding mistakes and over-thinking, and finally to thrive on the excitement of close racing.'
The first two weekends of the series took place at San Diego Yacht Club, Feb. 11-12, and St. Francis Yacht Club, March 3-4, both using J/22s… a much smaller and lighter boat than the Catalina 37s used for the Butler, Ficker and Congressional Cup.
Durant did very well in the J/22s getting a third place finish overall in both events which jumped him up to number 84 in the ISAF match racing rankings, but has considerably more experience in the Catalina 37s which are stabled at his home yacht club.
(l-r) Nicole Breault calling tactics for Bruce Stone during the 2011 Butler Cup leads the 2012 California Dreamin’ Series
Breault on the other hand has been the tactician on the bigger boats quite a few times for Butler Cup and Ficker Cup regattas but doesn’t have much time behind the wheel.
'Right now, moving from the J/22 into the Catalina 37 is a bit intimidating for me,' said Breault. 'I have a great group of sailors on my team and I suspect we will learn quickly. As a skipper I get a lot of confidence from boat handling and speed control. Until I get a sense for what that will feel like on the larger boats, I see the transition as a major challenge.'
The balance of the eight skipper field is made up of; Nick Dugdale, St. Francis YC; David Storrs, Pequot YC; Dan Aeling, San Diego YC; Tyler Sinks, SDYC; Bill Durant, LBYC and Eric Doyle of North Sails’ Long Beach, Calif. loft.
Doyle might just be the ringer in all of this. Former Star World Champion, Louis Vuitton Cup veteran and strategist onboard BMW/Oracle’s America’s Cup challenger in 2002-03 and 2006-07 he certainly has the skills and experience in world-class regattas and knows what it takes to win.
The weather might also play a factor in this weekend’s regatta with heavy rain and wind in Saturday’s forecast, then lightening up a bit Sunday with scattered showers.
Principal Race Officer Pete Ives said, 'We’ll race in the rain but the wind might be a problem. We’ll just have to see what it’s like Saturday morning and go from there.'
With forecasted sustained winds Saturday of 15-20 knots the 'problem' is that these durable Catalina 37s (built by Frank Butler, namesake for the event) were designed for the normal Long Beach weather conditions; moderate chop and breeze of 8-15 knots. Without even reef points in the main sails it greatly limits their use in breeze approaching 20 knots.
All of this adds up to what will, no doubt, be an exciting - albeit wet - weekend of match racing.
As always, the event is held just off of the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier where the public can come on down and watch the day’s racing action right from the pier. Racing is scheduled to begin each day at 11:30 a.m., weather conditions permitting.
The event is named for Frank Butler, founder of Catalina Yachts, who in 1990 designed, built and donated the 11 Catalina 37s used for all of the match races held at LBYC. These same boats are also used for fleet race events and are available for team building and individual charters through the Long Beach Sailing Foundation.