Emil Kjaer, representing the Royal Danish Yacht Club, won the 2021 Ficker Cup on Sunday, official event of the World Match Racing Tour, qualifying his team to this week’s 56th Congressional Cup along with second and third placed Ficker Cup skippers Jeffery Petersen (USA) and David Wood (USA).
Kjaer, 20, is one of a trio of young sailors who have plied the youth match racing circuit this summer and dominated the Ficker Cup. Jeffrey Petersen (USA), 19, finished second, and David Wood (USA), 20, finished third. Both hail from Balboa Yacht Club, Calif. Each had their day during the finals, and all three have qualified for the Congressional Cup, which begins Sept. 14.
Ficker Cup racing commenced Friday Sept. 10 in spectacular conditions that held all weekend. Petersen came out of the gate strong: finishing 6-1, losing only to Wood.
Kjaer, Petersen and Wood had been clashing all summer long. In June Petersen won the US Youth Match Racing Championship for the Rose Cup and followed up with a victory in the Governor’s Cup in July – where he edged out Kjaer in the finals. Wood turned the tables and triumphed in the International Youth Match Racing World Championship in mid-August, with Petersen in second, and Kjaer in fourth.
In Sunday morning’s draw, Wood selected Kjaer; an interesting choice he might later regret. Petersen had finished 10-4; Kjaer 9-5; and Pearson Potts 7-7 – who won in a tie-breaker against Chicago Yacht Club’s Peter Holz (USA). Typically, the frontrunner chooses the fourth place finisher. But Wood chose Kjaer – who would decisively eliminate him in the semi-finals.
Petersen was left to duke it out with Potts, a two-time US Match Racing Champion, in the semis; and defeated him in three matches.
Kjaer took on Wood, winning the first two matches, but Wood rebounded on the third. The wind had built to 15 knots, and in the fourth match, Kjaer forced Wood OCS and maximized the advantage, to win what would be the final match.
“We are really very happy,” said the young Dane. “Our main goal was to do as good as possible and qualify for the Congressional Cup, but this is better. And we are so grateful that there’s qualifiers for events like this – it gives young guys like us an amazing chance to join the event.” He credited his team of Gustav Wantzin, Mads Poder Witzke, Bastian Sorensen, Nicolai Baekgaard and Joachim Aschenbrenner.
Ficker Cup Chair Lisa Meier beamed with pride as the racing ended and she took a victory ride aboard Kjaer’s Catalina 37. “I am so impressed with the ability of the competitors, race organizers and yacht club to pivot when necessary and throw all their best efforts at bringing this regatta to life.”
Meier pointed out that Long Beach Yacht Club is invested in youth sailing and building a lifelong appreciation of sailing among the community. She will chair the 2022 Congressional Cup and noted, “We are using the Ficker Cup and other regattas to ensure our community members are prepared and ready to compete in the 2028 Olympic Games, in some capacity. LBYC is making a concerted effort to ensure that all qualified officials and competitors have a platform to compete and showcase their skills.”
And while all eyes now turn now toward next week’s big event, the honor and prestige of the Ficker Cup itself cannot go unnoticed. This respected Grade Two regatta was established by Long Beach Yacht Club to honor sailing legend Bill Ficker, whose own meteoric climb began with summer sailing in Newport Beach. A Star World champion in 1958, his America’s Cup win in 1970 spawned the slogan “Ficker is quicker.” He won the Congressional Cup in 1974.
The 56th Congressional Cup starts September 14 with daily racing September 15-19 and live coverage.