Long Beach Yacht Club announced last week the cancelation of the 2020 Congressional Cup regatta, which had been planned for April 2020 and postponed to mid-October.
It is saddening that so many activities have been impacted by the pandemic — but this one really stings.
I was a second grader at the first Congressional Cup and my mom was an enthusiastic volunteer. Back in 1965, I can remember her explaining match racing and why she was passionate about it, “Its man against man — it is the ultimate test of skill and strategy of the skipper and crew — not the boats or who spends the most.”
According to last week’s press release, organizers explored other platforms and venues, they did everything they could and canceling was a last resort.
LBYC Commodore Charlie Legeman explained, how the committee toiled through the alternatives, including the possibility of holding the matches aboard a fleet of Solings. “Congressional Cup founder and Permanent Senior Staff Commodore Bill Dalessi clarified Congressional Cup history to me, pointing out the Cup was to be sailed in big boats with full crews.”
“Out of respect to those founding fathers and Commodore Dalessi, I recommended to the Congressional Cup committee that we cancel the event outright, for 2020,” Legeman said.
To truly understand Commodore Legeman’s comments, it requires some background on the history and the Deed of Gift regarding the Congressional Cup.
Back in June 1964, Mr. Dalessi, acting on behalf of LBYC, wrote President Johnson asking permission to establish a “President’s Cup” for a major regatta in Long Beach.
In his letter Dalessi said, “Many of us in Southern California have had the opportunity of racing for the President of the United States trophy and the President of Mexico trophy, which are offered to the first place winners annually in the Newport to Ensenada (N2E) race.”
Long Beach member of the House of Representatives Craig Hosmer was a personal friend of Bill Dalessi who even “sailed a bit,” fast tracked the letter to the White House. President Johnson turned down the offer. His special assistant explained Johnson was keeping the precedent that Presidential trophies are reserved for major international events.
Less than three weeks after receiving word from President Johnson, Dalessi was contacted by Representative Hosmer, who offered on behalf of the House of Representatives to co-sponsor with Senator Thomas H. Kuchel, on behalf of the Senate, the Congressional Cup.
The LBYC Board of Directors formed a committee, and in less than a week the draft Deed of Gift was written by Dalessi, reviewed by Commodore Brookins and board members and sent to the Congressman.
The letter from Dalessi to Hosmer is professional, yet it offers clues to their friendly relationship — giving Hosmer the opportunity to explore the possibility of having it redone on “fancy type scroll” or “doctor it up to look more impressive.”
Just a few days later, after ordering a special typewriter (that his secretary couldn’t operate) Hosmer personally typed using parchment paper, the Deed of Gift. In a handwritten personal note to Bill Dalessi, he explained the deed was without the planned gold border — that would look better if it was added as part of the framing process — and the framer could also smooth out the wrinkles the document gained in the review and signature process.
In February 1965, the first race took place. So in less than 8 months, the vision of a President’s Cup went from board approval to the Congressional Cup with a sponsorship commitment from both the House and the Senate recorded in the Congressional Record.
This blossomed into full implementation of a successful 10-boat regatta in a round robin format with Cal-40 sloops using a short Olympic-type course outside of the breakwater.
Skipping 2020 is more palatable; knowing that doing any less than the standard established on the very first regatta that has been maintained over the years would be unfortunate, knowing the worldwide status of Congressional Cup.
Special thanks to my friend and mentor Bill Dalessi, who guided me writing this week’s column.