Sailors in the Congressional Cup, one of the most prestigious regattas in Southern California, started competing today in Long Beach.
This year's regatta is the 50th anniversary of the race, which was started by the Long Beach Yacht Club and ranks as the longest running "match race" in North America.
In match racing, skippers race head-to-head in identical boats -- Catalina 37s.
The first stage of the race featured six top skippers who will compete to advance to the next round. Only the top four will advance to the second stage, which is set for Wednesday and Thursday.
Stage Two includes 2013 Congressional Cup champion Simone Ferrarese of Italy and 2011 and 2012 champion Ian Williams, who is ranked as the No. 1 match racing sailor in the world.
Ferrarese said he enjoys the Congressional Cup because of the large turnout of fans.
"It's amazing to see all these people watching the races," Ferrarese said.
Williams has won four world championships, four national championships and three youth national championships since 2006.
"It's been a nice break but now I can't wait to get to Long Beach tomorrow and get back into top level racing at the 50th Congressional Cup," Williams wrote on his Twitter account.
The race boats are all owned and maintained by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation. To ensure fairness, each skipper uses a different boat each day.
The sailing course, which begins at the Long Beach Yacht Club in Alamitos Bay, is free to view from the Belmont Veteran Memorial Pier.
For more information, visit http://www.thecongressionalcup.com/.
--City News Service