After a fiercely contested week on the water, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC) was confirmed as winner of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. In the process, the Toronto-based club successfully defended the title it won in 2011.
Royal Canadian YC (CAN) crossing the bows of some opponents on Day 4
The third edition of the popular biennial competition, held from 7-14 September, welcomed 20 international yacht club teams from five continents and 13 different countries to Newport, Rhode Island, USA.
The regatta, first held in 2009, is open to a limited number of the world's pre-eminent yacht clubs with crew composition strictly limited to non-professional sailors. With each of the 10-member crews racing identically matched Swan 42s, the competition promotes Corinthian sailing, rewarding preparation, teamwork and tactical expertise. It’s a concept admired and embraced by those taking part.
The Royal Thames YC (GBR) team leading upwind
'We think the most important thing is being here representing our club from a gentlemen’s point of view. Our club is over 130 years old, the New York Yacht Club is almost 170 years old – both have a lot of tradition,' explained Paulo Cosentino, skipper of Yacht Club Argentino from Buenos Aires. 'For me this is the best regatta in the world. It is a great mix of social and sporting elements at the highest level, an international, gentlemen’s competition,' added Javier Scherk, skipper of Spanish entry Real Club Náutico de Barcelona. 'The amateur component is very unusual and adds something attractive to the event. Newport is a great sailing venue, where everyone seems to know about the sport.'
Bruce Foye, skipper of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (CYCA) team, one of the entrants to travel from furthest afield explained: 'It feels like a dream to come here. To sail in these waters, against international yacht clubs and represent the CYCA is something that we feel very honoured to do. We have come to Newport to sail with the spirit of the event and enjoy the atmosphere.'
The CYCA was one of three clubs representing Australia. The fleet also comprised yacht clubs from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom as well as four United States entries.
As defending champion, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club (RCYC) began the week as the team to beat but faced a determined onslaught from 19 skilled teams over five days of competition. Helmed by Terry McLaughlin, the 1984 Olympic Silver medallist in the Flying Dutchman, the RCYC won the 2011 event by a commanding 20 points ahead of the inaugural event winner and host, the New York Yacht Club.
'We know the Invitational Cup will have extremely good competition and therefore we are doing our best to prepare for what will be a fantastic regatta,' explained McLaughlin at the beginning of the event. 'Consistency is the name of the game.' The RCYC arrived in Newport with their entire winning crew from 2011, the only change being the inclusion of an additional crew member, a result of an increase to the crew weight limit permitted in the class rules.
Surprisingly, the RCYC began the competition poorly, not finishing higher than seventh in the first three races including a disappointing 14th in the first race. Competition debutants Larchmont Yacht Club displayed the most consistent sailing on Narragansett Bay with three consecutive second places in the opening races, ensuring they carried the Rolex gold spinnaker as the standings leader. 'The main thing that we focused on was starting in a clear lane and sailing straight, minimizing how much tacking we were doing,' explained tactician Cardwell Potts. It signalled an impressive start for a crew who had managed less than a week’s practice on their Swan 42.
The crew of the Royal Canadian YC (CAN) celebrating their title
Also mounting a promising start was the Japan Sailing Federation, the best performing non-North American team in the previous two editions. A fourth place and a bullet on day one suggested the team was ready to mount a more sustained challenge for the title in 2013. 'The level of competition is higher than last time,' admitted helmsman Eiichiro Hamazaki, another sailor to enjoy the event’s alluring combination of competition and social activities. 'Racing is very competitive, friendly and enjoyable. There is a high society atmosphere with the social events.' Three successive 10th place finishes during the middle of the competition ultimately extinguished the Japanese crew’s chances of challenging for the title.
By the third day of the week the RCYC was easing into the competition. 'I was off my game in the beginning of the regatta,' admitted McLaughlin, after his crew claimed a fourth straight bullet – a major statement of intent. 'We’re now sailing how we can sail. The goal is to finish in the top-five every race. We have pretty good speed, especially in breeze, and we have good crew work.'
A further bullet, followed by a third and a seventh on the penultimate day of racing, enabled the RCYC to move ahead of Larchmont Yacht Club for the first time in the week. It set up a beautifully poised final day. Defender versus challenger. The Americans were faced with the challenge of overcoming a tough, but manageable six-point gap. 'We’re looking to attack them and it’s doable,' explained Larchmont Yacht Club helmsman Danny Pletsch. 'But it’s going to be tough considering how fast and consistent they are.'
On the final day, Larchmont Yacht Club’s main adversary proved to be the weather and not the Canadian crew. In contrast to the 20 knots of breeze that heralded the first day of competition, the final day proved frustrating for both an expectant fleet and race committee. After a patient wait for breeze, racing eventually got underway in about seven knots of wind on Rhode Island Sound but a rapidly dying breeze eventually forced the abandonment of racing. Consequently, the leaderboard remained unchanged and the RCYC was confirmed as champion.
YC Argentino (ARG) racing to win Race 3 of Day 4
'The competition at this regatta is getting better and better every year,' reflected McLaughlin. 'Anyone who is here for the first time has learned a lot and wants to come back.' Larchmont Yacht Club sealed an impressive second place while the final podium place belonged to the Royal Thames Yacht Club from the United Kingdom, who celebrated its status as the top non-North American finisher.
The week’s sailing and social events again proved popular with thoughts already turning to the next edition in 2015. 'We’ve had a fantastic time here, the hospitality offered by the locals and the NYYC has been absolutely tremendous. We’re keen to improve and do better in two years time,' explained Philippe Rogge, tactician for the Royal Belgian Sailing Club. An honourable sentiment shared by all those who took part.
For its excellence on the water, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club was rewarded with the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup Trophy and a Rolex timepiece at the final prizegiving held at the New York Yacht Club.
The fourth edition of the event will be held in September 2015.
Position, Team, Country, Points Total
1. Royal Canadian YC, CAN, 14-7-9-1-1-1-1-1-3-7, 45
2. Larchmont YC, USA, 2-2-2-16-3-4-5.1-2-1-14, 51.1
3. Royal Thames YC, GR, 3-6.3-16-2-11-24-6-5-8, 63.3
4. Royal Cork YC, IRL, 7-7.8-7-6-5-10-8-11-10-6, 77.8
5. Royal Southern YC, GBR, 5-17-5-14-6-10-13-10-9-2, 91
6. Japan Sailing Federation, JPN, 4-1-10-10-10-7-11-16-8-15, 92
7. Seattle YC, USA, 9.2-12-14-7-2-3-2-12-19-12, 92.2
8. Yacht Club Argentino, ARG, 18-16-13-4-19-13-7-3-2-1, 96
9. New York YC, USA, 8-13-6-5-4-18-17-8-7-11, 97
10. Cruising YC of Australia, AUS, 15-9-12-15-8-5-5-9-18-5, 101
11. Royal Prince Alfred YC, AUS, 1-5-1-11-18-21-6-7-15-19, 104
12. Royal Yacht Squadron, GBR, 9-6-5-13-20-8-12-5-12-17, 107
13. The San Francisco YC, USA, 12-11-4-3-15-21-14-13-4-13, 110
14. Yacht Club Italiano, ITA, 10-19-9-18-7-9-21-4-13-3, 113
15. Royal Hong Kong YC, HKG, 13-3-17-8-20-14-3-17-6-16, 117
16. Royal Freshwater Bay YC, AUS, 6-5-19-12-9-16-16-19-11-10, 123
17. Royal Belgian YC, BEL, 11-8-11-9-17-11-15-18-16-18, 134
18. Nylandska Jaktklubben, FIN, 16-13.9-18-19-17-6-9-14-17-9, 138.9
19. RCN de Barcelona, ESP, 17-18-15-17-12-17-10-15-20-20, 161
20. Royal Swedish YC, SWE, 21-16-20-21-14-12-21-20-14-4, 163