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New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup

by Dana Paxton on 5 Aug 2009
New York Yacht Club

When the New York Yacht Club set out to create a unique regatta in the tradition of friendly competition among the world’s leading yacht clubs, it received immediate support from the yachting community and the media for the inaugural Invitational Cup.

For the September 15-19 event, a total of 19 yacht-club teams from 14 countries will gather at the NYYC’s on-the-water clubhouse Harbour Court, overlooking the scenic harbor of Newport, R.I. And while Newport is set along America’s East Coast on Aquidneck Island, three of the visiting yacht clubs – Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Royal Canadian Yacht Club and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club – also can claim their place as notable island yacht clubs tethered securely to the Corinthian spirit of competitive sailing.

The 'islanders' include four-time Olympian Peter Bromby and 2008 Swan 42 National Champion Mark Watson, representing the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club; Olympic Silver Medalist and America’s Cup skipper Terry McLaughlin, representing the Royal Canadian Yacht Club; and Etchells luminaries Warwick Downes and Jamie McWilliam, representing the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club.

Royal Bermuda Yacht Club

'Mark (Watson, a member of both RBYC and NYYC who will skipper the entry) is the driving force behind the team, and I guess he thought I knew what I was doing,' said Peter Bromby when he was asked to represent the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) as tactician aboard Mark Watson’s Tiburon, a NYYC Swan 42 one-design boat like the ones each team will sail over five days of competition. 'Why wouldn’t I?' he said. Bromby is not new to sailing for his club or his country: he represented Bermuda at four Olympic Games (1992, ’96, 2000, ’04) in the Star class. 'I think we have a good crack at it,' he said.

Soon after winning the 2008 NYYC Swan 42 National Championship, Watson was approached by RBYC to represent it in the Invitational Cup. 'I was thrilled when the flag officers invited me to skipper the team,' he said. 'It's a tremendous honor to represent the club. The club has organized a strong Corinthian team with the likes of Olympic sailors Peter Bromby and Ben Nicolls. I'm looking forward to competing against many of the best sailors in the world, including Terry McLaughlin on RCYC’s Daring team, and Ken Read (who will sail with the NYYC entry Arethusa skippered by Phil Lotz), who originally encouraged me to join the Swan 42 Class in its infancy.'

Other crew who will join Tiburon for the Invitational Cup are Peter Henderson (Spinnaker Trimmer), Kevin Horsfield, Ben Nicholls (Mainsail Trimmer) and Will Thompson (Bow).

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club is the third oldest club holding a Royal Warrant outside the British Isles. Established in 1844 by a party of 30 members, consisting largely of officers in the British Army, it now has approximately 850 resident and non-resident members. Early in 1845, HRH Prince Albert, the first Duke of Edinburgh, graciously consented to become Patron of the Club. HRH Prince Albert gave permission for the Bermuda Yacht Club to style itself the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. After almost 60 years of occupation at No. 52 Front Street, the RBYC in 1933 acquired a waterfront site at Albuoy's Point, in Hamilton and then built a large club house on the new property.

Royal Canadian Yacht Club

Terry McLaughlin, the designated helmsman for the Royal Canadian Yacht Club’s entry into the NYYC Invitational Cup, is also used to representing his country. At the 1984 Olympics, he won a silver medal sailing a Flying Dutchman, a class in which he is also a world champion. He was the skipper of Canada I in the 1983 America’s Cup Trials and helmed the Farr 40 Defiant during the 2001 and 2003 Canada’s Cup victories.

And if McLaughlin’s bio is not enough to instill fear in the other Invitational teams, the backgrounds of his crewmates may be. Allan Megarry and John Millen both sailed with McLaughlin on Canada 1 and continued their America’s Cup campaigns on Canada II (1986), while Megarry, Millen and Rob Gale all have claimed multiple Canada’s Cup victories as crew. Millen is also a two-time Olympian and Olympic medalist from 1988 (bronze in the Flying Dutchman class).

'When I first heard about the Invitational, I thought ‘great! We’re getting the band back together!’' said McLaughlin, who has also sailed with Daring’s owner John Hele, he is himself an accomplished helmsman and national champion in International 14s and will be part of the crew. 'I just hope there are a lot of good sailors at the event who are rusty like me. Our average age might be up there a bit, but it will be a lot of fun, and this will be a different kind of sailing from what we’ve been used to lately; it will be like a collegiate regatta in 42-footers, since you can only use one set of sails and cannot change the rig.'

Hele steered Daring to an impressive sixth place at the NYYC Swan 42 Nationals in July, with the full Invitational team aboard. Said McLaughlin, who served as tactician at that regatta, 'To be asked by John to skipper at the Invitational is an honor and tells me that I’m not dead yet.'

Other crew members are main trimmer Geoff Moore, a Mumm 30 North American champion, Rob Emery, Andrew McTavish and Jim Gibson, the boat’s captain.

The Royal Canadian Yacht Club was founded in 1852 in the British tradition of having a recreational yachting club that would serve unofficially as an auxiliary to the Navy. The Club was established under the name the Toronto Boat Club, but in 1854 with Queen Victoria's permission, the Club was renamed the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Long associated with the Toronto Islands, the RCYC did not move to the island until 1881, first occupying various locations on the Toronto waterfront. The first island clubhouse was destroyed by fire in 1904. Its successor officially opened in 1906, and also was irreparably damaged by fire in 1918. On August 25, 1919, Edward, Prince of Wales, laid the cornerstone for the gracious two-story Southern-style clubhouse that has been the RCYC’s summer home ever since.

Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club

The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s team for the NYYC Invitational Cup was selected by the Club’s Sailing Committee and consists of members who have all competed in international sailing regattas.

'The NYYC Invitational Regatta offers our Club some international prestige amongst similar Clubs around the world,' said Commodore Warwick Downes, who will serve as tactician. Downes has been racing sailing boats for as long as he can remember. 'I feel that we should be represented at this inaugural event, as it looks like a lot of fun along with very good class racing in these NYYC Swan 42s. I have raced in Newport before and look forward to coming back there.'

Downes and team helmsman, Jamie McWilliam, have competed against each other many times in Etchells and this will be only the second time that they have paired up on the same boat. Pre-regatta preparation for the team includes practice sailing on a Mills 41, a boat similar to the NYYC Swan 42. The boat, called Ambush, is owned by two of the RHKYC crew, Joachim Isler (Rear Commodore Sailing) and Drew Taylor (Honorary Treasurer).

Other crew members are Nick Burns (Mainsheet); Ben Williams (Trimmer); Drew Taylor (Bow); Joachim Isler (Trimmer); Gary Gilbert (Navigator/Mainsheet), Glenn Kim (Mast/Mid Bow); Gaston Chan (Pit); and Suzanne Downes (Spinnaker trimmer).

When asked what his team expected of the competition, Downes said, 'My personal battle will be against Bruno Troublé’s French team (Yacht Club de France) and Nicolo Reggio's Yacht Club Italiano.'

One of the oldest and most prestigious clubs in Hong Kong, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club is proud of its rich, colorful history, which stretches back over 150 years of social and competitive sailing and rowing. The Club today has evolved into a multifaceted and cosmopolitan
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