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Antipodean teams take aim at Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup

by Stuart Streuli 22 Aug 2019 11:31 PDT 7-14 September 2019
YCA team - Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup © Rolex / Daniel Forster

The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron currently has sailing's most prestigious silver ewer on display in its clubhouse on the Auckland waterfront. But this September, the yacht club will aim to add to its crowded trophy case another coveted sailing prize, the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.

The RNZYS participated in the first edition of Corinthian sailing's premier regatta in 2009, but has been absent in the years since. Now, with the regatta moving to the IC37 one-design, the RNZYS is back in the hunt with one of its best teams.

"As the skipper, I have selected the team based on merit and dedication to the Anarchy team," says team skipper AJ Reid. "As a team, we have had had three successful years of racing with some top results. In terms of preparation, there are a number of series and regattas here in Auckland through the Southern Hemisphere winter in which the team has competed. We have also been very active in events throughout the recent summer season racing in nearly every race, regatta or series possible. Additionally, we have a good number of training days planned before we leave for the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup, and we will benefit greatly from some high-caliber local coaching expertise."

The Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is a biennial regatta hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court in Newport, R.I. Since the event was first run in 2009, it has attracted top amateur sailors from the world's most prestigious yacht clubs.

After five editions in the Swan 42 class, the 2019 event will be sailed in the IC37, designed by Mark Mills and built by Westerly Marine in Santa Ana, Calif., and FIBRE Mechanics in the United Kingdom. The strict one-design nature of this new, purpose-built class combined with the fact that all 20 boats are owned and maintained by the New York Yacht Club, will ensure a level playing field never before seen in amateur big-boat sailing.

The regatta will run from September 7 to 14, with racing taking place September 10 to 14. A broadcast on Facebook Live will allow fellow club members, friends, family and sailing fans from around the world follow the action as it happens. Twenty teams from 14 countries and five continents will compete in the 2019 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.

The RNZYS is one of three teams hailing from Australia and New Zealand. While the two countries, combined, have about as many people as Texas, they have an out-sized presence at the sharp end of the sailing world, whether it's the America's Cup, the Olympics, The Ocean Race or the new SailGP circuit. Antipodean yacht clubs have found success in the Invitational Cup somewhat elusive, with just two top-five finishes in eight combined tries. But this may well be the year the trophy heads down under.

Representing Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron will be Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, who made his debut at the 2015 event, finishing fourth. He returned two years later and took second, despite minimal experience sailing the Swan 42. With the IC37 new for all the teams, Belgiorno-Nettis' ability to quickly decipher how make an unfamiliar boat go fast will be a tremendous asset. And when it comes to picking the right path—winning the Invitational Cup requires superior boatspeed and tactics—the Royal Sydney team will turn to Tom King, an accomplished sailor who has won, among other things, an Olympic gold medal and a world championship in the Men's 470 class.

A second Australia team will represent Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club in Perth, Australia. Like Newport, Perth is a former host to the America's Cup and a hot bed of high-performance sailing. Peter Ahern will skipper the team, with Dirk van der Struyf calling tactics. Combined the two have more than eight decades of racing experience in everything from Etchells to larger yachts. The rest of the team will be a mix of sailors from the RFBYC's Etchells fleet and youth academy.

The fourth team from the Southern Hemisphere is the fun-loving bunch from the Yacht Club Argentino, which will be competing in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup for the fifth time. The YCA has twice finished eighth in the regatta and in 2017 was awarded the Corinthian Spirit Award in recognition of their consistent sportsmanship and good cheer on the racecourse and ashore.

The YCA team for 2019 will feature many of the same sailors from the 2017 squad, including skipper Emilio Miguel and tactician Cristian Frers. While there's every expectation that the Argentine crew will once again enjoy its trip to Newport, don't discount this team's chances of moving into the top five or even getting on the podium.

"The team is a mix of seasoned sailors, part of which raced the 2017 Rolex NYYC Invitational and young sailors from the Club's program," says Miguel. "The core of the crew sails together year around in the Soto 33 fleet, which is a boat in many ways similar to the IC37."

Racing for the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will begin on Tuesday, September 10, and run through Saturday, September 15. A live broadcast on Facebook will start on Wednesday, September 11, and run through the final race, with commentary provided by former America's Cup sailors and veteran sailing commentators Andy Green and Tucker Thompson.

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