No one knew quite what to expect, even though a year and a half of planning went into getting 19 teams from 14 nations to Newport, R.I., for the inaugural New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. The event, which started on Wednesday (Sept. 16) , and concluded today (Saturday, Sept. 19), was conceived and very well received as a high-profile regatta for amateur yacht club teams. To that end, the New York Yacht Club put forth its best effort not only to host the event but also to field its own team, which won after 11 spectacular races on Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay.
The victory was no cake walk for NYYC skipper Phil Lotz and crew, even though they wound up with 11 points on their closest overall competitor, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club with Terry McLaughlin skippering. The Canadians finished second in the first race today and won the second race by a “nautical mile,” but Lotz and crew still had the finish positions (3-2) to win. “We used tactician Ken Read's (Newport, R.I.) patience in picking wind shifts and the crew's flawless execution of maneuvers. They were key to the day and were the two things that got us through the regatta,” said Lotz, whose teammates also included his wife Wendy, two sons Chris (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Doug (Columbus Ohio), Blake Kimbrough (Newport R.I.), Byron LaMotte (New York, N.Y.), Tripp Dolman (New York, N.Y.), Rick Merriman (New York, N.Y.), Stuart Streuli (Newport, R.I.) and Brendan Marshall (Newport, R.I.)
Only one Category 3 (or professional) sailor was allowed per team, and Ken Read, most recently credited for his Volvo Ocean Race success, was it for the NYYC team. Read, a NYYC member, was humbled, however, by the equanimity of his teammates. “Lord knows these guys I'm sailing with can get around the track without me,” said Read, pointing out that Rick Merriman, a three-time All American from Navy, is part of the “speed loop” with Lotz that keeps the boat going while allowing Read the luxury of solely focusing on tactics.
“Before every regatta you circle what you think are the top five teams, and there is not a surprise in this top-five group at all,” said Read. As noted, Canada finished second, the Japan Sailing Federation third, Finland's Nylandska Jaktklubben fourth and Royal Cork Yacht Club fifth.
The conditions were shifty, as they had been for all previous races, but while the wind had whipped in a frenzy all week and even this morning while the sailors left their moorings at Harbour Court for a pre-race Parade of Nations through Newport Harbor, they had moderated to about 10-12 — its weakest all week — by the afternoon.
“I hadn't thought about if before now, but we really didn't miss a set, a takedown, a tack or whatever over the four days of racing,” said Lotz at the end of the regatta. “There was no maneuver that didn't go reasonably well if not perfect. As for Canada, they did great today; we were just lucky enough to still be close enough to them to win.”
While Lotz was talking, Oliver Stanley, a crew member from the Royal Yacht Squadron Team, stopped by to shake his hand. “It was a real pleasure to watch you and your team sail,” said Stanley. He explained that the NYYC team managed to “eek out positions” where he didn't think they could and sailed not only with fairness but with great friendliness. That, afterall, was an important underpinning of the regatta.
“It's great sailing against some old friends here,” said McLaughlin, adding with a chuckle, “and some of whom are very good sailors who haven't sailed a lot lately but still have it.”
With the Canadian team easily maintaining its second-place position from yesterday, it was the Japan Sailing Federation that perhaps fought hardest to stay in third overall. “The points were very close, and we had a chance to get second, but the shifts made it difficult,” said tactician Eiichiro Hamasaki from that team. “In the last race it was mainly in my mind to keep third.” Steering the boat was Takashi Okura, famous for his successful race boats named Sled, and acting as pitman was Makoto Uematsu, famous for his successful race boats named Esmeralda. The two sailors brought together the best of their two teams, and it showed.
Finland's Nylandska Jaktklubben team was skippered by Leonardo Ferragamo, head of Nautor's Swan; however today tactician Kenneth Thelen took the helm. In the first race with only a quarter of a leg to go, Finland and Canada were running neck-and-neck but Finland crossed the finish line first. “It's really great; the boats are so close,” said Thelen about the NYYC Swan 42s being used at the event. (Nautor'sSwan is the manufacturer.) “And sailing in one-design competition is the best.” Thelen added that he, like others in the regatta were amazed by their surroundings. “I never imagined a place like Newport existed in America.”
As for the Royal Cork Yacht Club's performance, skipper Anthony O'Leary said, “If you had offered us fifth place on the airplane over here, we'd have taken it, because that's pretty respectable in this fleet.”
Nightly reports, blogs, daily video and results can be found at http://www.nyyc.org/eventnews. Live-race tracking by Kattack can be followed at http://tinyurl.com/oyue8a. On October 25th at 5 p.m., ESPN2 will air a one-hour special on the event produced by Gary Jobson.
The complete list of competing clubs is as follows:
Japan Sailing Federation (Tokyo, Japan)
New York Yacht Club (New York, N.Y., USA)
Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (Hamburg, Germany)
Nyländska Jaktklubben (Helsinki, Finland)
Real Club Nautico Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (Hamilton, Bermuda)
Royal Canadian Yacht Club (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Royal Cork Yacht Club (County Cork, Ireland)
Royal Danish Yacht Club (Hellerup, Denmark)
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (Hong Kong, China)
Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (Auckland, New Zealand)
Royal Ocean Racing Club (London, England)
Royal St. George Yacht Club (County Dublin, Ireland)
Royal Thames Yacht Club (London, England)
Royal Yacht Squadron (London, England)
St. Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco, Calif., USA)
Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy)
Yacht Club de France (Paris, France)
Yacht Club Italiano (Genoa, Italy)
Rolex, Sperry Top-Sider and Nautor's Swan are the official sponsors of the NYYC Invitational Cup. Compliments of Rolex, the most prestigious maker of timepieces in the world and a long-time supporter of sailing, video of each day's racing will be produced by Emmy Award winner and Rolex Testimonee Gary Jobson. The daily shows will air online during the regatta at http://www.nyyc.org/eventnews and as part of a 30-minute television program on ESPN2. Sperry Top-Sider, the iconic American brand that invented the world's first boat shoe, hereby defining a new category of footwear, is the event's exclusive footwear supplier. Sperry will preview its latest evolution in performance footwear, the Ventus (the Latin term for “wind”) and will provide this footwear to all competitors, prior to its retail launch in late October. The NYYC Swan 42, the result of a pioneering partnership between NYYC and Nautor's Swan to develop a one-design for racing by predominantly Corinthian crews in local, regional and international events, is the exclusive sailing yacht of the regatta.