Underdogs Turn Form Guide on its Head on Day 1 of Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup

NEWPORT, R.I. — On a day when Rhode Island Sound served up some very shifty conditions, helmsman Cristian Frers and the Yacht Club Argentino crew posted a dominant scoreline of 2-1-2 to take the early lead at the eighth Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, the premiere one-design regatta for Corinthian sailors, with the low score of 5 points.
 
Jordan Stevenson and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron crew are second with 11 points, followed closely by Filip Englebert and the Royal Swedish Yacht Club team with 13 points. In a regatta where the boats are very evenly matched in boatspeed, every bit of clear air is an ingredient to success. And the three leaders set themselves apart from the pack by picking the shifts that led to clear sailing lanes.
 
“Today was a great day. For us, we liked sailing outside. It’s more like the racing we do at home in Argentina,” said Frers, the nephew of famed yacht designer Germán Frers. “In the first race we got a bit lucky because we didn’t have a great start, but we were able to clear fast and had clear air. Our tactician, Emilio Miguel, was really bright today, and the trimmers were very good shifting in the changing conditions. It was a fantastic day.”

Nineteen teams from 14 countries are on hand to race the eighth Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, 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 51 of the world’s most prestigious yacht clubs from 22 countries.

After five editions in the Swan 42 class, the 2023 event will be the third sailed in the IC37, designed by Mark Mills. The strict one-design nature of this purpose-built class, combined with the fact that each boat is owned and maintained by the New York Yacht Club, ensures a level playing field not seen in any other amateur big-boat sailing competition. The regatta will run through Saturday, September 16. Racing started on Tuesday, September 12. A live broadcast on Facebook and YouTube, starting on Wednesday, September 13, will allow fellow club members, friends, family and sailing fans from around the world to follow the action as it happens. Nineteen teams from 14 countries will compete in the 2023 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, which is brought to you by title sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsors Helly Hansen, Safe Harbor Marinas, Peters & May and Hammetts Hotel.

Day 1 of the eighth edition was for the unsung teams. Yacht Club Argentino, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Royal Swedish Yacht Club have collectively sailed 13 Invitational Cups, but none have placed in the top five in any given year. YC Argentino’s eighth-place finishes, in 2017 and 2013, are the high-water mark for the three clubs.

Now, however, they occupy the top three spots, while pre-event favorites such as Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron and Southern Yacht Club, winners of the past three editions, trail in 11th and 13th place, respectively.

“It would’ve been easy to be inconsistent today,” said Royal New Zealand helmsman Jordan Stevenson. “Our focus was to get off the line in relatively good stead and hold the line and not make any silly mistakes. We kept it relatively conservative and then built it from there. We felt really fast and tried to utilize that as much as possible.”

Stevenson, aged 23, is one of the youngest helmsmen in the fleet and perhaps that wide-eyed innocence played a part in his team’s success.

“I’d say it was a bit of seat-of-the pants sailing,” said Stevenson, who has had success in dinghies and match racing, but not a lot of big boat experience. “I haven’t sailed out there too much before; we had practice yesterday, but not much before that. The biggest thing for us was getting used to where the breeze was shifting as it started to build throughout the day. It was out of left and right, so it was a matter of picking the side we wanted and sticking to it.”

The Royal Swedish Yacht Club came off the starting blocks like gangbusters. They worked the right side of the first beat and when a right-hand oscillation came through, they found themselves in the nicest of places.

“We knew which side of the course we wanted in the first race, got it and then had the fleet beneath us the whole time,” said tactician Marcus Höglander. “In such a tight fleet, once you’re off, you’re off. It’s easy to stay out of trouble. We’re in there for sure. Especially in a regatta like this with no discards, you have to avoid the double digits.”

Racing resumes tomorrow with the first warning signal planned for 1100 hours. Yacht Club Argentino will have the honor of flying the yellow spinnaker awarded to the regatta leader.

“This is the event that you want to come to all your life,” said Frers. “All the competitors want to win, but everyone is friends after sailing. We feel very at home here. It’s very good.”

Overall standings (through 3 races): 1. Yacht Club Argentino, 2-1-2, 5; 2. Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, 4-4-3, 11; 3. Royal Swedish Yacht Club, 1-7-5, 13; 4. Itchenor Sailing Club (GBR), 5-2-14, 21; 5. San Diego (Callf.) Yacht Club, 6-5-10, 21; 6. New York (N.Y.) Yacht Club, 14-3-6, 23; 7. Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (CAN), 10-10-8, 28; 8. Royal Canadian Yacht Club, 13-12-4, 29; 9. Corinthian Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.), 11-17-1, 29; 10. Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, 8-11-12, 31; 11. Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (AUS), 17-6-9, 32; 12. Yacht Club Punta Del Este (URY), 10-8-18, 36; 13. Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans, La.) 15-9-13, 37; 14. Japan Sailing Federation, 3-16-DNF/20, 39; 15. Howth Yacht Club (IRL), 7-15-17, 39; 16. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (ITA), 12-13-15, 40; 17. Royal Cork Yacht Club (IRL), 18-14-9, 41; 18. Nyländska Jaktklubben (FIN), 16-19-11, 46; 19. Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (GER), 19-18-16, 53.

  • 1-point penalty

Photos: ROLEX / Daniel Forster

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