September 20, 2023
All photos Rolex: Daniel Forster
By Nigel Cochrane
Well, that’s a wrap. The 2023 NYYC Invitational ended this weekend one day early because of Hurricane Lee. It was another fantastic event despite the looming hurricane which had a significant effect on the race officials and the competitors. The NYYC officials proved once again that they are one of the most experienced and prepared race management teams in the world. They stayed on top of the weather, kept us all informed of the potential contingency plans, and navigated the event smoothly and successfully. With over $10 million worth of club equipment to protect, they managed to complete as many races as possible in the first three days, squeezed in one very windy race on Friday, and had all 19 IC37s safely out of the water in less than 4 hours after the last race was completed.
Tight starts, Royal Van is 001
The racing was again extremely challenging, with any boat able to secure a win in any of the early races. They sailed us outside for the first two days in very light and shifty wind. The hurricane did not have any effect on day 1, but it seemed to pull the sea breeze quite far right on the second day prior to pulling it offshore for days 3 and 4. Argentina started off on fire with 3 top 5 finishes, but once they collected the yellow spinnaker for being in first overall, their luck quickly changed. Despite their challenging second day, they still qualified for the yellow kite, but their skipper jokingly tried to refuse it on stage, as it seemed to jinx their performance. Meanwhile, San Diego Y.C., which had yet to post a top 5 finish in the event, was slowly gaining ground and led after the 3rd day of racing. Their only top 5 finish came on the last windy day with a bullet to hammer home their regatta win.
There was supposedly a top limit for the wind of 22 knots, but on the last day, the race committee decided to leave their anemometers onshore, signal a reef requirement for the jib and the main, and let the sailors test the performance limits of the IC37. It was an exciting day of high wind survival sailing and a testament to the skill level of the sailors and race committee to get the final race off.
It seems that the international fleet is figuring out how to get the most out of this relatively new class and were close to removing the trophy from US soil. Southern YC, which has 2 firsts and a second in the last 3 events, found themselves in the very unlikely position of last place overall after two days of racing. Quite often all the favorites for the event seemed quite happy to all go the wrong way together which is indicative of very difficult conditions for the tacticians on the water.
For this event I was not on the boat sailing but helping with team logistics and management. Now, having both sailed and been support crew, I can attest that this event is not to be missed. Newport Harbour is a mecca of sailboat racing, and the NYYC Invitational overlaps with the Newport boat show. The hospitality of the NYYC is hard to beat, as they welcome all sailors during the event as if you were a member. There is lots to do when you are not on the water with the mansion tours and wineries close by. Quite often they have various art and music festivals as well.
I was proud to be part of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club contingency. We opted to go for a youth-oriented team and a professional coach with Eric Shampain, who was instrumental in helping the team finish in the top 10 for this year’s event. Ben Mumford, our skipper, was fresh off the Star North Americans, and most of the crew were returning for their second time. As with other countries at the event, RVYC uses this opportunity to promote youth amateur keelboat racing, increase participation in club racing programs, improve the overall skill level of our club racers, and retain our young membership. The club executive and membership are very supportive of the NYYC Invitational, the San Diego Masters, and the Helga cup in Germany (which is the largest women’s sailing event in the world). It is easy for clubs to neglect this aspect of our membership, as most support goes to youth and Olympic-driven sailing. However, with the Olympics pivoting to foiling and highly physical Olympic classes, the Olympic path is much narrower and spits out our sailors at a much younger age. It is important for all clubs to support keelboat sailing for their young members as much as possible, as with the increase in costs for living expenses, it is difficult for young members to afford to purchase their own boats. That is why the RVYC, with the help of key veteran members, has recently purchased a fleet of Elliott 6m boats that were used in the Olympics in London in 2016. Although they are much smaller than the IC37, we were still able, with the guidance of our new sailing director, Aubrey Mayer, to put together a training program for the NYYC Invitational which emphasized physical agility, tactics, and teamwork, all three skills which are very critical for the IC37.
Team RCYC (016) with Royal Van just behind
A shoutout goes to our arch-nemesis, Terry McLaughlin, and crew for their strong performance on the final high wind race day. They were able to use their years of experience with an IC37 and find a groove upwind that escaped most of the other teams. It is rumored that this will be Terry’s last event, which is a real shame, as he was my primary motivational fundraising tool. It’s nice to have a healthy rivalry with RCYC, just as San Diego does with Southern YC.
The highlight of the event is always the lobster fest, and we were assured early on that the one thing the hurricane would not interfere with was the lobster bake. Even if the Hurricane came through earlier than expected, I would have been in that tent by myself, lobster bib blowing horizontal, and finished my lobster to the last nibble.
Thanks to the Commodore of NYYC, Christopher J. Culver, Beth’s calm leadership skills and the rest of the team for running an amazing event in very challenging conditions.
About the Event
Nineteen teams from 14 countries competed in 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.