Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup 2017The Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is a biennial event hosted by the NYYC in Newport, Rhode Island in September at its Harbour Court Clubhouse. The Invitational Cup is a regatta for yacht clubs from around the world and their sailors. It has become an important Corinthian (amateur) sailing competition. The racing is in NYYC Swan 42s – the eighth one-design class created by the New York Yacht Club since 1900. I was sent over as mainsheet trimmer for the Itchenor Sailing Club team, we had a similar team to the 2015 event with Tim Saxton calling tactics, and owner/driver Barry Sampson leading the team.
There was live coverage everyday on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NYYCInvitationalCup/
Day 1 of the NYYC Invitational Cup started in style with a postponement waiting for the sea breeze to fill in, which it eventually did building to 12 knots. Racing was out in the bay with the 14 boat strong fleet proving to be the most competitive we have raced in, including North American Champions, Farr40 World Champion, ex-Olympians, dinghy sailors and yachties. The boats are identically set up with each team allowed one jib and one spinnaker making it the most competitive one design yacht race event I have ever taken part in.
Race 1 started with a crowded starboard end, we made a late approach and tacked out to the right and came in to the top mark just behind the leading group. Down the run we made good progress into the pack but when we rounded the leeward mark we were fouled by a boat taking room with no rights. The racing is fully umpired meaning that the team were given an immediate spin, unfortunately for us our position was already affected enough that we lost a few places and our clear lane out of the mark. Up the next beat we worked up to the back of the group again, overlapped with 5 other boats rounding the top mark for the second time. Unfortunately down the next run we couldn't quite break through and finished 10th, only a few boat lengths from 4th, the racing is that tight!
Race 2 saw us make a great start out to the middle right of the line. Holding our lane all the way out to the left, but unfortunately the right came out best and we rounded in the pack. We made an early gybe on the run and got back over to the paying side of the course gaining an inside overlap at the leeward mark and a clear lane allowing us to extend on the group behind. We headed back out right and at the windward mark came in just behind the lead group and at the front of the chasing pack. Tim sent us down the same plan on the next run and we ended the race with a photo finish against the home club New York YC, which they just won placing us a well earned 6th.
The final race saw the wind pick up to 17 knots. Unfortunately we didn't make the best start but managed to find a clear lane left and half way up the beat we crossed with the right and were back in the race. We had a great hoist at the windward mark allowing us to make good progress down the run. At the leeward gate we had pulled through to around 7th, however disaster struck. A miscommunication led to running over our spinnaker tearing the middle section. Once we recovered what was left of the kite we were 13th but couldn't get going in the choppy water. With only one spinnaker and jib allowed we had to goose wing the jib downwind and just managed to keep the Swedish team behind us. Turns out after a back down after the race we had also trawled the kite around the race course on the keel which was not fast!
Day two was surrounded by delays with a lack of gradient meaning the promised sea breeze took a little bit longer to fill in, but it allowed us to make the most of the artisan coffee and brekkie made available from the NYYC.
Race four saw us aim to pull out from a starboard end start and whilst we managed to find a clear lane, the competitive fleet didn't give us a chance to make headway back into the fleet. With a big right shift allowing a number of boats behind us back into the race. We ended 12th which was a punch in the stomach following our top 10 rounding of the leeward mark.
Race five again saw us default to type with a tough start at the starboard end followed by a good dig in to the building sea breeze on the right. When the time came to take the layline we had managed to work our way to the front. We held off competition from Thames and Sweden and earned a 2nd place finish.
Race six for the final race of the day we wanted the left-hand side of the race course. After two restarts we finally got underway, with the left-hand side paying. We rounded mark one first, closely followed by Argentina and Southern. At the bottom of the run all teams rounded the marks together, with Itchenor aiming for the previously biased left, BUT unfortunately this didn't pay off. By the end we finished 3rd, producing one of the best days of the regatta!
Day three of the NYYC Invitational Cup saw the fleet head out to the bay only to be confronted with a wall of fog. The race committee decided to send us down beyond the bridge.
The race course was very shifty and tidal, with the right hand side mostly paying, but a number of short left hand shifts gave teams the opportunity to get back in the race.
The first race saw us try to get away from the pin holding our lane left before coming back to the right for the second half of the beat and rounding the top just ahead of the main pack. Unfortunately, we were then covered downwind and swallowed up. We fought around the next lap struggling to get a clear lane and finished 8th.
In the second race we tacked off the starboard end early, sawing off the right hand corner. When we initially tacked on to a starboard lift, it looked like we may be crossing the whole fleet, only for a left shift to come back sooner than expected as we crossed behind the majority of the fleet. On the first downwind we showed good pace to break in to the group and slowly worked up the fleet finishing 8th again.
This turned out to be a trend. In the long final race, we again started on the right and went right but played the middle of the beat. At the top mark we were caught in a melee of boats coming in on the port layline. Barry executed a perfect port approach and tacked into the smallest gap saving us from ducking the fleet. The downwind was dominated by gusts and we managed to hold our position gaining a few boats but also losing a couple. Round the final lap we traded places with our group finally finishing in 8th place.
A good solid day although leaving us a disappointing 9th overall with 2 days to go. However, there are only 8 points between 4th and 9th with a buffer of 12 points to 10th so all to play for to get the coveted top 5 finish!
Day 4 and the fog continued. After a short postponement the fleet was sent up beyond the bridge again where the race officer aimed to get in 2 races. The overall points saw us in 9th, 8 points from 4th showing how tight it was.
Whilst we had two decent starts the shifty conditions but the building tide got the better of us.
Race one we started middle starboard end of the line and tacked out right looking for a header on the shore before tacking back on to starboard. At first look it seemed we maybe crossing the whole fleet by a considerable margin, but then the fog came rolling in leading to a big shift back to the left. We rounded the top mark at the back of the fleet and never quite managed to get back in touch with the group in front.
Race 2 we started the most starboard boat at full pace and held the fleet out left before tacking on the shifts up the beat. Coming in to the top mark we looked to be comfortably rounding in the top 5 before misjudging the tide on the layline causing us so be slow coming in to the mark allowing a number of boats past. We rounded in last and managed to use some smart downwind tactics to get back in to the race. On the final beat we triple gybe dropped (yes apparently that is a tactical call) to take the inside lane at the bias starboard mark allowing us clear air to sail fast and take 2 boats on the final short beat.
The final day of racing has the fleets completing the "Parade of Nations" around Newport harbour. After this we headed out to a windless race course where we made best use of Barry's "toys" going wakeboarding and swimming around "Reina".
Finally the wind came in and we managed to get a race in a slightly steadier 10 knots. We had a good start towards the pin eventually tacking back to the middle of the course and playing the shifts up the beat. Coming in to the top mark we gave ourselves a bit more room that the previous day and rounded in 2nd. The front 4 boats broke away and we managed to keep hold of our position til the last leeward mark. Due to the overall points and the current placings in the race we could not gain, or lose, any overall places so we decided to roll the dice and split from the leaders hoping to get a shift that may allow us to take the win. Unfortunately this was on the case and the other two boats came in from the right to overtake us on the line leaving us in 4th.
Overall it was a fantastic week. We did ourselves proud in a very high quality fleet against some of the most respected and well represented yacht clubs in the world, and it's fair to say we have established ourselves as right up there with them.
I want to say thank you to Barry Sampson for his unbelievable generosity and drive, without him none of this would have been possible. He has given us opportunities we would never have otherwise enjoyed and has ensured that Itchenor Sailing Club "the little club that could" has left a lasting mark in the international yachting community.