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Royal Cork and Howth Yacht Clubs Ready to Do Battle at New York's Invitational Cup

12th September 2023
Royal Cork Yacht Club have raced each edition of the Invitational Cup. Two sailors in this year’s fleet have also raced in each edition of the Invitational Cup, including Royal Cork helmsman Anthony O’Leary, pictured above in the 2021 Cup
Royal Cork Yacht Club have raced each edition of the Invitational Cup. Two sailors in this year’s fleet have also raced in each edition of the Invitational Cup, including Royal Cork helmsman Anthony O’Leary, pictured above in the 2021 Cup Credit: NYYC

Royal Cork Yacht Club and Howth Yacht Club both compete in tomorrow's Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup

Racing will take place off of Newport, either offshore on Rhode Island Sound or inshore on Narragansett Bay, and up to 12 races are planned for the series, with as many as four on any given day.

In the 2021 edition of the Cup, Howth finished 18th, and RCYC were fourth.

As previously reported by Afloat, sailing for Howth is Gary Cullen, Graham Curran, Johnny Durcan, Carla Fagan, Colin Kavanagh, Diana Kissane, William Maguire, David Maguire and Luke Malcolm. 

The Royal Cork lineup is: Shawn Bennett, Cliodhna Connolly, Harry Durcan, Ben Field, Mark Hassett, Tom Murphy, Sally O Flynn, Robert O'Leary and Anthony O'Leary.

Of the many illustrious clubs from around the world that have competed in the Cup, the premiere fleet regatta for Corinthian crews, two have most consistently demonstrated the slick boatspeed and smooth crew handling that are the hallmarks of winning one-design crews: Southern Yacht Club of New Orleans and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (above) of Australia. One of the two has placed first and/or second in the past three editions, dating to 2017.

The two teams’ run of success began six years ago, when Southern Yacht Club posted a 12-point victory over Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron for its first victory in the prestigious regatta. Two years later, in 2019, it was Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron’s turn to win its first Invitational Cup, posting a four-point victory that went down to the final day of racing, while Southern Yacht Club placed fifth.

Yearning to defend their historic title—Royal Sydney was the first team from the Southern Hemisphere to win the coveted trophy—in 2021, helmsman Guido Belgiorno-Nettis and crew were “very disappointed” when they were denied the opportunity due to travel restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, Southern Yacht Club, helmed by 2004 Olympic Silver medalist (Tornado) John Lovell, posted a 10-point victory for its second title in three editions.

“We watched the 2021 Invitational Cup with fascination, jealousy and frustration,” said Belgiorno-Nettis. “Sitting on the couch, my team were sure we could’ve given the 2021 competing teams a good run for their money. But I know that reality will set the record straight when we turn up at the start line. Then the talk stops and the action will begin.”

So, when racing for this year’s regatta begins tomorrow, the Invitational Cup will in effect have two defending champions. The two teams are returning the same helmsmen from 2021 and 2019, Lovell for Southern Yacht Club and Belgiorno-Nettis for Royal Sydney, and each crew has been on the water the past couple of days practicing. Both helmsmen feel more practice is needed.

“We’ve been working the kinks out the past couple of days,” said Lovell  “I think our crew work is pretty good, but time and distance is what we’ve been struggling with and working on. Hitting the start line at full speed within three to four meters of the start line and being able to sail straight for two minutes is critical. If you can do that, you’ll be in the game.”

“We’re very rusty. We haven’t done any sailing as a team since 2019,” said Belgiorno-Nettis. “You have to be good sailors; you have to have a great team. A quiet team is a fast team. Most important, you have to be consistent. You don’t have to win every race, but if you have good results eventually it comes your way, I think.”

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, will ensure a level playing field not seen in any other amateur big-boat sailing competition. The regatta will run from Saturday, September 9, through Saturday, September 16, with racing starting on Tuesday, September 12. 

Of the 19 teams entered this year, 17 have previous experience in the regatta. The two first-time entrants are the Corinthian Yacht Club of Marblehead, Mass., and Yacht Club Punta del Este of Uruguay.

Two of the 17 returning clubs, New York Yacht Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club of Ireland, have raced each edition of the Invitational Cup. And two sailors in this year’s fleet have also raced in each edition of the Invitational Cup: Royal Cork helmsman Anthony O’Leary and Royal Canadian Yacht Club crewmember John Millen.

“The standard of competition goes without saying, but what we really have great confidence in is the ability of the Technical Committee to prepare boats of equal standing for each competing team at the Invitational Cup,” said O’Leary, who has helmed the Royal Cork entry at each previous event. “This is important for competitors and gives us all a belief that we are as close to a ‘level playing pitch’ as is possible for an event of this nature.”

“This regatta, you have people who come to it from all around the world,” said Millen, who has raced with Royal Canadian six times and the New York Yacht Club once. “Racing in Swan 42s was fantastic. With the IC37s, the modern boats, even practicing racing, is incredibly tight. The importance of being consistent, the margins of victory and loss are so tiny, and so it can be incredibly satisfying or painful, and that makes it fun.”

The following yacht clubs will compete for the 2023 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup: Corinthian Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.), Howth Yacht Club (IRL), Itchenor Sailing Club (GBR), Japan Sailing Federation, New York Yacht Club, Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (GER), Nyländska Jaktklubben (FIN), Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Royal Cork Yacht Club (IRL), Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (CHN), Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, Royal Swedish Yacht Club, Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (AUS), Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (CAN), Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans), Yacht Club Argentino, Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (ITA), Yacht Club Punte del Este (URY) Team

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New York Yacht Club’s biennial Invitational Cup

Ireland has a proud history in New York Yacht Club’s biennial Invitational Cup, with Irish participation from the very start and a podium result in 2019.

In 2009, two Irish Clubs,  Royal St. George in Dun Laoghaire and Royal Cork in Crosshaven, entered into New York's newest sailing competition that was reminiscent of Newport’s America’s Cup days when 19 yacht club teams from 14 nations descended on this “City by the Sea”.

The Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is a competition between yacht clubs, with strict eligibility rules ensuring that each team is comprised exclusively of amateur sailors.

The competition, which was first run in 2009, has drawn entries from 49 clubs from 22 nations on all six inhabited continents.

The New York Yacht Club won the inaugural event in 2009, with the Royal Canadian Yacht Club winning in 2011 and 2013, England's Royal Thames Yacht Club winning in 2015 and Southern Yacht Club from New Orleans winning in 2017.

In 2019 the regatta was sailed for the first time in the New York Yacht Club’s fleet of IC37 yachts, and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, from Australia, became the first Southern Hemisphere club to win the trophy. And it was in this edition that Anthony O’Leary’s Royal Cork team took the bronze medal.