Except for an opening race shocker, Royal Cork's Anthony OLeary is counting an excellent third and a fourth from yesterday's races two and three at New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup to lie eighth, one place ahead of the Royal Yacht Squadron in a fleet of 22 entries.
After several practice days spent familiarising themselves with the boats and local sailing conditions, the 22 yacht club teams were unleashed for the first day of racing in the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. The event is hosted by the New York Yacht Club at Harbour Court, their on-the-water clubhouse in Newport, Rhode Island.
A fleet start yesterday in New York. Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex
For the first day of racing, the NYYC Race Committee opted to send the fleet "inside", up Narragansett Bay. The south-southwest breeze ranged from seven to eight knots, building to the higher teens by the afternoon, and providing perfect conditions for the three races contested. The prevailing wind against an ebbing current kept tacticians in check, though if local knowledge was key you couldn't tell from the results, with teams from the Japan Sailing Federation, Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and Cruising Yacht Club of Australia each taking a win today – and the Canadians at the top of the leaderboard at day's end.
But it was also kudos to the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup organizers for including several days of practice sailing to get teams up to speed on the Swan 42s, as this one-design given by the technical team, as well as local knowledge briefing provided by Sail Newport Executive Director, Brad Read.
Some teams put the information to use more effectively than others. Patrick Pender, helmsman on the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club entry which is standing 2nd overall after today said, "It was a great first day for us. I think what was a great thing for the series was that they had a lot of practice racing and allowed the people to really learn how to sail the boat. Often you go to regattas and by the end of the regatta you go, 'crikey, we're ready to go now'. They did a fabulous job yesterday of giving a really, really good explanation about how the tides work both inside (the Bay) and outside. Obviously outside is much more complicated, whereas I think it's probably more predictable up the bay."
Pender's team managed a 3-8-2 today and the helmsman was quick to credit his crew, "The crew's doing an awesome job, mechanically the guys are working very hard. We did a really difficult drop on the last race, coming in hot and fast to the left-hand gate. It was a hard maneuver and we got clear air, had a really good rounding. We sailed very well on the last short beat and protected a good second place finish."
The Japanese entry is one of several returning entries. Having posted a third overall in the 2009 event, the teams' tactician Elichiro Hamazaki, said they are focused on a top three finish again. With a race one win they were on track, but the subsequent 7-9 showed how tough the talent is here. Hamazaki recounted, "We had a good upwind beat, we had a good right-hand shift and kept first position from the top mark. In the second and third races as the wind picked up, the other boats were very consistent and close. Once we made a mistake, we fell behind."
He added, "Especially racing on the inside course, the area is surrounded by shore and the wind is tricky and has big effects of current. It was difficult, but it is very exciting in this one-design class – it's really close, very competitive."
The on-the-water umpiring, introduced for this edition of the Invitational Cup, was put into play today with a half dozen calls made on the water, which served their purpose of eliminating the inevitable protest hearings back onshore.
Winning race three was the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia's entry. Helmsman Hugo Van Kretschmar set his sights on a return to Newport, as his last time was 1983 when he competed in the America's Cup challenger trials onboard the Australian entry, Challenge 12.
Van Kretschmar is part of a group of friends who sail on CYCA Commodore Gary Linacre's and David Fuller's Corby 49. He heard that the CYCA had been invited to compete at the Invitational Cup and hatched a plan to make it happen. Van Kretschmar said "So five of us off the back of Gary's boat decided that we'd like to go and do this thing and we thought we'd like to combine it with the Youth Sailing Academy out of the CYCA. So we have four 'kids' onboard, they're all graduates of the program so 22-, 23-, 24-year olds. So the group was five buddies and four kids out of the Academy. Most of us sailed together in different configurations on different boats and races before, but here in Newport was actually the first time we all sailed together as a team.
Commodore Gary Linacre, who's raced in numerous Rolex Sydney Hobart races, was an enthusiastic supporter of the team, and said, "We looked at the whole deal and I said I'd get behind it as Commodore and do what I could. The three of us (including Van Kretschmar and Fuller) have sailed together lot over the years and we and just decided it's such a wonderful event. The Corinthian nature of it was really worthwhile doing, and so we decided to come here."
Van Kretschmer has another reason for a return to this sailing mecca, " I never saw anything in Newport when I was here in '83. We were on strict lockdown and at the gym at something like five in the morning!"
Racing continues today Wednesday 14 September through Saturday 17 September. Tomorrow's first warning signal will be at 11:00 am.
In addition to Rolex, which for 2011 and 2013 is the presenting sponsor, Sperry Top-Sider and Nautor's Swan have also returned, and are joined by Atlantis WeatherGear, as sponsors to enhance the experience of competitors as well as those who will be following the races.
The 22 entrants
By country, the roster of participating teams is: Yacht Club Argentino (ARG); Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (AUS); Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (BER); Royal Canadian Yacht Club (CAN); Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (HKG); Real Club Nautico de Barcelona (ESP); Nyländska Jaktklubben (FIN); Itchenor Sailing Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Royal Yacht Squadron (GBR); Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (GER); Royal Cork Yacht Club (IRL); Yacht Club Capri and Yacht Club Punta Ala (ITA); Japan Sailing Federation (JPN); Royal Norwegian Yacht Club (NOR); Clube Naval de Cascais (POR); Royal Cape Yacht Club (RSA); Eastern Yacht Club, Annapolis Yacht Club, Newport Harbor Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club (USA).