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Royal Cork's O'Leary Team Tumble Down New York Cup Leaderboard

15th September 2017
Royal Cork Yacht Club's Anthony O'Leary racing in New York yesterday Royal Cork Yacht Club's Anthony O'Leary racing in New York yesterday Photo: Daniel Forster

Royal Cork's Anthony O'Leary tumbled down the leaderboard at the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup yesterday. After a promising first day on Wednesday which saw the Cork Harbour team in fourth overall, O'Leary now lies 11th overall after nine races in the 14–boat fleet. There are three more races left to sail in the Cup. Full results are here.

To describe the tactical approach which led Eastern Yacht Club to the low-point score of Day 3 of the 2017 Cup, Ben Richardson used a word not often associated with successful big-boat sailing: reactionary. "You had to be pretty reactionary," said Richardson, a former Laser Masters World Champion and Pan Am Games competitor. "We never went into any particular race saying, 'Oh, you've got to go left,' or 'You've got go right.' You had to continually adapt up the beat and see where the pressure was. There were pretty big pressure differentials and you had to connect the dots up the beat, and on the run."

Eastern Yacht Club moved from fourth to third in the overall standings and now has a 15-point advantage over a pack of boats clumped in fourth to ninth. Southern Yacht Club finished third on the day, but only two points behind Eastern, and leads the regatta by 9 points over Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, which won two of the day's three races.

The 2017 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup takes place September 9 to 16 at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, in Newport, R.I. Amateur sailors representing 14 yacht clubs from around the globe have converged on Newport to race in the ultimate one-design, big-boat competition. The boats and sails are provided and the rig tune is standardized across the fleet. The Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is sponsored by Rolex, Porsche, Nautor’s Swan, AIG and Helly Hansen and is being broadcast live via the web.

One of the key calls of the day came well before the first start. Principle Race Officer Ron Hopkins initially sent the fleet to the offshore course, but when the fog rolled in he reversed coursed and moved the fleet north of Gould Island, inside Narragansett Bay, where the water is flatter, the wind is a little less predictable and the racing is more frenetic.

Not surprisingly, some teams that had struggled offshore came alive on the "inside" course, including the Japan Sailing Federation, which scored a third, fifth and seventh on the day and moved from 10th to seventh in the overall standings.

"For us, the outside course was not so good," said Yasutaka Funazawa, the skipper for the Japan Sailing Federation. "So we have to change something. We are getting better. Today was more the team working well."

Also making the most of "moving day," as the middle day of a long regatta is often known, was the host New York Yacht Club, which found its rhythm after a string of tough races to start the regatta and moved from 11th to sixth on the strength of a fifth and two fourths.

"I went to school at Boston University and sailed in the Charles River, so shifty conditions have always been good for me," said tactician Brad Read. "We’re starting to get more confidence. We’ve been working really hard, out there between races we’re doing timed runs at the start. We just haven't been very good at it [during the first six races]. So practice makes perfect, and we're practicing really hard between races to get our time and distance right.

"Our motto going into today was: it's the start of the fourth quarter and its 28-9," Read added, referencing the New England Patriots' improbable comeback last February in Super Bowl 51. "It's just picking away, every tack is important, every jibe is important, every mark rounding is important. We’re doing the little things now and it's making it more fun to go sailing."

Not surprisingly, however, the teams that were really strong on the first two days, continued to shine. Great teams transcend the conditions. Southern Yacht Club and Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron combined to win all three races and take four of nine podium positions today. The Australian team knocked a point off the 10-point lead Southern enjoyed in the overall standings to start the day and both boats, along with Eastern, moved further clear of the rest of the fleet.

"Two years ago we got off to a similar start," said Richardson. "[In 2015] once we moved inside during the last few days of the regatta, we really turned a corner and came right back in it. The same thing happened today. Our starts were improved, but as everybody knows, getting away from other boats makes a huge difference."

Richardson also noted that after six days of practice and racing, each team has found its comfort zone in the Swan 42s.

"If you give away a little bit, that’s something you’re not going to get back," Richardson said. "We've all been sailing for six days, and some teams came more prepared than others. But every team is getting it down now."

The race for first has really come down to three boats, and two of them will need some help from the current leader if they want to hoist the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup trophy on Saturday. Another strong day by Southern tomorrow may well sort out the overall podium. The most interesting racing may focus on the battle for fourth, with six teams all within 8 points of that spot. Those positions are unlikely to be decided until the final beat of the final race.

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