International as International Gets

© Dan Nerney At the New York Yacht Club Invitational – When they read the entries alphabetically, it takes a long time to get through the R’s. Royal this, Royal that. Which speaks to the ambition to stage the premiere regatta for amateur competition, in a manner that can be called, without apology, yachting.  The New York Yacht Club has changed tremendously since 1983, when it lost the America’s Cup after holding it for 132 years. That was a blow, but it set the club free. Acquiring a station in ...

19th September 2009.
By Kimball Livingston

Canadian_team_NYYC © Dan Nerney

At the New York Yacht Club Invitational

When they read the entries alphabetically, it takes a long time to get through the R’s.

Royal this, Royal that.

Which speaks to the ambition to stage the premiere regatta for amateur competition, in a manner that can be called, without apology, yachting.  The New York Yacht Club has changed tremendously since 1983, when it lost the America’s Cup after holding it for 132 years. That was a blow, but it set the club free. Acquiring a station in Newport in 1988 (at the first waterfront estate on the way out of downtown; what could be a better fit?) opened the way to immersing the club in junior sailing, college sailing, team racing and of course, grand yachting of the roll-up-your-sleeves variety. But there was that matter of the missing signature event, something to replace the “friendly competition between foreign nations.”

This is it, perhaps. Think 19 boats and 15 countries at the inaugural. But it comes with all the devils of the borrowed boat regatta. And for me, it comes with a lesson in friendly-and-foreign. Finding myself in a restaurant where the Spanish team was having a crew dinner, I offered them a hearty Viva España!

They corrected me.

VIVA CATALONIA!

They’re from Barcelona. How could I have been such a fool?

And it always matters to thank the race committee. It really is a lot of hours. It really is a lot of work. And a pic like this of the folks manning the pin-end boat at the start reminds us, it takes a heap of faith in the people comin’ at ya . . .

NYYCpin © Kimball Livingston  (click pic for full effect)

So, yes, a passle of jibs came apart at the headboard on day one, in breeze and a lump outside Narragansett Bay. All of those were purpose-built sails, built with the expectation of being used only in this and future Invitationals. So the sailmaker or somebody got that part wrong. All the jibs, not only those that failed, were re-stitched overnight. No more jib failures. Devils of the borrowed boat regatta, that, and the Swan-built NYYC 42s don’t have great word of mouth, but where else in the world would you see nineteen 42-footers, each with identical sails, each identically tuned, each representing an outfit that has earned its stripes (stars, crests, whatever) in the sailing world. The Royal Ocean Racing Club has had a fair bit of influence over time. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron has got itself noticed a time or two. That fellow, Bruno Troublè, skippering for the Yacht Club of France, we’ve heard from him sometime, haven’t we?

This was as international as international gets. The host club had the questionable taste to win; they also had the speed and smarts in owner Phil Lotz (whose wife Wendy and sons Chris and Doug also sail in the crew) and the one allowed pro, Ken Read. The Lotz family won selection by winning the class championship, and it’s probably significant that the top teams including Canada in second and Japan in third all sail regularly on Swan 42s (and Lotz, for example, was sailing his own boat; there are opportunities to refine the format).

It’s also significant, to me anyway, that a number of NYYC members quietly expressed their concern that the club not come across as pushing overly hard to win, that they not be perceived as they were perceived in the America’s Cup years (correctly or incorrectly) as seeking any advantage.

There was a desire to host the world, with grace, and they gave it a go.

Every boat that had good races also had bad races. Doing well in any given race was mostly about the start, because it was very hard for a boat behind to come back.

Nineteen boats, the top eighteen being tough to crack. Full results at nyyc.org.

St. Francis YC skipper Craig Healy, asked about his up-down-up finishes, replied, “If you make one mistake, you’re flushed. It speaks to how even the boats are in speed.”

Anthony O’Leary of Ireland’s Royal Cork YC, to the same question, quipped, “Well, maybe if we left the motor on for all the races . . . “


About the author:

Kimball Livingston

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Kimball Livingston is a former senior editor, and now editor-at-large, for SAIL. His work also has appeared in Sailing World, Cruising World, Soundings, and more. Over three years, Kimball sailed the Centennial Transpacific, Centennial Newport-Bermuda, and 100th Chicago-Mac. His blog posts appear courtesy of his website www.KimballLivingston.com.
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