Executive Editor Adam Cort pays a visit to the New York Yacht Club’s Rolex In­vi­ta­tional Re­gatta


Al­though I now live just north of Bos­ton, I came of age in the Mid­west, sail­ing on the Great Lakes, which back when I was a kid was about as far away from New­port, Rhode Is­land, and the Amer­ica’s Cup as you could get. Read­ing about guys like Ted Turner and Den­nis Con­ner while sit­ting in our fam­ily room in Cleve­land, it not only felt like 12 Me­ter rac­ing was a game of giants, but that it might as well be tak­ing place on the other side of the moon.

Alas, by the time I moved to New Eng­land, the Amer­ica’s Cup had long since de­camped to points east, west and south. The na­ture of the game had also changed, to the where it was scarcely rec­og­niz­able as the orig­i­nal “Cup.” The grandeur, the Corinthian spirit, the na­tion­al­ism that once in­fused these re­gat­tas—and which also made them so unique— seemed to have been rel­e­gated to the dust­bin of his­tory. Or so I thought, un­til I had the priv­i­lege of a front-row seat at last Septem­ber’s Rolex New York Yacht Club In­vi­ta­tional Cup, fea­tur­ing a fleet of gor­geous Swan 42 One-De­signs mix­ing things up off the New York YC’s Har­bour Court club­house on Nar­ra­gansett Bay.

My first in­ti­ma­tion that some­thing spe­cial might be go­ing on came when I no­ticed the classic and some­how fa­mil­iar lines of a large, black-hulled power cruiser sport­ing a pair of ves­ti­gial but no less func­tional-look­ing masts. “That’s Black Night. She used to be the com­mit­tee boat for the Amer­ica’s Cup,” said vet­eran rac­ing pho­tog­ra­pher Daniel Forster, who was let­ting me tag along aboard his RIB.

“Ah, that ex­plains it!” I said, re­al­iz­ing that like so many other sailors of a cer­tain age, I’d seen her any num­ber of times be­fore in pho­tos from the re­gatta where Aus­tralia II and its equally fa­mous keel man­aged to over­come the U.S.-flagged Lib­erty to end the long­est win­ning streak in sports.

The next thing that struck me was the spec­ta­tor fleet, well over two-dozen large or mid-size power­boats fol­low­ing the rac­ing every step of the way, all set against the back­drop of one of the most aes­thet­i­cally sat­is­fy­ing bod­ies of wa­ter in the en­tire Western Hemi­sphere. The re­sem­blance to those same spec­ta­tor fleets that used to jos­tle for po­si­tion off Sandy Hook or these same waters for the bet­ter part of

a cen­tury and a half—al­beit on a some­what re­duced scale—was al­most un­canny. If the sound of cheer­ing punc­tu­ated by the clink of cham­pagne flutes was any in­di­ca­tion, their crews were en­joy­ing them­selves no less than par­tic­i­pants in those same fleets from years past.

As for the ac­tual rac­ing, I’d match it up against any other sail­ing out there. Be­gun in 2009 and held every other year, the re­gatta in­evitably at­tracts top teams from all over the world, with the 2017 event fea­tur­ing crews from yacht clubs based in 11 dif­fer­ent coun­tries—among them Ire­land’s

Royal Cork Yacht Club, Eng­land’s Royal Yacht Squadron, the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, the Ja­pan Sail­ing Fed­er­a­tion, the Royal Cana­dian Yacht Club, Real Club Náu­tico de Barcelona and, of course, the New York YC. We’re talk­ing “friendly com­pe­ti­tion be­tween na­tions” in the truest and best sense of the word.

Sim­i­larly, in terms of aes­thet­ics, it would be hard to imag­ine a more spec­tac­u­lar scene than a fleet of Swan 42 One-De­signs go­ing at it ham­mer and tongs—and all crewed by ex­pe­ri­enced sailors tak­ing part for the sheer love of the sport, as op­posed to a salary. Spin­naker sets, tack­ing du­els, hair-rais­ing mark round­ings and equally hair-rais­ing gybes: you name it, this was an event that had it all, even a bit of fog to add just the right com­bi­na­tion of anx­i­ety and am­biance.

Lead­ing the charge for the five days of rac­ing was Louisiana’s South­ern Yacht Club, with Mar­cus Ea­gan at the helm. Af­ter that came Aus­tralia’s Royal Syd­ney Yacht Squadron, which fin­ished eight points off first over­all, de­spite tak­ing bul­lets in no less than five of the 12 races. Round­ing out the podium was the East­ern Yacht Club of Mar­ble­head, Mas­sachusetts, while the team from the New York YC fin­ished fourth. “It doesn’t get any bet­ter than this. It’s great to cel­e­brate with friends and mem­bers and long­time sailors,” said a clearly elated Ea­gan af­ter­ward, who’s South­ern YC truly pulled out all the stops for this, it’s first in­vi­ta­tional.

In fact, as soon as the club re­ceived its in­vi­ta­tion to the re­gatta af­ter fin­ish­ing first in the New York YC’s 2016 Res­o­lute Cup, the of­fi­cial qual­i­fy­ing se­ries for the In­vi­ta­tional Cup, it pur­chased a Swan 42 One-Design all its own (many teams char­ter their boats from the New York YC, which en­sures they are all rigged iden­ti­cally) so that its crew could train all sum­mer—a tes­ta­ment to the ef­fort all the teams put into pre­par­ing for this event.

Be­yond that, with five In­vi­ta­tional Cups now in the bank, the event as a whole looks to be go­ing stronger than ever—so much so that af­ter con­sid­er­ing 19 pro­pos­als from a num­ber of the world’s lead­ing naval ar­chi­tects to re­place its ag­ing Swans, the New York YC has now adopted the Mark Mills-de­signed Melges IC37 racer [see side­bar], which should keep the event as ex­cit­ing as ever for years to come.

Here’s to the New York YC and its com­mit­ment to the sport of yacht rac­ing—not just as a means of mak­ing a liv­ing, but of pro­vid­ing those same thrills and in­spi­ra­tion for fans that I used to ex­pe­ri­ence as a kid. I’m al­ready look­ing for­ward to the next in­stall­ment! For more on the re­gatta, visit nyyc.org/yacht­ing/in­vi­ta­tional-cup.

Burgees from clubs around the world are promi­nently dis­played on each boat’s main­sail (left); the South­ern Yacht Club crew cel­e­brates its win (be­low)

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