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South Africa wins Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge

Published on August 17th, 2014

New York, NY (August 17, 2014) – The Sixth Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge was held in New York Harbor on August 15-17, 2014. The Royal Cape Yacht Club from South Africa finished first with the Royal Danish Yacht Club from Denmark in second.

Nineteen teams representing 14 countries participated. The Challenge is designed for amateur club sailors and the goal is to create “international goodwill through friendly competition.” Dennis Conner, America’s greatest sailor, is the Patron of the event. The Challenge is organized by the New York Harbor Sailing Foundation and hosted by Manhattan Yacht Club.

The Challenge is raced on a fleet of identical J/24 sailboats. Racing takes place in New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of Manhattan as the backdrop.

Racing in the harbor includes two unique features, tricky currents and downwind starts. Learning the currents is a key to winning in the harbor. The current is normally stronger in the center of the harbor than at the shore. All races start and finish from Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse which is anchored on station near Ellis Island. When the winds are out of a westerly direction, races begin downwind. Because of the specific weather patterns during this year’s Challenge, 7 of the 9 races began downwind.

This year, competition at the Challenge was among the best ever. The first five races were won by five different yacht clubs. Lead changes were frequent and most yacht clubs had their moment leading one of the races. Races were windward-leeward and either 2 or 3 times around. The average length of the races was about 1 hour and 15 minutes. After each race, teams rotated boats to ensure the fairness of the competition.

Dennis Conner was in attendance throughout the challenge to greet visiting sailors and watch the races. It was a great thrill for the visiting sailors to meet this sailing legend.

At the end of the competition, South Africa and Denmark were first and second. The Cercle de la Voile de la Société Nautique de Genève from Switzerland was third and the Royal Amateur Hamilton Dinghy Club form Bermuda was fourth. Howth Yacht Club from Ireland finished fifth followed by the host Manhattan Yacht Club in sixth.

This was the Sixth Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge. These events began in 2006 and have been organized roughly every other year since then. The very first “International Yacht Club Challenge” was organized by Manhattan Yacht Club in 1988, a year after the club was founded. The first event was a success and the regattas were then co-organized with Yacht Club de Monaco in 1989 in Manhattan, 1991 in Monaco and 1992 in Manhattan. The Challenge was then revived under Dennis Conner’s patronage in 2006.

In addition to the racing, the Challenge focuses on social events and generating international goodwill. Teams began the organized events on Wednesday evening by watching the club races from the clubhouse in the harbor. The Opening Ceremony was held on Thursday evening on “Arabella,” the Club’s new 157-foot mega yacht clubhouse at North Cove. Friday evening was a steak dinner at les Halles Downtown. Saturday evening was a Starlight Cruise in the harbor on Arabella to see the Statue of Liberty illuminated at night as well as the Brooklyn Bridge. The Awards Ceremony on Sunday was held in Soho at Felix Restaurant. All of these events were designed to give the visiting sailors a real taste of the Big Apple.

Click here for final results.

Report by Michael Fortenbaugh.

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