Three corners of USA advance to premier Corinthian big-boat competition

Published on September 6th, 2014

Newport, RI (September 6, 2014) – The three yacht clubs that finished on the podium at the 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series for the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup have at least two things in common. First, each has previously earned a berth in the Invitational Cup. Second, each club was less than satisfied with their previous showing at that event.

Next September, those three clubs–Newport Harbor Yacht Club (Newport Beach, CA), Eastern Yacht Club (Marblehead, MA), and Seattle Yacht Club (Seattle, WA)–will have a chance to redeem themselves at the 2015 New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex.

Each of the teams took a different path to the podium in the 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series. Newport Harbor was utterly dominant. Led by skipper Michael Menninger and tactician Jon Pinckney, Newport Harbor won 13 of 17 races. The team, which also included Taylor Grimes and Gregory Helias, wobbled slightly on the final day with an eighth and a 12th. But the latter was the result of a jib halyard issue and eventually rectified with a redress claim, which was approved by the jury. Newport Harbor also won three races on the final day.

“It wasn’t the best day,” says Menninger. “We had one bad race and one breakdown, but we never got worried. We just kept plugging away. We knew we had good boatspeed, we knew we were still sailing well. Our mentality on the boat didn’t change at all.”

For Eastern Yacht Club, on the other hand, the final day was a constant battle. The team entered Saturday with a tenuous grip on a top-three finish. Time after time, skipper Bill Lynn and his team found themselves staring at a host of transoms, and they were forced to grind through a very stubborn fleet. The end result, a second-place overall, was worth the effort.

“We seemed to just dig ourselves little holes and them climb out of them,” says Lynn, who sailed with Alden Reid, Ben Richardson and Megan Watson. “We were probably sailing a little too conservatively at times–except for the one time we did circles at the windward mark when we stuck it somewhere we shouldn’t have. I think overall we were trying not to be over [early at the start], trying to stay with the pack. We had great speed, which made it easier to dig our way out when we had to.”

Lynn was part of a team that won the inaugural J/70 North American Championship last fall in Annapolis, Md., but he said that the rule changes for this event–which prohibit changing the rig tune and don’t allow any crew to hike with their legs over the side of the boat–made it hard to transfer much of what he has learned about the J/70 to the USQS.

“I’ve spent a fair amount of time in these boats,” says Lynn. “It helps you downwind with the technique when you’re figuring out when to plane, but upwind it’s a totally different animal because you can’t tune the rig.”

Eastern Yacht Club finished fourth at the 2011 Invitational Cup and missed earning a spot for 2013. Lynn says the club is eager for one more bite at the apple.

For Seattle, the route to its second Invitational Cup bid was paved with consistency. Of the 11 races in the championship series, Seattle finished between third and sixth in nine. Andrew Loe, who skippered the club’s USQS entry in 2012 and its Invitational Cup team in 2013, knew exactly what was required to earn his club a return trip to the Invitational Cup.

Just outside of the top three were New Bedford and Shelter Island. Both clubs were competing in the USQS for the first time and both came on strong on the final day, a good sign should they come back in 2016.

In the Silver Fleet, Rush Creek Yacht Club followed a similar storyline to that of Newport Harbor. The Texas team had one bobble on the final day, a sixth in Race 9, but otherwise added to the string of first and second-place finishes it started on Friday. The end result was a 19-point win over Balboa Yacht Club. Nantucket, which was one of the youngest teams in the regatta, finished third.

“Everybody out there knew what they were doing,” says Nantucket skipper Max Bent. “It was good competition no matter where you were, so we’re happy with our finish. Everybody wants to get into the Gold Fleet, but [the Silver Fleet] is a new regatta and I think it went well. It’s a great event, it’s tough to beat.”

With the U.S. Qualifying Series now finished, the New York Yacht Club will work to finalize the roster of invited teams for the 2015 New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex (September 12-19). That list will be released by early 2015. As with the past three editions of the Invitational Cup, the premier international Corinthian big-boat competition, a diverse and very competitive field is expected to challenge the two-time defending champions from the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

The application process for the 2016 U.S. Qualifying Series will start in 2015.

Final Results
Gold Fleet: 1. Newport Harbor, 19.8; 2. Eastern, 49; 3. Seattle, 52; 4. New Bedford, 59; 5. Shelter Island, 64; 6. San Francisco, 67; 7. Southern, 72; 8. Little Traverse, 73; 9. Bayview, 79; 10. Beverly, 80.6; 11. Chicago, 114; 12. Larchmont, 114.
Silver Fleet: 1. Rush Creek, 22; 2. Balboa, 41; 3. Nantucket, 47; 4. Coral Reef, 48; 5. Indian Harbor, 54; 6. Texas Corinthian, 58; 7. Fishing Bay, 63; 8. Carolina, 84; 9. Harbor Island, 92; 10. South Carolina, 93.

Event websiteResultsPhotosTeam rosters

Report by event media. Photo by Allen Clark/

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