Field set for biennial Invitational Cup

Published on May 7th, 2017

This coming September, amateur sailors representing top yacht clubs from five continents will converge to contest the premiere trophy in Corinthian sailing, the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup in Newport, RI. The fifth edition of this biennial event, which is scheduled for September 9 to 16 at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, is likely to be the most competitive ever. And that’s no faint praise.

The 2015 event came down to the final leg of the final race, with three teams in contention for the top prize. To the delight of friends and family watching the live webcast from back home in Great Britain, the Royal Thames Yacht Club became the first team from outside North America to claim the trophy. The Royal Thames crew will return to Newport this coming September to defend the trophy against 14 other yacht clubs.

“The Swan 42 is a challenging boat to sail well,” says event chair Patti Young. “Over the course of four editions of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, we’ve found a direct correlation between the number of teams who have prior experience in the boat and the competitiveness of the regatta. For this edition, every team will come to the regatta with significant first-hand experience sailing the Swan 42.”

Jacob Wallenberg of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club, purchased a Swan 42 last summer and will bring to Newport a team well schooled in the idiosyncrasies of the boat and the event. This will be the club’s third attempt to win the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.

“We have found the Invitational Cup extremely competitive while also very rewarding and inspiring,” says Wallenberg a former commodore of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club. “Through our past participation we have had a few important learning experiences. We wanted to find a team that could dedicate time and resources to arrive in Newport with good potential. We think we have found a team with a great mix of yacht racing skills, available time, and dedication, but also the social skill set to represent our club in the very best way.”

Wallenberg’s first race in his Swan 42 was Sweden’s legendary ÅF Offshore Race—otherwise known as the Round Gotland Race—last summer. Despite a lack of familiarity the boat, he and his crew came away with the overall victory.

“We were extremely happy winning the largest offshore race in the Baltic in our first Swan 42 race,” says Wallenberg. “The key, as it is so frequently, was good preparation, great crew and a good deal of luck.”

Of course, sailing the Swan 42 in mixed-fleet competition, with a full complement of sails and rig adjustments, is one thing. For the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, each team must compete with a limited and identical suit of sails and the rig tune is standardized across the fleet for the duration of the regatta. Speed differences between boats are small and hard-won.

“We put a tremendous amount of effort into ensuring that we have as close to an identical fleet of boats as possible,” says Young. “This puts the emphasis squarely on the sailors, the decisions they make over the course of five days of racing and their ability to coax as much boatspeed as possible out of the platform. True one-design sailing in boats this size is extremely rare and that’s one reason we continue to receive so many requests for an invitation to this remarkable event.”

Sponsored by Rolex, Porsche, Nautor’s Swan, AIG and Helly Hansen, the following yacht clubs will compete for the 2017 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup:

Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit), Eastern Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.), Itchenor (GBR) Sailing Club, Japan Sailing Federation, New York Yacht Club, Royal Cork (IRL) Yacht Club, Royal Danish Yacht Club, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Royal Swedish Yacht Club, Royal Sydney (AUS) Yacht Squadron, Royal Thames (GBR) Yacht Club, Royal (GBR) Yacht Squadron, Shelter Island (N.Y.) Yacht Club, Southern (New Orleans) Yacht Club, Yacht Club Argentino.

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Background: The Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is a biennial competition between yacht clubs, with strict eligibility rules ensuring that each team is comprised almost exclusively of amateur sailors who are members of the club they represent. The competition, which was first run in 2009, has drawn entries from 43 clubs from 21 nations on all six inhabited continents. The New York Yacht Club won the inaugural event in 2009, with the Royal Canadian Yacht Club winning in 2011 and 2013 and England’s Royal Thames Yacht Club winning in 2015. The berths allocated for United States clubs are decided at the U.S. Qualifying Series regatta, which is held on even years in smaller boats.

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