The Invitational: That’s a lot of a lot
Published on September 9th, 2019
When you have 20 teams coming from around the world, with 8 to 10 crew each along with their entourage. When you have a project that conceived, designed, and built 20 37-footers. When you have the bling of Rolex and the stature of New York Yacht Club. When you have an amateur-only event for all genders and ages.
Together, all together, that’s a lot of a lot.
Anticipation is about to give way to realization as the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, held biennially since 2009, is the setting for the sixth edition to be held September 10-15 in Newport, RI. With 14 countries and five continents represented, let the drum roll begin.
Here are some of the storylines:
• After five regattas using the Swan 42 class, the sixth edition will be the first to feature the IC37 raceboat. Designed by Mark Mills, built by Westerly Marine in California and FIBRE Mechanics in Great Britain, the boat was created specifically for this regatta. Rather than relying on private owners, the New York Yacht Club bought a fleet of 20 one-design boats. The sails and standing rigging tension are identical across the fleet. On-the-water judging eliminates the need for lengthy and contentious on-shore protest hearings. The result is perhaps the most level platform ever created for one-design big-boat competition. The skills and teamwork of the sailors will determine the final outcome.
• Southern Yacht Club started planning its defense not long after it won it in 2017. The winning skipper, Marcus Eagan, won’t return, but the Southern bench is deep. Filling his shoes will be former collegiate sailor of the year, and two-time Olympic Trials runner-up, Andy Lovell. Also new to the team is 1984 Olympic silver medalist Steve Benjamin. Returning from the 2017 crew is tactician John Lovell, who sailed in four Olympics winning a silver medal in the Tornado class in 2004, Viper 640 world champion Andrew Eagan, and collegiate star Clerc Cooper.
• Of the 20 teams competing in 2019, only San Diego Yacht Club has never sailed in a previous edition. All four former champions return: New York Yacht Club (2009), Royal Canadian Yacht Club (2011 & ’13), Royal Thames Yacht Club (2015) and Southern Yacht Club (2017). Five teams—Japan Sailing Federation, New York Yacht Club, Royal Cork Yacht Club, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and the Royal Yacht Squadron—have sailed in all five previous editions.
• The Melges IC37 class rules and event rules mandate that each crew has at least two of each gender. Of the 180 crew participating in the regatta, more than a quarter are female, a significant increase from previous editions of this regatta. Many women are sailing in key roles including skipper Illaria Paternoster (Yacht Club Italiano) and tacticians Katie Greenland (Royal Thames Yacht Club) and Celia Willison (Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron).
• In 2015, Katie Greenland called tactics for her husband John as the Royal Thames Yacht Club became the first club from outside North America to win the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup. Family responsibilities kept Katie Greenland from sailing in 2017, and the RTYC finished fifth. The dynamic duo is reunited for 2019. Will they lift the trophy one again?
“It’s great to have Katie back on the boat,” he said. “Added to that we’ve actually got a very family orientated set-up this year with William, our skipper, and his son Harry sailing, and Nick Hornby trimming with his sister Sarah on our bow. We’ve all known each other a long time so hopefully that has at least given us a fighting chance at the outset.”
• For the first time since the inaugural event in 2009, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the current holder of the America’s Cup, will be competing. AJ Reid and his Anarchy team have crossed more than a few time zones, and the equator, in pursuit of Corinthian sailing’s top prize.
• In addition to silver medalists Steve Benjamin and John Lovell, both sailing for Southern, Royal Canadian Yacht Club also has a pair of Olympic medalists. skipper Terry McLaughin, a two-time winner of the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup, won a silver medal for Canada in the 1984 Olympics, while John Millen won a bronze in the 1988 Olympics. Tom King, winning gold in the Men’s 470 in the 2000 Olympics, will call tactics for the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. Other notable sailors include multiple J/24 world champion Brad Read (New York Yacht Club), top-ranked Women’s 470 skipper and youth worlds gold medalist Silvia Mas Depares (Real Club Náutico de Barcelona), three-time world champion Jenn Wulff (New York Yacht Club), and Olympians Eiichiro Hamazaki (Japan Sailing Federation), Pietro d’Ali (Yacht Club Italiano), David Edwards (Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron).
Racing starts September 10 with a live broadcast of each race from September 11 through 14.