Battle for national bragging in Newport
Published on September 13th, 2022
Newport, RI (September 13, 2022) – At 10:30 am tomorrow, teams representing 23 top yacht clubs from around the country will commence battle in pursuit of the Resolute Cup, one of sailing’s most prestigious Corinthian trophies.
With racing though September 17, one club will have distinguished itself enough to win the regatta and earn a berth in the 2023 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. Today, however, all 23 teams shared a pair of common opponents: weather and time.
One of the unique aspects of the Resolute Cup is its use of two fleets of provided boats, and while the RS21 and Sonar are roughly the same size, they are quite different to sail. For teams without a ton of experience in one or the other, today’s mandatory practice time was valuable amid a nasty band of thunderstorms rolling across Southern New England.
“The RS21 is a unique boat,” says Brian Bissell, who will skipper the entry from Newport Harbor Yacht Club in Southern California. “It’s got some quirks to figure out. There are some familiar things with the asymmetrical spinnaker and bow sprit, but the way it’s rigged, deck layouts, and sheeting angles all feel foreign. We focused on going through the paces of boat handling to get more fluid with those movements.”
The Resolute Cup was first run in 2010 as the U.S. Qualifying Series for the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. The biennial regatta, which is sailed out of the New York Yacht Club Harbor Court, has since developed an identity of its own as yacht clubs from around the United States send their best amateur sailors to Newport, R.I., to compete for national bragging rights in addition to a coveted berth in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, sailing’s premiere international Corinthian big-boat regatta.
Newport Harbor Yacht Club is one of four clubs that will be competing in the Resolute Cup for the sixth time. The Club won the regatta in 2014 and finished third in 2010. But Bissell, and the other three members on his team, are Resolute Cup rookies.
“I haven’t done a Resolute Cup before, but I did compete in this year’s Morgan Cup,” says Bissell. “The benefit of having done the Morgan Cup [a team race held every August] is that we did some boat handling-heavy racing in the Sonars.
“I was able to compete with the same crew I have here at the Resolute, so we’ve had enough practice that the boat handling and maneuvers in the Sonars are going well, even under team-racing adversity, and I have a good feel for the boat.”
The transition to the RS21 has the Newport Harbor team not only learning a new boat, but also switching positions.
“We have different people doing bow on each boat, so a big goal is to get them comfortable and buy them as much time as we can in those roles,” he says. “Our tactician in one boat is trimming the spinnaker in the other, so we also change our downwind tactician. We’re lucky to have smart sailors onboard, that really affords us the ability to do that.
“We’ve come a long way in our communication and teamwork, and a lot of that came from us being able to do the Morgan Cup together. It helped sharpen our communication and teamwork. We’ll take each race as its own thing and not get too far ahead of ourselves thinking about the next round.”
Like Bissell, Bridget Groble of Chicago Yacht Club is a Resolute Cup rookie. She did her advance research to better understand how to succeed and why the regatta is such a unique opportunity.
“I talked to the team that represented Chicago Yacht Club in 2018 to get some background,” she says. “From what they told me, it’s a super fun event on and off the water and they encouraged me to do it.
“They really stressed that the fleet is very, very tight all around the course and the mark roundings are a lot like college racing. That’s not something you see in keelboat regattas, so I think that will be really cool.”
With that in mind, the Chicago team planned to do whatever they could to simulate the pressure of a close-quarters race during today’s practice.
“We want to do as much boat handling as we can,” said Groble. “We’ll do lots of tacks, gybes, sets, douses, but most importantly we’ll try different variations of those maneuvers and simulate the pressure of racing during practice. If we really throw ourselves into the fire during practice, we’ll be prepared to handle those things under pressure during racing.”
Someone who is intimately familiar with the pressure of the Resolute Cup is Eastern Yacht Club’s Alden Reid. In fact, there may not be anyone more familiar with this event and its big sister, the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, which takes place during this same time window, but on alternate years.
“These are my favorite weeks of the year down at the New York Yacht Club,” says Reid. “I’ve raced five Invitational Cups and this will be my fifth Resolute Cup. I’m really familiar with the conditions and the event format itself.
“As someone with a full-time job, I think this is the best event of the year because there’s a lot of really good sailors here in the same position as me and we all compete at the same level. I’m looking forward to sailing with college friends and against friends I grew up racing with.”
One of the keys to success in this regatta, says Reid, is to separate the event into two stages, each of which requires a different approach. The 23 teams will be divided into two fleets for the first two days of racing, and split time between the two classes of boats. The top six in each fleet will qualify for the Gold Fleet, which will sail the final two days of the regatta in the RS21s. The scores from the first two days will not carry over to the finals.
“For the qualifying series, you can take more risk because you have a drop race, and because you really only have to shoot for mid-fleet to qualify for the Gold Series,” says Reid. “That makes it easier to push really hard to stay at the top of the fleet and brush off mistakes or bad races. Once you get past the qualifying round, the racing tactics change a lot. We desperately want to qualify for the 2023 Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup, so we’re going to focus on sailing consistently and avoid big numbers.”
For teams still looking to find their comfort zone with either the RS21 or the Sonar, this could be a comfort. A sixth in the qualifying series is as good as a first. However, if history is any indication, a mid-fleet finish in the qualifying series is anything but easy. Take it from Alden Reid, who’s seen this play out more than a few times.
“Really we just hope to make it into the Gold Series,” he says, “and we’ll go from there.”
Racing for the 2022 Resolute Cup starts tomorrow and continues through Saturday, September 17, with racing starting each morning at 10:30 am, weather permitting. The race area is expected to be between Rose Island and Goat Island and can be seen from Fort Adams State Park and Goat Island.