New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup 2011 only two months away

by KPMS 
Anthony O’Leary (red hat) will helm the Royal Cork Yacht Club entry - New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup 2011 presented by Rolex
Kurt Arrigo/ Nautor's Swan
New York Yacht Club (NYYC) Invitational Cup 2011 presented by Rolex is being held from 10 to 17 September.

Invitations have been accepted. The entry list defined. Team selection well underway. The second NYYC Invitational Cup presented by Rolex is now less than two months away. The excitement and anticipation are palpable.

The waters off Newport, Rhode Island, provide the setting for this sailing event that promotes a level playing field and a Corinthian spirit. The competition is strictly limited to non-professional sailors tackling a one-design class: the NYYC Swan 42. For each team, all but two of the crew must be nationals of the country and members of the club they represent. While the host club provides many of the yachts used in the competition, some invited yacht teams may bring their own boats. Even so, all rigs are identically tuned and locked down, and sails are provided by the organisers.

It is an egalitarian contest: the winning team is the one that most skilfully manages its yacht, the opposition and the conditions.

Invitations extended
Following a successful and popular inaugural edition in 2009, the NYYC increased the number of invitations from the 19 teams that were extended two years ago: 22 yachts representing 16 nations from six continents will be present, a global contest in every sense. Amongst the list are the top five finishers from the previous edition: New York Yacht Club (hosts of the event and winners in 2009), Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Japan Sailing Federation, Nyländska Jaktklubben of Finland and Ireland’s Royal Cork Yacht Club.

'The essence of the regatta is to bring together Corinthian yacht club teams in a competition that not only is tough and demanding but also levels the playing field,' explains past NYYC Commodore David K Elwell Jr. 'The response to, and the outcome of, the 2009 event were greater than we could ever have expected.'

A whole host of clubs sought invitations for this year’s contest, reflecting how much it caught the imagination of yachtsmen around the globe. 'The event promises to showcase the finest amateur sailors in the world. The opportunity to race at such a high level of competition has encouraged many clubs to seek an invitation, for where else can they take their best club racers and compete against national and international champions, even America’s Cup legends, on an equal basis?' reveals Event Chair John Mendez.

Prime preparation
Hugo Van Kretschmar will skipper the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s (CYCA) entry. The team includes Robbie Weir, Andrew Copley and Louise Geddes. Van Kretschmar, former Commodore of the CYCA, is enthusiastic about competing at the event: 'I am absolutely looking forward to it. It started as a bit of wishful thinking but now we’re deadly seriously.'

The CYCA will find tough competition on the waters of Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay. The Portuguese crew from Clube Naval de Cascais will be led by Patrick Monteiro de Barros, a legendary sailor who has ticked almost every nautical challenge having competed at the Olympic Games as well as the America’s Cup, and, twice circumnavigated the world. De Barros and his crew have also approached the event with an emphasis on proper preparation. Team selection was made after a comprehensive training schedule, which also includes a practice period in France on a Swan 42. 'Our programme is essentially aimed at boat handling, tactics and physical condition,' explains de Barros.

Fifth place in 2009, the Royal Cork Yacht Club team are advanced in their arrangements, skippered as in 2009, by Anthony O’Leary. The 2010 Afloat Irish Independent Sailor of the Year holder will bring along the crew that helped steer Ireland to an impressive win in last year’s Rolex Commodores’ Cup. This includes his sons, Peter and Robert. O’Leary’s team had no experience in the Swan 42 class prior to 2009 and has not sailed one since. Preparations will, therefore, be finely tuned nearer to the event: 'Closer to September we will focus more on one-design sailing which is really the ultimate challenge in the Invitational Cup.' O’Leary is looking forward to improving on the 2009’s fifth place finish: 'The entire event was a great experience – strict one-design sailing in a truly international event, superbly organised by a wonderful club.'

Other high profile skippers returning to the fray include Leonardo Ferragamo (Nyländska Jaktklubben), Makoto Uematsu (Japan Sailing Federation) and Mark Watson (Royal Bermuda Yacht Club).

Ferragamo, a world famous name in the fashion industry, led his team to fourth position in 2009. 'It would be difficult to imagine a venue more evocative of the great sailing challenges than Newport, Rhode Island, where the America’s Cup was held from 1930-1983,' he enthuses. 'The New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is an innovative event focused on fair and gentlemanly competition, outstanding organisation and high-calibre international exposure. It is difficult to find a parallel event in the world of sport, and I believe it has already become a lighthouse in the world of international sailing competitions.'

Watson has enjoyed success in Newport before, having won the Swan 42 National Championship in 2008. The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club will take part in this year’s Nationals in their lead in to the main event, looking to build on their sixth place finish in 2009.

The Itchenor Sailing Club (ISC) is one of three British entrants. Based on the south coast of England, the club boasts a proud history. 'Whilst we appear to be a small sailing club up an estuary, the club has produced a number of Olympic and America’s Cup sailors as well as national and class champions,' explains Barry Sampson, helm of the team representing the ISC. Like Watson, Sampson is a Swan 42 owner and has twice competed at the class Nationals in Newport.

'I have sailed the 42 both in Narragansett Bay and outside (on Rhode Island Sound),' explains Sampson, 'certainly outside the conditions are as much as we would find in the Solent and Hayling Bay (in southern England) where one is very conscious of the tide and currents. As ever, we are all greatly looking forward to sailing in these waters.'

Representing Italy, along with the Yacht Club Punta Ala, the Yacht Club Capri is relatively inexperienced in the class, with the exception of navigator Giuseppe Montella. Skipper Conny Vuotto admits that this is not the only challenge for the team: 'In Italy the current is not very strong, there is no long wave – only if it is bad weather. We generally race in the Mediterranean, so we just don’t know well the characteristics of the ocean.'

The 22 entrants
By country, the roster of participating teams is: Yacht Club Argentino (ARG); Cruising Yacht Club of Australia (AUS); Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (BER); Royal Canadian Yacht Club (CAN); Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (CHN); Real Club Nautico de Barcelona (ESP); Nyländska Jaktklubben (FIN); Itchenor Sailing Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Royal Yacht Squadron (GBR); Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (GER); Royal Cork Yacht Club (IRL); Yacht Club Capri and Yacht Club Punta Ala (ITA); Japan Sailing Federation (JPN); Royal Norwegian Yacht Club (NOR); Clube Naval de Cascais (POR); Royal Cape Yacht Club (RSA); and Eastern Yacht Club, Annapolis Yacht Club, Newport Harbor Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club (USA).

New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup website