Two stars of the Invitational

More on the New York YC's latest regatta

Tuesday July 28th 2009, Author: Dana Paxton, Location: United Kingdom
When the inaugural New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup begins on September 15, among its 19 teams from 14 nations will be two representing America’s oldest and most revered yacht clubs: the event’s host, the New York Yacht Club (New York, N.Y./Newport, R.I.), and St. Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco, Calif.). As recently as this summer, the two clubs matched up in Newport to continue a long, friendly rivalry at the biennial “MadCap Cup,” which was created some 130 years ago as a fleet race in 6 Metre yachts and has evolved into a team racing event, sailed in dinghies, between the two clubs. And while that event is similar to the America’s Cup in that the winner (defender) chooses the venue of the next race and the trophy is a magnificent silver pitcher, it is the Invitational Cup that will capture the hearts and minds of the sailing world when it turns a new spotlight on the Corinthian spirit of sailing.

With four days of racing scheduled, the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will be contested in NYYC Swan 42s with crews of up to11 people, all but two of whom must belong to the representing yacht club and hold passports for its home country. “Each club has gone to great lengths to put together a team that represents the essence of its historical significance and pride in contributing to the sport of sailing,” said Event Chair John Mendez. “The event is also a fresh take on sailing proudly for your country.”

New York Yacht Club

Phil and Wendy Lotz’s (New Canaan, Conn./Newport, R.I.) Arethusa snagged the NYYC’s berth at the Invitational Cup after emerging as top boat in an elimination series comprised of two regattas: the NYYC Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, held June 12-14, and the Swan 42 National Championship, held July 16-19. In testimony to its hard-fought accomplishment, Arethusa won the Nationals on the final day in the final two races when it usurped Andrew Fisher’s Bandit, which had dominated the regatta from the very first race. Although 20 boats competed in that event, only Arethusa, Bandit and two others – NYYC Commodore David K. Elwell Jr.’s Conspiracy and Paul Zabetakis’s Impetuous--were in contention for representing the club in the Invitational Cup.

“We are very pleased and proud to be representing NYYC,” said Phil Lotz, who will enlist wife Wendy and son Doug on the boat’s 10-person team. “The team has been sailing together since January, and this was a stated objective of the program. Although we had to make some key crew changes to sail the qualifying events, everyone on and off the boat contributed to the effort.” Having sailed together for many years, Phil and Wendy Lotz claimed the NYYC Swan 42 class victory at the 2008 NYYC Annual Regatta presented by Rolex and won the 2008 IRC East Coast Championship. They also have competed in one-design classes for the Lightning, Interclub and Vanguard 15, often placing in the top-five in the North Americans for those classes.

Looking at the line-up for the Invitational Cup, Phil Lotz said, “We have sailed against several of the skippers and crews, mostly the teams closer to the U.S., such as Bermuda and Canada. We have certainly heard of and know the reputations of many of the other skippers and teams, and we very much look forward to sailing against them. I think every team will be very sharp and tough to beat.”

In 2009, the New York Yacht Club marked its 165th Anniversary and 155th Annual Regatta. Not only was it the keeper of the America’s Cup from 1851 to 1983 but also it hosted the first transatlantic race in 1866 and started the fastest race for 100 years in 1905, won by Atlantic, a NYYC vessel skippered by the famous Charlie Barr. This record was broken in 2005 by Mari-Cha IV in the Rolex Transatlantic Race, hosted by the NYYC.

In 1898, J. Pierpont Morgan stunned fellow members by announcing he would donate three lots on West 44th Street in New York to build a new clubhouse. The building, designed in the beaux-arts style by Whitney Warren, opened in 1901. It is known for its Model Room and Library. The clubhouse, a National Historic Landmark, is 108 years old.

In 1987, the NYYC acquired Harbour Court in Newport, the former summer home of NYYC Commodore John Nicholas Brown; it serves as an on-the-water clubhouse. Harbour Court created a new energy and focus at the NYYC. In 1994, it hosted its Sesquicentennial Celebration for members and friends. The sixth edition of Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex was held in 2008. The NYYC also has hosted the IFDS Blind Sailing World Championship and Disabled World Sailing Championship, the ILC Maxi World Championship, the Rolex IMS Offshore World Championship, the Rolex Swan American Regatta, the 12-Metre Worlds and the ISAF Team Racing Worlds.

St. Francis Yacht Club

According to St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) Commodore John McNeill, the decision for StFYC to take part in this historic competition was unanimous. Very quickly the club put together a team made up of sailors with envious one-design racing experience. At the top of the list was team skipper Craig Healy, a dentist by trade, but one with a Soling World Championship to his credit. Called “one of the best amateur helmsmen in the world,” his driving skills are in demand by the top one-design programs. Alongside him on the chartered NYYC Swan 42 Interlodge will be two notable tacticians, U.S. Olympian Russ Silvestri and U.S. Olympic Bronze Medalist Jeff Madrigali. Other crew members are John Callahan, John Collins, Joe McCoy, Matt Noble, Chris Perkins and Chris Smith. Noble was selected to fulfill one of StFYC’s goals of incorporating a junior sailor on the team.

“It’s an extraordinary event and we are honored to be invited,” said Commodore McNeill. “It is another chapter in our friendship with the New York Yacht Club. Many of our members are also members of NYYC and sail on both coasts. That is one more part of a delightful relationship between the clubs that includes both social and racing/cruising, really all elements of the sport. We really enjoy each other’s company.”

Commodore McNeill continued: “We see this regatta as something that will have a long history. We expect to arrive and be competitive. It’s going to be fun. The Scandinavian and European clubs, those that are coming, are deadly serious from what I’ve heard, and they are coming to show their force. Sailing is a much more broadly popular sport in Europe and Scandinavia than here in the States. For them it’s national pride. For us, it’s pride of club.”

The St. Francis Yacht Club was founded in 1927 on a site already rich in local lore. Earlier, while the area was still marshland, it was also home to the Stone Boat Yard and the building of a schooner named Yankee. The earthquake of 1906 knocked Yankee off its cradle, but the boat was picked up and finished. Today, after repeated terms as a St. Francis flagship, the Yankee can still be seen here, its bow aimed at the Marina Green. The yacht harbor was begun as part of the Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915, to mark the opening of the Panama Canal. The original St. Francis clubhouse was finished just barely ahead of the Depression and the lean years that came with it. St. Francis yachts stood patrol duty during World War II, and later they carried the burgee around the world. Today, hardly anything remains of the original Willis Polk structure, but the new building is the envy of many sailors with its location hard by San Francisco Bay, which enables starts and finishes right off the upper race deck. Fire and earthquake saw to that. But through the years, the club served the sport, and it anchored the international game of yachting on San Francisco Bay. In 1958, the club initiated an annual cruise that led to the purchase of a Delta Station on the San Joaquin River, Tinsley Island, where the members go now to work the summer “fogbite” out of their toes. The club inaugurated its Perpetual Trophy Regatta in 1963, and this annual September gathering has become its signature event – the Rolex Big Boat Series – drawing great sailors annually from all the great ports of the Blue Planet to the Bay.

Sailing World Added as Print Media Sponsor

NYYC Event Chair John Mendez announced that Sailing World magazine, based in Newport, R.I., was named by NYYC as the regatta’s official print media partner. Sailing World’s editorial and marketing staff will create an official program for the event as well as provide promotion through the magazine and its companion website and e-mail newsletter. Considered the authority on racing and performance sailing, Sailing World has a circulation of over 40,000 sailing enthusiasts, while online averages 60,000 unique visitors per month.

Racing in the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will take place September 15-19 on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound. The following clubs will be competing:

Japan Sailing Federation (Tokyo, Japan)
New York Yacht Club (New York, N.Y., USA)
Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (Hamburg, Germany)
Nyländska Jaktklubben (Helsinki, Finland)
Real Club Nautico Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain)
Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (Hamilton, Bermuda)
Royal Canadian Yacht Club (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
Royal Cork Yacht Club (County Cork, Ireland)
Royal Danish Yacht Club (Hellerup, Denmark)
Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club (Hong Kong, China)
Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (Auckland, New Zealand)
Royal Ocean Racing Club (London, England)
Royal St. George Yacht Club (County Dublin, Ireland)
Royal Thames Yacht Club (London, England)
Royal Yacht Squadron (London, England)
St.Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco, Calif., USA)
Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (Porto Cervo, Sardinia, Italy)
Yacht Club de France (Paris, France)
Yacht Club Italiano (Genoa, Italy)

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