NEWPORT, R.I. (#1211) – Skipper Guido Belgiorno-Nettis and his crew from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron used superior boat speed and outstanding tactics on Saturday on lumpy, windy Narragansett Bay to win the 2019 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. The victory resonated for a number of reasons. RSYS became the first Southern Hemisphere club to win Corinthian sailing’s most-prized trophy, and it proved once again that this is one of the best-run regattas in the world that focuses on sailors and sailing, not on gimmicks and technology.
After five editions in the Swan 42 class, the 2019 event was sailed in the IC37 by Melges, designed by Mark Mills and built by Westerly Marine in Santa Ana, Calif., and FIBRE Mechanics in the United Kingdom. The strict one-design nature of the new, purpose-built class combined with the fact that all 20 boats are owned and maintained by the NYYC, ensured a level playing field never before seen in amateur big-boat sailing.
We know the NYYC hit a home run because of an email we received from "The Pope," Paul Henderson (CAN), the former president of ISAF – now World Sailing – and a former IOC member:
It is difficult these days considering what World Sailing with their focus on "technology" to be positive about our beloved sport of competitive sailing. Well, the New York YC has just shown the way with the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup:
1) Boats look like sailboats.
2) 20 entries from some of the most significant yacht clubs in the world.
3) 10 races. No drops. (Bob Fisher would like that.)
4) No Medal Race. All competitors had to sail in and count all races.
5) One-design class.
Well done NYYC as usual you are showing the way for the rest of the yachting world!
Royal Sydney and San Diego Yacht Club started the 12th and final race separated by six points atop the 20-boat fleet. The Australians had a sub-par start while San Diego bolted to the head of the fleet and was, for a while, back in the virtual regatta lead. But RSYS worked its way back into the top 10 and then into the top five, leaving San Diego hoping for a miracle that wouldn't come.
After 12 races in a full range of conditions, the Australians finished fourth in the final race to win the biennial regatta.
"It's unbelievable," Belgiorno-Nettis said after a dockside celebration with his team. "You can't describe the feeling of coming all the way from Australia, to be able to put a team together who I love dearly, every one of them, starting with my wife, to actually win a championship like this. The New York Yacht Club Invitational is one of great regattas in the world."
Except for one bad race on the regatta's third day, the SDYC team had sailed a nearly flawless regatta through nine races. Even though they carried a one-point lead into the final day, it was hard to bet against the youthful West Coast team. But then came the second windward mark rounding of Saturday’s first race. With Royal Sydney rounding ahead, in third place, San Diego tried to squeeze just too much out of a thin layline and ended up pasted to the windward mark while the bulk of the fleet sailed past. A certain top-10 finish became an 18th.
Now trailing first place by 13 points, SDYC skipper Tyler Sinks and crew showed remarkable reslience with a win in the second race while Belgiorno-Nettis and crew struggled to an eighth. That brought the title back into reach for the final race. With the pressure on, the Australians rose to the occasion.
"Luckily for us, we're good in the [stronger winds] and there was quite a lot of wind in that last race, and we were able to get the boat rumbling," Belgiorno-Nettis said. "Mike Dunstan, my main trimmer, and my other trimmer on jib, David Edwards, they just set up the boat so it was easy for me to sail. I could just punch the numbers out. It’s all about being consistent. So we were able to chip our way up from quite deep. We were in 12th at the start and ended up in fourth. That was pretty good. Occasionally I’d look around and see where people are…think to myself ‘oh how did that happen?'"
Anthony O'Leary and the Royal Cork Yacht Club team once again showed they love to sail in heavy air. They went 5-2-1, won the day, and took advantage of a couple of tough races by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club to claim Royal Cork's first Invitational Cup podium.
"We're absolutely thrilled. This is our sixth visit, first time to make the podium, so it makes it very special," said O'Leary. "We were eight points behind Canada [starting the day] which is a lot in one respect, but with three races anything is possible. We had one dreadful result on Thursday. You just got to wait and see how the cards fall. We had a five [in the first race today] and you're thinking, 'They're may be two more races, maybe one.' Things seemed to go better and better for us. We're delighted."
The host New York Yacht Club, led by co-skippers Andy Fisher and Ray Wulff, sailed three solid races Saturday, including a wire-to-wire win in the day's first race, to move from 10th to sixth in the overall standings.
Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in action at the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. Photo: ROLEX/Daniel Forster