Cinderella’s second trip to the ball didn’t have a fairy tale ending. Last year, Newport Harbor Yacht Club took a circuitous route to wining the Morgan Cup, squeaking into the knock-out round after struggling in the round robin and becoming just the third yacht club to win the coveted keelboat team racing regatta. This year, the Californian team once again made the finals, but was unable to overcome the team from the host New York Yacht Club, which won the Morgan Cup for the eighth time in 13 years. The regatta, officially called the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Morgan Cup, is hosted each August out of the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court Clubhouse, and is one of the premiere keelboat team racing championships in the sport.
With a slightly smaller field than in previous years and an enlarged fleet of Sonars, the 10 competing teams were run through two full round robins during the first two days of the regatta. New York Yacht Club’s first team was one of three to finish the two round robins with 14 points.
“Our results after the first day didn’t reflect how well we were going,” said NYYC team captain Pete Levesque. “We lost a few in the first round robin through a variety of different manners. But we were happy to go undefeated on Day 2.”
With the top four teams having separated themselves from the rest of the group, the decision was made to put that quartet into an elimination round, have a sail off for fifth and sixth and send the bottom four teams home. In the semifinals, Newport Harbor upset the team from England’s Royal Thames YC 3-2 while the New York Yacht Club team defeated Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club 3-1. In the showdown for fifth place it was Larchmont Yacht Club beating a crew of collegiate all-stars, 3-1.
The host team was dominant in the first two races in the finals, winning each with a 1-2-3 combination (each team sails three boats in each race, with the lowest combined score winning the race). But the racing was far from easy.
“We crossed the line in much more stable combinations than we had at any other time during the races,” said Levesque. “We were winning or losing two or three times during each run. It was good, tight racing.”
Newport Harbor clawed back with a win in Race 3 before the host team salted away the victory with another strong performance in Race 4. Most teams races, especially at the high school and collegiate level, are run without spinnakers. But in the Morgan Cup, as in other keelboat team racing competitions, spinnakers are used. This makes for some very exciting downwind racing and puts a premium on sail handling. The deciding race, in particular, featured furious maneuvering on the downwind leg.
“Our downwind performance was an advantage for us today,” said Levesque (center, holding silver trophy, with the winning team and NYYC Vice Commodore Phil Lotz). “We had a practice weekend last weekend and the club championship a couple of weeks ago. It’s just lots of practice, knowing what’s possible and what’s going to be a mistake. It’s easy to think something’s possible when you’re starting it and then find out otherwise.”
The winning New York Yacht Club team included: Pete Levesque (skipper/team captain), Clay Bischoff (skipper), Garrett Woodworth (skipper), Carolina Levesque, Alden Reid, J.R. Maxwell, John Edenbach, Joy MacDougall, James Allsopp, Sarah Callahan, Jeff Gladchun and Dale Harper.