Needing simply to not shoot themselves in the foot to ensure victory in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, the San Diego Yacht Club dominated the windy final race to stamp their authority on the eighth edition of the world’s premiere Corinthian regatta.
Led by 34-year-old helmsman Tyler Sinks, San Diego’s victory in the final race was their only top-four finish of the regatta and gave them the low score of 43 points, good for an 11-point win over first-time entrant Corinthian Yacht Club of Marblehead, Mass. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron placed third with 55 points for its best result in three attempts. Rounding out the top five were New York Yacht Club, the winner of the inaugural Invitational Cup in 2009 with 62 points, and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, with 66 points, for its best finish in seven attempts.
Joining Sinks, the 2015 team racing world champion, in the crew were Carissa Crawford, Cameron Hutcheson, Nick Martin (headsail trimmer), Rick Merriman (main trimmer), Al Pleskus, Adam Roberts (tactician), Robert Savoie and Lucy Wallace.
The San Diego crew has many championships to its résumé and is a tight-knit group that goes back to youth sailing days. Sinks, Hutcheson and Martin have sailed the past two Invitational Cups and were part of the crew that won the 2018 Resolute Cup, which qualified San Diego for the 2019 Invitational Cup. Sinks and Wallace raced together at Boston College. Roberts and Martin put forth a 470 campaign for the 2012 Olympics. Merriman is something of an outlier, but he’s almost an essential ingredient if you’re aiming to win the Invitational Cup. This is the fourth time he’s won the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup (previously 2009, ’17, ’21) and he’s the only sailor to win the Corinthian championship more than twice.
“Winning feels awesome,” said Sinks, a three-time collegiate All-American. “This is my third time doing this. We were second the first time, barely missed top spot, and came back two years ago and got third, so we felt there was one podium spot left to grab, and we got it.”
“It’s totally surreal. To win on a big breeze day, you can’t write that fairy tale script any better. We’re on cloud nine right now,” said Roberts, who was a four-time collegiate All-American. “We couldn’t be more thankful to get to sail together in such a premiere event with such amazing sailors all around us. To bring it all together is so much more meaningful for us.”
Nineteen teams from 14 countries competed in the eighth Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, a biennial regatta hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court in Newport, R.I. Since the event was first run in 2009, it has attracted top amateur sailors from 51 of the world’s most prestigious yacht clubs from 22 countries.
After five editions in the Swan 42 class, the 2023 event will be the third sailed in the IC37, designed by Mark Mills. The strict one-design nature of this purpose-built class, combined with the fact that each boat is owned and maintained by the New York Yacht Club, ensures a level playing field not seen in any other amateur big-boat sailing competition. The regatta ran through Fridaty, September 15. The 2023 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, which is brought to you by title sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsors Helly Hansen, Safe Harbor Marinas, Peters & May and Hammetts Hotel.
Friday’s lone race was sailed in a 20-knot northerly, gusting to 25, in upper Narragansett Bay. The crews were required to reef the jibs and mains on the IC37s, and downwind the crews reported top speeds of 20 knots. The remaining racing was cancelled after the first race so that the fleet could be hauled for safety ahead of the passage of Hurricane Lee, which is expected to pass the southern New England region tonight and tomorrow.
The San Diego Yacht Club won the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup on its third attempt. Previously, it finished third (2021) and second (2019), both times with Sinks at the helm. In ’21, San Diego ran off four straight victories to put themselves in contention for the championship, but an 18-11 in the final two races put paid to their effort. Similarly, in 2019, an 18th in the third-to-last race thwarted that run at the championship.
According to coach Ed Adams, a two-time Rolex US Sailing Yachtsman of the Year, the team had two goals this year: achieve the lowest worst score of all the teams in the regatta and pass the most boats after Mark 1. San Diego’s worst score was a 10th in Race 3, no other team had lower than a 14th. San Diego’s string of 6-5-5-5-5-6 in the other races showed consistency and an ability to fight back from adversity. Their victory in today’s race lowered their average score per race to 5.375 points.
“Our plan was to try our hardest to be consistent and conservative, but pushing to the top as much as possible,” said Roberts. “The competition here is so stiff. Anything can happen in any race at any moment. You can easily drop into a 12th or 13th after a first. We wanted to make sure we weren’t putting ourselves in positions that were super risky.”
Besides the regatta’s characteristics of tight racing and a leaderboard that saw a lot of movement, the eighth Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup showcased a youth movement. Wade Waddell, the Corinthian helmsman, is 26. Jordan Stevenson, helmsman for Royal New Zealand, is 23. Duncan Gregor, the tactician for Royal Hong Kong, is 19 years old.
“Yeah, 100 percent it could be a launching pad for my career,” said Stevenson. “You can’t get much of a bigger stage than this. You’ve got the America’s Cup, which is huge, but in terms of one-design keelboat racing, there’s not really anything bigger than the Invitational Cup. I’m super happy with how the week’s gone and really proud of the crew.”
“I really enjoyed it. It’s one of the more fun regattas I’ve been to, on both the racing and social side,” said Gregor. “Having no discards makes it a unique regatta, every point counts. It’s high scoring, and chipping away, trying to gain every point possible, is fun.”
The ninth Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will be held in September 2025 and the Request for Invitation form for the 2024 Resolute Cup, the only surefire pathway for U.S. yacht clubs looking for a berth in the ninth edition, will go live later this year. International yacht clubs are encouraged to email the Sailing Office ([email protected]) to express their interest in receiving an invitation. The invitations for 2025 will go out midway through next year.