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Royal Canadian Yacht Club drives south with one goal in mind

by Stuart Streuli 6 Sep 10:47 BST 7-14 September 2019
Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup 2019 © Rolex / Daniel Forster

With two victories and a second place under his belt, no one knows better how to succeed in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup than Terry McLaughlin (above, center), helmsman for the Royal Canadian Yacht Club entry in the sixth edition of this premiere Corinthian championship. But, anyone looking to extract a shortcut to victory from all that experience will be disappointed.

"What do we need to do well to succeed?" he says. "Pretty much everything from getting off the line in good shape, keeping the boat going well in all conditions and gelling on crew work at the corners. Sorting out the communications will be very important for us."

In other words, you need to put together a group of good sailors, make good decisions and work well as a team. If only it was as simple in practice as it is in theory.

The Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is 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 43 of the world's most prestigious yacht clubs from 21 countries. After five editions in the Swan 42 class, the 2019 event will be sailed in the IC37, 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 this new, purpose-built class combined with the fact that all 20 boats are owned and maintained by the New York Yacht Club, will ensure a level playing field never before seen in amateur big-boat sailing. The regatta will run from September 7 to 14, with racing taking place September 10 to 14. A broadcast on Facebook Live and YouTube will allow fellow club members, friends, family and sailing fans from around the world follow the action as it happens. Twenty teams from 14 countries and five continents will compete in the 2019 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, which will be held at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, September 7 to 14.

Led by McLaughlin, an Olympic and Pan Am Games silver medalist and former America's Cup skipper, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club was as close to a dynasty as the Invitational Cup has seen in the first five editions. The team from Toronto finished second to the host New York Yacht Club in the inaugural event in 2009 and then won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2013. After a 10th-place finish in 2015, the RCYC stepped away from the competition for a cycle. With the introduction of the IC37, which will also be used for the RCYC's signature event, the Canada's Cup, in 2020, the club is back on the water in Newport and looking to replicate past glories.

"It's good to be back at the Invitational," says McLaughlin (at right, sailing with the RCYC team in 2015). "We missed 2017, but speaking for myself, the new boats sort of intrigued me. We wouldn't be attending this year if it was not for the support of many members who have contributed to our effort. Like in past years, we will have a good group of RCYC members in Newport for the regatta."

As the event has evolved, so too have the methods used by yacht clubs to select their representatives. For 2019, the RCYC opened up the selection process to all members knowing that the in-house competition would only make for a stronger team.

"This is the first year that we had a selection trials at RCYC," says McLaughlin. "There were five teams in the event in early May that was sailed in Sonars. John Millen, Andrew McTavish and I were fortunate to come out on top. Along with John and Andrew, our team includes some veterans who have sailed with me for, dare I say, decades, as well as four younger members who I have not sailed with that much."

McLaughlin and his team mates, including tactician Lance Fraser, did what they could to get some insight into the new IC37. But like many teams, they will aim to climb the learning curve quickly during the upcoming practice days.

"I was able to gain some sailing time in June and July on an IC37, though not as a helmsman," he says. "I did learn that they are very different from the Swan 42. The biggest difference is downwind where they get up and go. I don't recall as many crew members running to the back of the boat in the Swans when the puff came in. I think the competition should be just as tough as in previous years, but a little more hairy downwind."

While much of McLaughlin's success of late has come in displacement keelboats such as Swan 42s, J/24s and 12 Metres, his first major international victories were in planing dinghies such as the Flying Dutchman. Should things get a little "hairy", as he says, during the course of the 2019 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, he'll be right at home.

Racing for the 2019 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will start on Tuesday, September 10, with a live broadcast of each race starting on Wednesday, September 11, via Facebook and YouTube. The regatta will run through Saturday, September 14.

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