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Respect and aspiration power new entries into Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup

by Stuart Streuli, New York Yacht Club 24 Aug 2023 17:36 BST September 9-16, 2023
Yacht Club Punta Del Este © YC Punta Del Este

The enduring allure of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is most evident in the teams and sailors from around the globe that return to this seaside city every two years to compete in sailing's premiere Corinthian big-boat regatta. For the eighth edition, which will start on Tuesday, September 12, and run for five days, there will be just two new clubs participating: Corinthian Yacht Club from Marblehead, Mass., and Yacht Club Punta Del Este from Uruguay. Both come in with lofty aspirations and& a healthy respect for the competition and the unique challenges of this ultimate one-design regatta.

"In 2024, Yacht Club Punta Del Este will reach a remarkable 100 years of being active, and being asked to attend this event is a fantastic way to start off this special year," says Aldo Centanaro, the tactician for Uruguayan team. "This is a great opportunity for us to make new friends and give our best effort in the upcoming races. It's an exciting chance for us to show our skills and perform to the best of our abilities."

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 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, will ensure a level playing field not seen in any other amateur big-boat sailing competition. The regatta will run from Saturday, September 9, through Saturday, September 16, with racing starting on Tuesday, September 12. A live broadcast on Facebook and YouTube, starting on Wednesday, September 13, will allow fellow club members, friends, family and sailing fans from around the world follow the action as it happens. Nineteen teams from 14 countries will compete in 2023. The 2023 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup is brought to you by title sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsors Helly Hansen, Safe Harbor Marinas, Peters & May and Hammetts Hotel.

A complete entry list can be found here.

With the entry from Yacht Club Punta Del Este, Uruguay becomes the 22nd country and the second from South America to compete in the Invitational Cup. Yacht Club Argentina has raced every edition except for the regatta's debut in 2009. The YCA's finishes have ranged from eighth to 16th, but the South American club has left a distinct impression as a three-time winner of the Corinthian Spirit Award, which is voted on by the competing teams. This year, the Argentine team may have some competition in that department, from their neighbors across the Río de la Plata.

"Our main goal [for the Invitational Cup] is to sail fast and be as smart as possible on the water," says Centanaro. "We want to have a great time, make friends and treat our hosts and fellow racers with respect."

And that's not to discount the Uruguayan team's chances of a strong finish. Helmsman Santiago Silveria won a bronze medal in the Snipe Class at the 2033 Pan American Games and finished fourth in the J/24 and the 2007 Pan Am Games. He's also won major championships in the 49er and J/70 class. Centanarao has also found success in the J/70 class—finishing third at the 2018 Corinthian J/70 Worlds—and the Laser.

"In August, we attended training sessions in Buenos Aires sailing a Soto 33, which shares similarities with the IC37," says Centanaro. "Once we're [in Newport], our focus will be on sailing the new boat as much as possible. We aim to learn the essential techniques and strategies before the main race begins."

Physically the road to the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup for Corinthian Yacht Club in Marblehead, Mass., will be the shortest of any team competing in 2023. The famous Boston seaport is less than 100 miles from the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, closer even than the host club's iconic home on 44th Street in Manhattan. However, as is the case for any American club hoping to compete in the Invitational Cup, the figurative pathway is maybe more difficult to navigate than the regatta itself.

Corinthian's journey started in 2016, when it applied for a berth in the Resolute Cup, the feeder competition for the Invitational Cup, which is run on even years. The venerable Massachusetts club, which occupies a sprawling shingled manor overlooking Marblehead Harbor (above), finished second in the silver fleet in 2016 and then eighth overall in 2018. After the 2020 Resolute Cup was cancelled due to Covid, Corinthian showed up in 2022 with a revamped team led by veteran trimmer Doug Sabin and a precocious young helmsman by the name of Wade Waddell. The result was a convincing win and a berth in this year's Invitational Cup.

The four sailors who won the Resolute Cup (at left) form the core of the Invitational Cup squad. Among those brought on board to round out the crew for the IC37, which typically sails with between eight and 10 people, is Tim Wadlow, a two-time Olympian in the 49er class and former college sailor of the year at Boston University. Once the crew was selected, the team planned training in Newport and back home in Marblehead. With limited experience in the class, and big boats in general, it's a steep hill to climb in a short period of time.

"It's the biggest boat I've ever raced and skippered, but it feels like a dinghy, it's very maneuverable," says Waddell. "I have a ton of confidence in my teammates. Tim has full reign on the tactics upwind and downwind. I have an amazing trimming team and bow team and pit, that makes my job a lot easier, and I can really just focus on keeping the boat going fast around the course."

Wadlow has been a committed dinghy sailor for all of his life, whether it was chasing an Olympic medal in the 49er or competing in world championship team racing events. But he's enjoying this foray into big-boat racing.

"I've got two kids and a business, but I still love sailing at the highest level," says Wadlow. "Wade put together the team and won the Resolute Cup and was like 'Hey, are you going to come help me?' I said, 'Absolutely.' It's such a cool boat, it's totally one-design."

With an intimate knowledge of what it takes to compete at the sharp end of the sport, Wadlow offers a measured response when asked about his team's progress.

"I feel like we've gotten to where we're at least playing the game, but I think the last 5 to 10 percent are going to be a lot harder to learn," he says. "We've had more success on the course [inside Narragansett Bay]. Flat water and shifty wind seem to suit us really well. We did really well downwind [at the National Champoinships in July]. A lot of the 49er stuff that I've done applies [to the IC37]. I'm comfortable downwind."

The final stage of preparations for each of the 19 teams competing will take place in the days just prior to the regatta, with the boats available for training from Wedneday, September 6. Mandatory practice starts on Sunday, September 10, with the first race on Tuesday, September 12. A live race-by-race broadcast of the regatta will start on Wednesday, September 13.

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