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Youth Movement Leads Royal Vancouver Yacht Club's Return to the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup

by Stuart Streuli, New York Yacht Club 7 Sep 2023 17:53 BST September 9-16, 2023
Royal Vancouver Yacht Club © Royal Vancouver Yacht Club

There was no worm waiting for the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club team when they arrived at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court promptly at 9 am on Wednesday morning.

Instead, the first team to check in for the eighth edition of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup got something much more valuable: a suite of new sails from North and the opportunity for three full days of additional practice.

The premiere championship for Corinthian big boat sailors doesn't officially get under way until Saturday—with required practice sessions Sunday and Monday—and racing starts on Tuesday. But for the Royal Van crew, the majority of which have never sailed an IC37, the added time in the boat was well worth the extra effort required to arrive in Newport three days early and then fight off jet lag for an early start.

"We're ecstatic for the new sails," says skipper Ben Mumford. "This is amazing, being able to take the plastic off for the first time. And everybody's just excited and ready to get sailing."

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 to 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

In 2021, Royal Vancouver Yacht Club was one of the handful of clubs that benefitted from the pandemic preventing many of the Southern Hemisphere teams from attending the regatta. The Canadian Club embraced the late invitation and put together a team loaded with veteran sailing talent, including a number of former Olympians. The regatta itself was something of a roller coaster for the RVYC, but a 12th place overall finish combined with the team's relentless enthusiasm for the event earned the West Coast club a return invitation. With more time to plan, the club decided to integrate the Invitational Cup team into the club's growing young adult sailing program.

"We've got a whole bunch of new Elliott 6s that we're using as part of our training program," says Mumford. "The yacht club has essentially put its own one-design fleet forward and we are using [the Invitational Cup] as the pinnacle of that program. For the selection series, we took all the Elliotts out, the crews competed against each other, the selection committee then selected a skipper, then the skipper selected the crew from the crew in the selection series."

With the team selected, the next challenge was taking sailors familiar with the 20-foot Elliott 6Ms and getting them to gel as a unit on a boat twice as long.

"We don't have a similar platform [to the IC37] on the west coast to train on, so we've done a lot of cross training," says Mumford. "There were a bunch of owners that donated their boats to us to train on. Jason Vandergaag's Schock 35, Bruce Chan's J/111, and then Peter McCarthy's TP52 are just some examples of what we've been able to go out and sail as a group to try and get ready for the event."

Wednesday was a fairly benign day on Narragansett Bay, aside from the stifling heat; good for going through the crew choreography and introducing the team to IC37 No. 1, which they will sail for the next 10 days.

"We had the opportunity to bring our coaching staff with us," says Mumford. "So they're going to come out; we're working pretty much strictly on mechanics the first couple days."

If all goes according to plan, by the time practice racing starts on Sunday, the team will be able to turn its focus to speed testing against more experienced teams, and then hit the line for Race 1 on Tuesday knowing they can compete with the top teams. In the meantime, Mumford and his crew are going to be sure to enjoy this unique opportunity.

"We're so excited to be here," he says. "And thank you to New York Yacht Club for the invitation. We really appreciate it."

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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