The last weekends of July are traditionally some of the busiest of the year on the waters in and around Newport Harbor. The annual Newport Folk Festival and Newport Jazz Festival bring tens of thousands of music fans to Fort Adams on consecutive weekends, while thousands more gather on boats anchored just off the Fort’s picturesque waterfront lawn. For the competitors in the third edition of the Global Team Race, the mellifluous music of the 2022 Folk Fest wafting across the water will provide a contradictory soundtrack to the no-holds-barred, hand-to-hand combat—and occasional shouts—that are at the heart of two-on-two team racing. Both the regatta and the festival start on Friday and run through Sunday. Today was a practice day (above) for the 11 teams competing in the 2022 Global Team Race Regatta.
“Our confidence level is high,” says Justin Law of Newport Harbor Yacht Club from Newport Beach, Calif. “But we expect every race to be a fight.”
The Global Team Race Regatta was conceived by the New York Yacht Club, which hosted the first edition in October 2018. A second edition of the Global Team Race Regatta was held in England in 2019. The third edition was scheduled for Italy in 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and eventually rescheduled for this summer in Newport, R.I., where it will be held July 22 to 24 out of the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court.
Team Racing, which features two teams of two of four boats each sailing against one another in a close-quarters win-or-lose format, is popular around the world. World Sailing ran the Team Racing World Championship 10 times between 1995 and 2015. That event featured three-on-three competition in two-person dinghies, which favored teams of younger and lighter sailors.
While the fundamentals are very much the same, the Global Team Race Regatta uses the two-on-two format, which makes the competition easier to follow. The team with the last boat across the finish line in an individual race loses the race. The Global Team Race also uses keelboats instead of dinghies, which makes the competition accessible to a wider variety of sailors—both from a size and age perspective—and brings the added complexity of spinnakers into the mix.
When it comes to the top team racing yacht clubs in the United States, Newport Harbor is always hovering at the top of the list.
“Our club has a very active team race base with members sailing year-round,” says Law. “From January through April of this year alone we probably had organized practice at least every other week. Keep in mind, that sailing was done in our glorious Harbor 20s, but still provided a way for us to team race 2v2, 3v3, and 4v4.”
A fourth-place finish at the 2019 Global Team Race Regatta, sailed on the Solent in England in J/70s, and a track record of strong finishes at the New York Yacht Club’s team races every August, which use Sonars, proves the Newport Harbor team is as formidable on the road as they are on their home waters in Southern California. It will be one to watch.
With a first-place finish in the inaugural event in 2018 and a second-place on home waters in 2019, the Royal Thames Yacht Club would also appear to be a favorite for top honors at the third edition. But the team competing this year is significantly different from the team that won in 2018
”This is the first time this particular team has sailed together,” says Andy Cornah, who sailed for the Royal Thames in 2018 and also won a team racing world championship in 2015. “In terms of event preparation, we haven’t really done anything specific, but we all have a strong background in dinghy team racing and have done a few Sonar team racing events between us.”
The Royal Cork Yacht Club, of Ireland, is another team that comes to Newport with a lot of talent, but wondering whether the team will gel in the heat of battle.
“The club often competes on the 2K circuit in Europe,” says Fred Cudmore, the team captain. “But with COVID, we haven’t really sailed as a team in a number of years. We’ll have a better idea after the first race. We’ll give it our best, have fun and make the most of the great New York Yacht Club hospitality.”
Despite the fierceness of the competition on the water, team racing is perhaps the most collegial of sailing competitions. Win or lose, a good time is practically guaranteed.
”We are all excited about visiting Newport, especially those who are here for the first time,” says Cornah. “We always feel at home on Thames Street and we are looking forward to some great racing with teams from all over the world, renewing old rivalries and making new friends.”
Competing teams: Bayerischer Yacht Club, Starnberg, Germany; Japan Sailing Federation, Tokyo, Japan; New York Yacht Club, New York, N.Y.; Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Newport Beach, Calif.; Royal Belgian Sailing Club, Zeebrugge, Belgium (at right); Royal Cork Yacht Club, Cork, Ireland; Royal Thames Yacht Club, London, England; Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, England; Sorrento Sailing Couta Boat Club, Sorrento, Australia; St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco; The Corinthian Yacht Club, Marblehead, Mass.
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