The road to a sailing world championship is a marathon, never a sprint. Few know that better than Peter Duncan, who will skipper American Yacht Club’s entry in the 2021 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, which starts racing tomorrow. A few weeks ago, Duncan won a hotly contested J/70 World Championship, his second world title in that class. He’s also won major championships in a number of other one-design classes. In each case, the common thread was meticulous preparation, including extensive time on the water with a trusted crew.
For this event, Duncan and his team finds themselves short on time in the boat; they have had just a few days to familiarize themselves with the IC37 used for the regatta. But their approach is unwavering.
“Time in the boat is really important, so in all the stuff that I race—and I race a lot of boats—the more time you spend, the better off you are,” says Duncan. “We’re just still learning. The most important thing is to get the sails up and get them down, make your tacks and your turns as efficiently as possible, and the team is actually getting pretty good at it. We’re happy with the progress.”
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 48 of the world’s most prestigious yacht clubs from 21 countries. After five editions in the Swan 42 class, the 2021 event will be the second 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 11, through Saturday, September 18, with racing starting on Tuesday, September 14. A live broadcast on Facebook and YouTube, starting on Wednesday, September 15, will allow fellow club members, friends, family and sailing fans from around the world follow the action as it happens. Nineteen teams from nine countries will compete in 2021.
On Saturday, the American Yacht Club team was one of around 14 teams that took to Rhode Island Sound to experience some offshore conditions. It was lumpy and puffy and the ability to depower the IC37s ample sail plan and sail around the biggest of the waves were keys to success. Today, it was a different story sailing on Narragansett Bay in flat water and a tricky Northerly breeze that rewarded good starts and aggressive tactics.
“We’re going to work really hard to get off the starting line fast and hold our lanes, make a decision as to where to go on the course and stay close, because you never know what happens,” said Duncan. “And that’s the really most important thing. You’re never out of it, and people do have to keep that in mind. It can be chaotic when you’re throwing people into boats that they don’t normally sail, but they’re nice boats and they’re really comfortable.”
While the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup has a reputation for rewarding experience at the event, Duncan and his team should find inspiration from Southern Yacht Club’s win in its first attempt in 2017 and the performance of San Diego Yacht Club in 2019. The SDYC team assembled some of its best young talent, practiced hard and came within one bad mark rounding of winning the regatta.
Of course, San Diego is also taking inspiration, and motivation, from its performance in 2019. Led by skipper Tyler Sinks, the entire team has returned to Newport for another run at the trophy.
“We feel like we’re going through the water well and we’re excited to get going,” said Sinks. “I think all the boats are pretty even, but we like our chances.”
The forecast for tomorrow’s opening races is light, but the breeze is expected to build on Wednesday.
“We’re ready to sail in anything,” said Sinks. “San Diego is a pretty light-air venue, so I think in light air we feel pretty good. But we are a young team so theoretically we have stronger bodies that are more durable, so I think the breeze is welcome for us as well.”
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