Starting strong is important in any team race regatta. Equally as valuable is improving along the way. The victories earned by the New York Yacht Club – McDowell team over the first two days of the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy put the home team in a position to challenge Southern Yacht Club for the title. But the losses provided them with the lessons they needed to win it.
“In the races we lost [to Southern Yacht Club during the round-robins] we made mistakes,” says Chris McDowell, team captain for the New York Yacht Club squad. “They were really good and they capitalized on our mistakes. Over the event, our crew work in each boat got better and our boat-to-boat interactions got smarter. Even though we did lose races, we learned from the losses and everybody worked together. As the wind built, the crew work that had been building all weekend really made a difference.”
After three full round-robins among the eight teams, Southern, with 17 wins, and New York McDowell, with 16 wins, had separated from the remaining teams. A best-of-five championship series would determine the winner. New York only needed three races to seal the win for the second year in a row. Eastport (Md.) Yacht Club, Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club from Oyster Bay, N.Y., and Noroton Yacht Club from Darien, Conn., rounded out the top five.
The New York Yacht Club helped usher in a new era of adult team racing with the creation of the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy in 2000. That race, which requires skippers to be at least 45 years of age and crew to be over 40, was soon followed by the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Morgan Cup, an all-ages event, in 2003 and, in 2010, the New York Yacht Club Grandmasters Team Race Regatta, which mandates skippers be at least 60 years of age and crew at least 50. The three team races are traditionally held over consecutive weekends in August at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, using the Club’s fleet of 22 Sonar keelboats, and annually attract some of the best adult team racers in the United States and Europe. New York Yacht Club Regatta Association sponsors for 2023 include Helly Hansen, Hammetts Hotel and Safe Harbor Marinas.
The first race of the finals turned in favor of New York late in the race. The second one was a more dominating performance that was rarely in doubt. In the third, Southern Yacht Club seemed to be in a very strong position on the third of five legs.
“The significant change was at mark three,” says McDowell. “[The New York boat skippered by Zack Leonard] was trying to hold onto first place. They were able to do it down most of the run and then they were able to do a pick on two of their boats, which put us in a position where my boat was able to slide from last place into I think third, or maybe second. But it enabled our team to really mash it up and get back into the mix. That was the pivotal moment.”
While the New York boats skippered by Leonard and Brian Doyle battled for control on the right side of the final beat, McDowell locked into a drag race out to the left corner. Initially it looked like the Southern Yacht Club boat, positioned to windward, had control. But gradually McDowell edged ahead.
“Our crew hiked hard,” he says, “and the jib trim interacting together with the main trim was great. It was a long enough leg that we could edge out in front and put them in a situation where they needed to bail out. That was good fortunte. We got lucky.”
McDowell earned the right to captain the team representing the host club during an internal New York Yacht Club Team Racing Championship held in May. He knew exactly where to turn for the other two skippers.
“This is the team that we’ve sailed with in other Hinman Masters, and they’re guys I’ve known since we were all teenagers,” says McDowell. “We trust each other, we enjoy being together, we work well with our crews. The fact that the Club is able to put on that event in May really allows us to compete against even better sailors. We know what we can do together.”
McDowell was also quick to credit the other three sailors on his boat—Libby Toppa, Sam September and Brett Davis—and the chemistry that comes with the long-standing partnerships on the other boats, Leonard sailed with his wife Alice and along with Barry and Susie Parkin. Doyle’s team included Hannah Sweet, a college teammate at Brown University 30-plus years ago, along with Steve Kirkpatrick and Shane Wells.
The New York Yacht Club’s team racing schedule concludes this coming weekend with the New York Yacht Club Grandmasters Team Race, August 18 to 20; skippers must be at least 60 years of age and crew at least 50.
New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the
Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy
August 11 to 13, 2023
New York Yacht Club Harbour Court
New York (N.Y.) Yacht Club def Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans), 3-0
Stage 2 Round Robin
Eastport (Md.) Yacht Club, 2-0; Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club (Oyster Bay, N.Y.), 1-1; Noroton Yacht Club (Darien, Conn.), 0-2
Final Standings (Total Round-Robin Wins)
1. New York Yacht Club – McDowell (16); 2. Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans) (17); 3. Eastport Yacht Club (12); 4. Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club (12); 5. Noroton Yacht Club (11); 6. Larchmont (N.Y.) Yacht Club (9); 7. St. Petersburg (Fla.) Yacht Club (6); 8. New York (N.Y.) Yacht Club – Dougherty (1)
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