Photo: ROLEX / Daniel Forster

Youth Serves Up a Win for Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on Day 2 of Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup

The underdogs continue to give the established teams a run for their money at the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, the premiere international regatta for Corinthian sailors.

Today, it was Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s turn in the limelight as the crew, led by helmsman Peter Backe and wonderkid tactician Duncan Gregor, put forth a wire-to-wire win in the only race of the day. A mid-day frontal passage and accompanying lightning storm cut short the second day of racing.

“The breeze was far left during pre-race tuning, and I thought it would start clocking right,” said Gregor, the 18-year-old tactician. “It did do that but took a few steps to make it. The guys further forward than me did well. The boat was going quick, so well done to them.”

Also still in the limelight is Yacht Club Argentino at the head of the fleet. Led by helmsman Cristian Frers, the nephew of legendary yacht designer Germán Frers Jr., the Argentinians sailed a forgetful race, placing 17th. But since the fleet was turned upside down from yesterday, they kept their overall lead by 3 points over Royal Swedish Yacht Club. With a fifth today, San Diego Yacht Club returned to familiar territory on the overall podium in third. Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and New York Yacht Club round out the top five.

Nineteen teams from 14 countries are on hand to race the eighth Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, 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, ensures a level playing field not seen in any other amateur big-boat sailing competition. The regatta will run through Saturday, September 16. Racing started 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 the 2023 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, which is brought to you by title sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsors Helly Hansen, Safe Harbor Marinas, Peters & May and Hammetts Hotel.

Overall results can be found here.

Today’s race on Rhode Island Sound was sailed in a southerly wind, between 175° and 190°, ranging in strength around 10 knots. The Royal Hong Kong crew started at the boat end, quickly tacked to port and then slung it out to the right side. There they found a right-hand oscillation. When they tacked back to starboard, they were well and clear in the lead. Backe, Gregor and crew never looked back.

“We found a really good mode today and just kept hitting the same numbers the whole time and had good speed through the waves. We just kept the boat rolling,” said Backe, the helmsman, who raced previously in the Invitational Cup in 2011. “We were a little disappointed to have only one race today, we felt we could’ve kept it rolling.”

The Yacht Club Argentino crew also would’ve liked a second race, so that tactician Emilio Miguel could correct his mistakes. Miguel felt they had good boatspeed but were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. After the start, they couldn’t tack to the right due to boats to windward of them, and then he said he called bad laylines to the windward mark and leeward gate.

“There’s so much about fleet management that impacts the end result,” said Miguel. “That’s one of the keys in this fleet. It’s very compact racing, and fleet management is one of the most important parts of tactics. Today, I got it wrong.”

Royal Hong Kong is bucking the sailing maxim where the youngest crewmember is usually positioned on the bow. But Gregor, the 18-year-old tactician, is hardly out of place at the back of the boat. And he’s receiving endless platitudes from his crewmates.

“He seems to have a three-dimensional view of what’s going on,” said Davis. “He’s very calm and has an amazing perception of where the wind is and what’s going on with other boats.”

“Duncan and I sailed the 29er Worlds in Hong Kong in 2018, he was helming and I was crewing,” said Backe. “Now he’s better than me and teaching me how to sail.”

“It’s pretty cool, the fleet’s pretty good,” said Gregor, who grew up in Hong Kong and now lives in Weymouth, England, where he’s racing 49ers. “It’s quite fun sailing bigger boats.”

The remaining regatta schedule has been altered due to the approach of Hurricane Lee. The race committee is planning an earlier start time tomorrow and Friday in the likely event there’ll be no racing on Saturday as the hurricane passes offshore.

2023 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup
New York Yacht Club Harbour Court
Newport, R.I.
Sept. 9 to 16

Overall standings (through 4 races): 1. Yacht Club Argentino, 2-1-2-17, 23; 2. Royal Swedish Yacht Club, 1-7-5-12, 25; 3. San Diego (Callf.) Yacht Club, 6-5-10-5, 26; 4. Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, 4-4-3-16, 27; 5. New York (N.Y.) Yacht Club, 14-3-6-6, 29; 6. Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, 8-11-12-1, 32; 7. Itchenor Sailing Club (GBR), 5-2-14-15, 36; 8. Corinthian Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.), 11-17-1-10, 39; 9. Royal Canadian Yacht Club, 13-12-4-11, 40; 10. Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron (AUS), 17-6-9*-8, 40; 11. Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (CAN), 10*-10-8-14, 42; 12. Japan Sailing Federation, 3-16-DNF/20-3, 42; 13. Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (ITA), 12-13-15-2, 42; 14. Howth Yacht Club (IRL), 7-15-17-7, 46; 15. Royal Cork Yacht Club (IRL), 18-14-9-9, 50; 16. Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans, La.) 15-9-13-18, 55; 18. Norddeutscher Regatta Verein (GER), 19-18-16-4, 57; 19. Nyländska Jaktklubben (FIN), 16-19-11-13, 59.
* 1-point penalty




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