by New York Yacht Club
The same things that make interclub team racing so engrossing—the close-quarters racing, the shared boats, the post-race social activity—are the same things that made it particularly vulnerable to COVID protocols in 2020. The New York Yacht Club canceled all of its team race events in 2020, the first time in two decades that the Club didn’t host at least one team race regatta.
From a team-racing perspective, 2021 is already well ahead of last year, with the Club hosting the inaugural Women’s 2v2 Team Race in May. Now, with the calendar about to turn from July to August, it’s time for the traditional trio of team races that attract some of the best sailors in the country to Newport each summer.
“We’re very excited for the return of our three signature team races after a two-year break,” says Susan Daly, co-chair of the Club’s Team Racing Subcommittee. “There is nothing better for connecting yacht clubs and sailors than team racing. The intensity on the water is matched only by the camaraderie on shore.”
Each August the New York Yacht Club hosts three team-race regattas on consecutive weekends: the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Morgan Cup (July 30 to August 1), the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy (August 6 to 8) and the New York Yacht Club Grandmasters Team Race Regatta (August 13 to 15). Each event utilizes the Club’s fleet of 22 Sonars (designed by member Bruce Kirby, who passed away last week). The latter two have age minimums for skippers and crew to encourage team racing as a life-long pursuit. Founded in 2003, 2000 and 2010, respectively, the three regattas are among the most competitive adult team-racing competitions in the world, annually attracting top sailors from across the country and abroad.
As the only event without any restrictions on the age or affiliation of the sailors for each team, the Morgan Cup is the most competitive of the bunch. While there won’t be any international teams this year, the entry list does include three squads traveling in from California and teams composed of some of the best sailors from the Northeast, including numerous current and former college sailing stars as well as former Olympians and America’s Cup competitors.
“The competition is top notch every single year, and the New York Yacht Club does an outstanding job of putting on a great event,” says Brian Bissell (far left), a former collegiate All-America selection at Georgetown University and one of the three skippers who will represent Newport Harbor Yacht Club, located in Newport Beach, Calif. “We also love Newport, R.I., in the summertime, and the fun times to be had on Thames Street.”
Newport Harbor Yacht Club is a former winner of the Morgan Cup, in 2014. Bissell, who served as the team captain that year, says the team can sometimes be slow out of the gate.
“Newport Harbor Yacht Club always does their best work on Sunday of the Morgan Cup,” he says. “If we aren’t mathematically eliminated by then, we might have shot at winning it again. Stayin’ Alive will be our theme song, for sure.”
Working in their favor this year is the amount of practice the team was able to do in 2020. While few interclub events were held, the Newport Harbor sailors did their best to keep their skills sharp at home.
“We were actually able to do quite a bit of informal team racing during the pandemic,” he says. “We took a ton of precautionary measures. It was bring-your-own-boat and no switching boats, and skipper and crew were requested to be from the same household. Everyone would meet out at the racecourse without going ashore, skippers’ meetings were on Zoom the night before.”
Good practice, for sure, Though something was certainly missing. Bissell, like everyone else, is eager to get back to the Morgan Cup and catch up with his extended team racing family.
“What we probably missed the most was seeing our friends from other yacht clubs,” he says. “We missed the Morgan Cup, and we missed hosting everyone at Newport Harbor Yacht Club [for the Baldwin Cup, another highly regarded team race].”
The Morgan Cup will start tomorrow morning, with sailing taking place on Narragansett Bay between Rose Island and Goat Island through Sunday. The Hinman Masters and Grandmasters events will follow a similar pattern. For more on the New York Yacht Club’s team racing events, please click here.
Photos: Stuart Streuli