Newport, R.I. —Two hours after her Swan 42 Entropy crossed the finish line and won the 67th running of the historic Queen’s Cup trophy, Patti Young still couldn’t fully believe the results.

“I’m in shock,” said Young, who navigated on the boat while her husband, Paul Hamilton, steered. “This is just as important to me as when I won the Mixter trophy for being the wining navigator in the St. David’s Lighthouse division of the Newport Bermuda Race. I feel this it’s just like that. And this was a team effort. Everybody on the boat contributed.”

Entropy won the race with a corrected time of 2:52:50, just 19 seconds ahead of Victor Wild’s Pac52 Fox, which finished second, and two minutes ahead of Tony Langley’s TP52 Gladiator.

The Queen’s Cup trophy (at right) was given to the New York Yacht Club by Queen Elizabeth II and officially presented to the Club by the British Ambassador in November 1953. It’s a perpetual trophy that is raced for annually under the same conditions as the King’s Cup that preceded it and was retired after the passing of King George VI in 1952.

The Queen’s Cup is both one of the most-prized trophies in the New York Yacht Club and one of the most unique competitions in sailing. The rules specify that all entries must meet a certain minimum speed requirement and be helmed exclusively by an amateur sailor. The trophy is decided by one long buoy race, which always features some reaching legs, as opposed to the windward-leeward courses favored by most modern sailors. Finally there’s a two-minute starting window, which enables teams to pick when they cross start racing. Provided a boat starts within two minutes of the starting signal, it’s elasped-time clock starts only when it crosses the line.

The best strategy to take advantage of the “starting window” is a subject of much debate. And teams occasionally decide on the fly as they can abort a start before crossing at the line, reset and try again without suffering any time penalty.

“We started just short of one minute [after the starting gun],” said Young. “That’s where I wanted to start, but nobody necessarily agreed with me, but I kept pushing it. We were tangling with the TP52 [in the pre-start] and we didn’t want them near us. I heard Paul at one point say, ‘Let’s get away from the elephants.’ The big boats went first (above). Other people wanted to get off early. We just waited for a hole.”

For competitors who thrive on close-quarters competition, whether for the adrenaline or the ability to receive real-time feedback on performance, the Queen’s Cup can be a challenge as boats, even when of the same design, are rarely sharing the same patch of water.

The Entropy team embraced the opportunity provided by the race’s distinct format.

“You’re just not stuck mixing it up with the other boats,” said Young. “You’re in your own space. We only had one close crossing and that was at the wing mark. We really didn’t do any extra maneuvers because we didn’t have to jockey for position. I think that’s the biggest difference, you can just sail the boat well. I know it sounds so simple.”

Like with many things in life, the simple things are often much more complex than they seem. Keeping the boat at optimum speed for the better part of three hours and taking advantage of every significant shift requires intense focus and a belief that all the hard work will pay off in the end.

And even when you have that belief, it can take some time to come to terms with it becoming reality.

“In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think we’d ever win the Queen’s Cup,” Young said, before heading off to the awards party with her crew.

Photos: Stuart Wemple

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