What does it feel like to win a top-flight team-racing regatta like the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy? According to Steve Kirkpatrick, who over the weekend captained the New York Yacht Club team to its first win in 8 years in the Hinman Masters, it’s payback. But not in the traditional sense of the word.
“It’s payback for all the regattas that you don’t win,” says Kirkpatrick on Sunday afternoon while basking in the hazy mid-summer sun and the internal glow of a hard-earned victory. “Even if you’re a great sailor, you lose more than you win. So it’s sweet to have those times when you’re like ‘Ah, we pulled it out. That was awesome.'”
The New York Yacht Club team earned the title with a win over Southern Yacht Club in the finals of the elimination bracket. In third was Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club with Larchmont Yacht Club rounding out the top four. Eastport Yacht Club finished fifth with St. Francis in sixth and the defending champion Corinthian Yacht Club in seventh.
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 2022 include Helly Hansen, Hammetts Hotel and Safe Harbor Marinas.
While the New York Yacht Club team was the highest scoring team in the round-robin portion of the regatta and went undefeated in the elimination round, the win was far from easy. The round-robin results bear this out. After 63 races, the spread between first and last was just 5 points. New York Yacht Club emerged from the triple round-robin with the best record, 12-6, while Corinthian and St. Francis each went 7-11.
“Every team could’ve won the regatta had they had the right sort of breaks at the right time,” says Kirkpatrick. “There’s plenty of good sailors on all the teams. We got lucky in several instances when we were behind. The conditions were such that sometimes being behind at Mark 1 was not fatal, as long as you were close, because you could just hammer the guys in front of you on the downwind legs—they’re in a hole and you’re bringing breeze up. That changed the dynamic a lot; no race was ever over.”
This was particularly true in the finals, which matched New York Yacht Club against Southern Yacht Club, which was led by 2004 Olympic silver medalist John Lovell and included five sailors from the SYC squad that won the Hinman Masters in 2018.
“In both of the last two races, we were behind at Mark 1, and we got in a position where they had a 1-2 on us,” says Kirkpatrick, describing a situation that almost always results in a win for the opposing team. “Our team just stuck on their second boat to slow them down and then we were the boat that broke free and fleet-raced back into the picture. Then we were able to slow the race down at mark 3 and it converged on leg 4.”
In each race, the New York team made good on its second chance, relying on teamwork and solid boatspeed to turn a near-certain loss into a win.
“We talked very little as a team [throughout the regatta], we just tried to stay calm, keep the boats going fast,” says Kirkpatrick. “If we were going to get slow at any point, we had to make sure they got even slower. If we’re going to do a lot of tacks, we’re going to get slow. Our thing [in the finals] was we’ve got to get [someone on the Southern Yacht Club team] slower than us, so our teammates can sail around the outside. Thankfully [New York Yacht Club teammates] BD and Zack, in both cases where we were trying to slow the lead boat down, they were able to come around the outside, in pressure, and just pull of unstable wins. It was not the ideal scenario.”
But in team racing, a wire-to-wire 1-2-3 win counts the same as a tenuous 1-4-5 win patched together inches from the finish line. And New York was able to lock up its first Hinman Masters championship in nearly a decade having won 16 races against 6 losses over three days of sailing.
Adding a win on the water to the opportunity to reconnect with many old friends makes for a close-to-perfect weekend.
“It’s like Old Home Week for people you grew up sailing with,” says Kirkpatrick. “A lot of us are from Long Island Sound, a lot of us sailed in college. Part of the fun in coming to this, and the Grandmasters next weekend, is you see all these people that either you see them every year at this event or you haven’t seen them in 30 years and they’re getting back into team racing. For so much of us the outcome matters, but it doesn’t matter as much as staying in touch with friends.”
Winning New York Yacht Club team: Steven Kirkpatrick (skipper, team captain) Peter Benedetto, Larry Ehrhardt, Cory Sertl, Zack Leonard (skipper), Alice Leonard, Barry Parkin, Susie Parkin, Brian Doyle (skipper), Hannah Swett Shane Wells and Steven Wolff. Pictured with Rear Commodore Clare Harrington (far left), former Commodore George R. Hinman Jr. (center) and Commodore Paul M. Zabetakis, MD (far right).