Every August the biggest question for the NYYC Grandmasters Team Race Regatta is whether this will be the year that Noroton Yacht Club’s winning streak ends.
Yet even after the age minimums were raised by five years and the event was expanded to 10 teams and three days to stiffen the competition, the yacht club from Darien, Connecticut, still out sailed every other club on the water. Which is not necessarily surprising since the NYYC Grandmasters Team Race Regatta, sponsored by Porsche Cars North America, has only been won by Noroton Yacht Club since it was first held in 2010.
“The pressure, at least for me, seems to increase every year,” said team captain Lee Morrison. “They always say that we have the bulls-eye on our back. Somehow we struggled through the series. When Newport Harbor (Yacht Club) beat New York (Yacht Club) today we felt a lot better, but bottom line it is a lot of pressure. We are glad it is behind us.”
Hosted at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, the Grandmasters Team Race Regatta is one of the most prestigious masters-level team racing events in the United States. The racing took place on Narragansett Bay in the New York Yacht Club’s fleet of 21 identical Sonar sailboats, which were designed by NYYC member Bruce Kirby, with each crewed by three or four sailors.
“I love sailing in the breeze that Newport gets, we had that breeze on Friday and it was beautiful,” said Morrison. “It was a little lighter yesterday, especially yesterday morning. Today was light but at Noroton we sail in light winds all the time so we feel comfortable in light air and I think that helps a lot.”
While Noroton Yacht Club may have felt comfortable in the conditions and was able to take the trophy again this year, that does not mean it was an easy feat. Going into the last day of sailing the top four teams were all within two points of each other.
“The competition was very intense,” said Morrison. “All of the top teams were really good. We would coach each other by saying that you cannot make mistakes. Against the top four teams you make one mistake and you lose. We did that against Texas (Corinthian Yacht Club) and we did that against New York (Yacht Club) and those were the races we lost.”
Masters-level team racing is a recent addition to sailing and the NYYC Grandmasters Team Race was one of the first events of its type in the country. Great success has followed the event and led to even tougher competition. This year the raising of age minimums mandated that skippers must be at least 60 years of age and shall not have skippered in either the 2016 Morgan Cup or 2016 Hinman Masters – though a grandfather clause is in effect for past skippers of the NYYC Grandmasters.
Additionally each crew member must be at least 50 years of age. All facets of the event are targeted to offer continuing high level competition to the large number of experienced veteran team racers.
“We know that we team race well and so our plan is just to get a good start, which is always tough against these teams, but once we are on the legs we go fast and when we have to team race we do,” said Morrison. “I was joking with our teammates as we came in, we seem to have about eight tacticians, two coaches and a couple of helmsman who are average. So we are very lucky to have a very talented team.”
While no one was able to knock Noroton Yacht Club off their podium, talent was strong throughout the regatta. Scores were close the entire weekend with Newport Harbor Yacht Club able to secure second place, Southern Yacht Club in third and the New York Yacht Club Red Team taking fourth.
2016 NYYC Grandmasters Team Race Results:
1. Noroton Yacht Club, Darien, CT
2. Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Orange County, CA
3. Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans, LA
4. New York Yacht Cub Red Team, NYC
5. Texas Corinthian Yacht Club, Kemah, TX
6. New York Yacht Cub Blue Team, NYC
7. Storm Trysail Club
8. St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco, CA
9. Annapolis Yacht Club, Annapolis, MD
10. Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, Oyster Bay, NY