2021 Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup
9 set 2021
For the first time since the inaugural event in 2009 the fleet for the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will hit the starting line without a defending champion, shaking up the form guide as teams and sailing fans look toward the start of sailing’s premiere Corinthian big-boat competition on Tuesday, September 14th.
Re-entry concerns and strict quarantine protocols related to the COVID pandemic have forced clubs from Asia, the antipodes, and Europe to decline their spots in the regatta. The absence of the defending champions from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, along with a trio of clubs that sailed in each previous edition, has created opportunity for new international entrants and a handful of U.S. yacht clubs loaded with top amateur talent.
With the defending champions sitting out, 2019 runner-up San Diego Yacht Club is an obvious choice. Led once again by former college all-America selections Tyler Sinks and Jake LaDow, the team has the experience and talent to win, and the confidence of knowing they were just one break away from winning this regatta in 2019.
Four clubs that have won this regatta before—New York Yacht Club, Royal Canadian Yacht Club, Royal Thames Yacht Club and Southern Yacht Club—must also be considered among the favorites.
The Royal Canadian Yacht Club is the only two-time champion of the Invitational Cup. The team's preparation for 2021 included practicing for and competing in the 25th edition of the Canada's Cup, the premier match-racing trophy in the Great Lakes. A 6-0 win over Youngstown (N.Y.) Yacht Club seems a strong indication the RCYC team will come to Newport with a fair bit of momentum. But skipper Terry McLauglin wasn't willing to shoulder the yolk of pre-race favorite.
"I expect [the competition] to be as tough as ever," said McLaughlin, who won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. "I don’t want to say we're super prepared. We are reasonably prepared, but we haven't been fleet racing and we haven't been sailing in Newport."
McLaughlin's team is a combination of the old guard, including two teammates from the Canada I campaign for the 1983 America's Cup, and the next generation of RCYC sailors, such as 28-year-old tactician Lance Fraser and Mariah Millen, who will be sailing with her dad.
"Our team is identical to the 2019 Invitational Cup team, with the exception of the mainsheet trimmer," said McLaughlin, who steered Royal Canadian to fourth in 2019. "Certainly for everybody else, they’re far more used to the IC37 this year. In 2019, we had some people in key positions on the boat who hadn't really sailed big boats much who learned quite quickly."
First-time competitors from Canada’s Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Howth Yacht Club in Ireland, and Noroton Yacht Club and American Yacht Club in the United States add an element of mystery to the pre-race discussion. Each team brings a collection of talented amateur sailors to the event. But how well they can assimilate to the IC37 and the unique format of the regatta won’t be known at least until the first race kicks off on Tuesday, September 14th.