Team racing victories are, by definition, a team effort. But when asked about his club's dominating performance in the 16th edition of the Morgan Cup, St. Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco, Calif.) team captain Michael Menninger made sure to credit people who were 3,000 miles away during the course of the regatta, but were instrumental in the team's preparation for one of the country's most competitive keelboat team racing regattas.
"I think a lot of credit should go to all the members who were not here today, but made those practices happen," said Menninger (above, center, holding trophy). "It gave us the reps as a team to make things a little more natural going into this regatta. We got a couple full three-on-three practices with kites and everything."
The New York Yacht Club team captained by Peter Levesque came in second. Corinthian Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.) finished third with two-time defending champion San Diego (Calif.) Yacht Club in fourth.
The New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Morgan Cup
was first run in 2002 and has evolved into one of the most coveted trophies for post-collegiate team racers. Just getting an invitation to the regatta requires a substantial team-racing pedigree. Competitors in 2018 included former team race world champions, college sailors of the year and Olympians. The regatta was run Aug. 3 to 5 out the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court and sailed in the Club's fleet of 22 Sonars. (Right and below left, St. Francis Yacht Club, in blue pinnies, battles the New York Yacht Club team led by Erik Storck.)
While every team hopes to get off to a strong start, plenty of team races have been won by a slow-starting team that catches fire toward the end of the round robin portion of the event, sneaks into the elimination round, and wins the title.
The 2018 Morgan Cup was not one of those events as some variable weather—thunder and rain on Saturday and fickle winds on Sunday morning—conspired to prevent the regatta from reaching the elimination round. The final results were based solely on each team's record in the two round robins.
Whether it was thanks to their preparation or their comfort in Friday's stronger breeze—San Francisco Bay being one of the windiest sailing venues in the United States—the St. Francis team was on its game from the opening whistle, winning all nine of its matches on Friday to take a three-point lead at the end of the first round robin. The St. Francis crew proved mortal in the second round robin, dropping two of nine matches, which equaled the record put up by the New York Yacht Club, but the margin from the first round robin held and proved the difference between first and second in the standings.
"We felt really comfortable that first day, but maybe the practices deserve some credit for that because I think we started off without a ton of rust, we were ready to go," said Menninger. "Winning all those races in the beginning obviously played a big role given that we didn’t have any knockout rounds."
When it came to winning individual races, Menninger said that the team tried to minimize the number of boat-on-boat battles, which often result in an umpire call and a 720-degree spin for the guilty party.
"I think we all did a good job of just sailing relatively clean," he said. "We got just a couple of red flags and we tried not to put ourselves into positions where someone was gonna spin you [into a worse position], our team or their team, but over the course of four legs we could figure out a winning combination somewhere."
Trophy in hand, the St. Francis team headed to the airport for the long flight back to the West Coast. But a number of the sailors competing this weekend will be back later this month for the Hinman Masters (Aug. 17 to 19) and New York Yacht Club Grandmasters (Aug. 24 to 26) regattas, both of which feature minimum ages for skippers and crew. St. Francis is the defending champion for the Hinman Masters and will be looking to carry their hard-earned momentum into that event.
2018 New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race for the Morgan Cup
August 3 to 5 2018
New York Yacht Club Harbour Court
Click here for full results