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Shelter Island and Larchmont Ride the Ragged Edge into the Gold Fleet at 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series

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NEWPORT, R.I. – For more than a half dozen teams, their respective fates in 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series for the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex came down to a single late-afternoon race on Narragansett Bay. The unique two-stage format of the USQS creates a very binary scenario for the first two days of the four-day regatta: either a team will qualify for the Gold Fleet, or it won't. Since every team will start fresh for the Gold and Silver fleet rounds, which will start tomorrow, there were no style points to be won on the first two days.

Teams from Newport Harbor Yacht Club and New Bedford Yacht Club, which dominated their respective preliminary fleets, will start the Gold Fleet competition with some extra confidence, but no advantage on the score line over the teams that just squeaked in.

Larchmont Yacht Club was one such team. Heading into the final race in the Blue Fleet, the team from the venerable Long Island Sound club was one of five clubs fighting for the sixth, and final, qualifying position. A total of two points separated all five clubs, making the final race a virtual winner-take-all battle. Larchmont emerged victorious from the rumble, taking third in the race and earning the final qualifying spot by two points.

"We are elated that we made it into Gold considering how quickly we put the team together," says Larchmont skipper Doug Lynn. "About a month ago, I got the call from our yachting committee and they said we need to put a team together real quickly because our normal crew were off getting married, or off at other regattas. We've never raced together before. We have plenty of energy, but its staying focused that's tough."

When it counted, however, Larchmont was able to maintain focus to get the necessary score.

The situation was similar, if not quite as dramatic, in the Red Fleet. In that grouping, which sailed Sonars for the final two races today, four boats were separated by four points, with two spots in the Gold Fleet up for grabs. Shelter Island Yacht Club was on the outside looking in at the start of the final race. But with so many permutations in play, skipper Jay Mills says they decided to keep it simple for the final race.

"We knew who was around us in the overall standings," says Mills. "But it was really out of our control. All we could do was do the best that we could and just hope the cards fell [the right way]. We couldn't fight two boats. We won the pin end and went for the hard left and it paid out; finished second in that race and hoped there were enough boats in between. Then we hit the dock and saw the scores. We didn't really know before then."

For all 12 teams, whether they made it comfortably or by the skin of their teeth, qualifying for the Gold Fleet comes with a sigh of relief. But it doesn't mean the pressure is off the final two days.

"God no," Mills says. "We came here to win."

Racing for the U.S. Qualifying Series for the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex will continue tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., on the East Passage of Narragansett Bay, and run through Saturday afternoon. After two days of preliminary racing, the 22 yacht club teams have been divided into Gold and Silver fleet. A dozen clubs will sail in the Gold Fleet in J/70s, with the top three yacht clubs in the final standings earning an invitation to the 2015 Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. The remaining 10 clubs will battle for Silver Fleet honors in the Sonars.

U.S. Qualifying Series
Day 2 Results, Qualifying Round (6 Races, top 6 from each fleet advance to the Gold Fleet)
Red Fleet: 1. Newport Harbor, 5; 2, Seattle, 15; 3. Southern, 18; 4. Beverly, 23; 5. Shelter Island, 25; 6. Chicago, 26; 7. Nantucket 26; 8. Indian Harbor 28; 9. Harbor Island, 42; 10. South Carolina, 47; 11. Carolina, 51
Blue Fleet: 1. New Bedford, 10; 2. Eastern, 12; 3. San Francisco, 15; 4. Little Traverse, 16; 5. Bayview 23; 6. Larchmont, 31; 7. Rush Creek, 33; 8. Balboa, 34; 9. Fishing Bay, 36; 10. Texas Corinthian, 39; 11. Coral Reef, 46.

For tracking and live audio commentary from the course, click here.

For replays the preliminary series races, click here.

For complete results, click here.

For press photos (rights free for editorial usage) please email NYYC Communications Director Stuart Streuli.

Photo Captions: (top) The team from South Carolina Yacht Club competes on Day 2 of the 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series for the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex.

USQS photo credits: Julianna Kurucz/New York Yacht Club

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