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Newport Harbor and Rush Creek Show Their Heels on Day 3 of the 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series

2016 USQS-C 780

NEWPORT, R.I. – From the way Michael Menninger and the rest of his Newport Harbor Yacht Club team flew downwind on their J/70 during the first day of Championship Fleet competition in the 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series, one would assume they'd done it before.

Not so, says the young skipper: "Today was the first time I planed in a J/70."

But Menninger is no stranger to speed. He is a highly decorated junior, high school, and college sailor and spent much of 2013 helming an AC45 catamaran in preparation for the Red Bull Youth America's Cup.

That cumulative experience was clearly in evidence on the course today. In a beautiful southerly breeze that built into the high teens, the Newport Harbor team started off with a second, and that was their worst result in six races.

"It was really tricky, tough sailing, the course was hard to manage," says Menninger. "I thought we started pretty well, pretty consistently. We actually didn't end up at the top mark that well in every race. Every first leg was a battle. But we sailed really smart downwind; we were always passing boats. It was all about staying in the pressure, looking for the next breeze and trying to play the current a little."

Newport Harbor, which finished third in the USQS in 2010 and fourth in 2012, will start the final day of the 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series with a 17-point lead over second and a 26-point lead over fourth. The top three yacht clubs in the final Gold Fleet standings will earn a berth in the 2015 Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. Currently Seattle is in second with 24 points and Eastern is third with 28.

In the Silver Fleet, it was the Rush Creek Yacht Club team, from outside of Dallas, that dominated the racing. Their scoreline wasn't quite as impressive as that of Newport Harbor—Rush Creek finished second in three races, and won the other three—but as with the Gold Fleet, there was little doubt which team was the class of this group, which sailed the Sonars.

Rush Creek skipper Ryan Glaze is actually a sportboat sailor—he normally campaigns a Melges 24—but he found himself right at home pulling the spinnaker pole back and sailing straight down the rhumb line on the downwind legs.

"I'm comfortable with the Sonar now," says Glaze, with a laugh.

For all of the competitors in the Silver Fleet, the day's first order of business was to mentally get over the disappointment of not making the Gold Fleet. Rush Creek missed by two points. Before racing, the team had a heart-to-heart to put the past behind them.

"We talked about some of the mistakes we made in the first half [of the regatta] and tried to not make those same mistakes today," says Glaze. "We got off the line well [today]. I think the bigger breeze is our forte. We just relaxed and continued what we wanted to do and it worked out for us."

Coral Reef, which struggled to last place in the Blue Fleet during qualifying, found its legs in the fresher breeze as well, winning the final two races of the day to claim second place overall with 19 points. Texas Corinthian is third in the Silver Fleet with 23 points.

Racing for the U.S. Qualifying Series for the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex will conclude tomorrow, starting at 10:30 a.m., on the East Passage of Narragansett Bay. A dozen clubs are currently in the Gold Fleet, sailing 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 are battling for Silver Fleet honors, sailing in Sonars.

U.S. Qualifying Series
Day 2 Results, Qualifying Round (6 Races, top 6 from each fleet advance to the Gold Fleet)
Gold Fleet: 1. Newport Harbor, 7; 2. Seattle, 24; 3. Eastern, 28; 4. Little Traverse, 33; 5. Beverly 39.6; Southern, 40; 7. Shelter Island, 41; 8. Bayview, 42; 9. San Francisco, 43; 10. New Bedford, 43; 11. Chicago, 59; 12. Larchmont, 64.
Silver Fleet: 1. Rush Creek, 9; 2. Coral Reef, 19; 3. Texas Corinthian, 23; 4. Balboa, 28; 5. Nantucket, 28; 6. Fishing Bay, 31; 7. Indian Harbor, 40; 8. Carolina, 46; 9. Harbor Island, 51; 10. South Carolina, 56.

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

For race replays, click here.

For championship results click here.

For preliminary round results, click here.

For press photos (rights free for editorial usage) from Day 3 of the USQS click here. For other photo requests, please email NYYC Communications Director Stuart Streuli.

Photo Captions: (top) Skipper Michael Menninger and the Newport Harbor Yacht Club team blast downwind en route to one of their five race wins on Day 3 of the U.S. Qualifying Series for the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. They have a commanding 17-point lead in the Gold Fleet standings.

USQS photo credits: Allen Clark/Photoboat.com

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