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Returning Champions - The Royal Canadian Yacht Club

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At present there's no better Swan 42 team than the well-oiled Canadians on John Hele's Daring, USA 14. Winners of the 2011 and 2013 Invitational Cup they continue to demonstrate the benefits of their time in the boat, and even more importantly, the many races they've sailed together.

The quiet Hele and his alter ego, the immensely talented Terry McLaughlin, go way back to their heydays as young studs tearing around on international 14s and team racing each other at high speed. They regularly swap between the helm and the tactician's seat on Daring, and the two have a chemistry the suits them and the rest of the Royal Canadian YC team just fine. "We have a great time on the boat, we switch very well," says Hele. "When he was off racing America's Cups and Canada's Cups, I was working. No matter how many hours I spend practicing I'll never get to his level."

Hele, however, is intimate with the Swan 42's idiosyncrasies, having invested in the first batch of boats built in 2007. When he bought into the class he specifically requested Hull No. 14 – a nod to his I-14 roots. He then successfully campaigned the boat in North America and Europe.

In building the Daring and Invitational Cup team, Hele tapped his skiff brethren and drafted more gems from the RCYC's membership. So far, they keep coming back. "Some of this group sailed together in the early 1980s," says Hele. "Putting this team together, it always feeling like we're sailing with our old buddies."

The Royal Canadian YC, with its iconic white-columned clubhouse on Toronto's RCYC Island, is fully behind Daring's doings at the Invitational Cup. The club hosts the team's website, solicits donations, and hold fundraisers, including its Invitational Cup Send Off Party in August. And as always a large turnout arrives in Newport to support the team.

NYYC13df 2578"The club is really proud of winning this trophy," says Hele. "Members are immensely proud of being Royal Canadian, and that is what is great about this regatta – there's national pride and club pride together is one. That's why they rally."

Now entering his fourth Invitational Cup regatta, he understands how close the racing can be, and how important it is to minimize boat handling mistakes.

"The teams with good crew work always do better," says Hele. "The key to these boats in normal class racing is changing gears, and with the Invitational Cup rig settings being fixed, it's harder to sail the boat really well because you're trying to get the sails to do what they are not designed to do."

Speed is one thing, but composure is an over-looked element of the weeklong, no-throw-out regatta, says Hele. Everyone will have a shocker.

"It's important to move on," he says. "We had one in 2011 where we rounded third to last. It was a very puffy day and we got caught on the wrong side on a massive wind shift, but we caught up to the top 10 by sailing the downwind legs really well."

And how, exactly, did they get back into it on the downwind legs? "People go high to keep their speed up, thinking it really pays, but it's quite deceiving. We're always trying to soak down. We have constant talk between the trimmer, helm and tactician, about the pressure in the kite, and we have someone calling the wind, which is essential. We don't rely on the instruments."

Other than that, his best advice is to keep clear air, stay out of trouble at the marks, and remember that the umpires will be watching so there's not much you can get away with.

Hele is, of course, hopeful for a successful Team RCYC defense, but his partner McLaughlin dislikes the word "defend."

"We'll treat it just like another regatta," says McLaughlin. "I think we'll be ready, but it's a long series, so any race that we can finish in the top six is a keeper."

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