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Rooted in Heritage and Tradition

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Seven years ago when New York Yacht Club announced it would launch a new sailing event – the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup – it was the latest innovative move by an organization that has been at the forefront of the sport since the mid-1850s. The club’s heritage encompasses notable events such as the America’s Cup and Transatlantic Races, as well as the creation of eight one-design classes.

The goal of the new event was to bring Corinthian spirit back to the forefront of the sport and showcase the talents of the finest amateur sailors in the world. It was a concept that was on-point as evidenced from the buzz which started from the first gun of the inaugural race in 2009 – growing ever louder as the fourth edition of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup gets underway in one of the most legendary sailing locations on the planet: Newport, Rhode Island.

The locale is a fitting setting for New York Yacht Club’s jewel-like club house, Harbour Court. Built in 1906, the Renaissance Norman-style mansion has a commanding view over Newport harbor. Traditions are maintained here in a style that befits being the focal point of yachting’s premier events. It is this respect for heritage and tradition that has formed the basis for an enduring bond between New York Yacht Club and Rolex. Just a year before the completion of Harbour Court, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf set out to make wristwatches to suit sporting lifestyles. By 1926 the company had made the first waterproof timepiece, a forerunner of the Rolex steel Submariner Date timepiece that will be presented to the winner of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup at the conclusion of five days of racing (September 15 to 19).

From the outset, the popularity of the Invitational Cup was such that New York Yacht Club would establish a U.S. Qualifying Series in order to meet the demand from American yacht clubs that wanted to participate. Along with 10 foreign nations represented by 13 out of the 17-strong fleet, the 2015 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will see the host club face challenges from three American clubs: California’s Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Washington’s Seattle Yacht Club (above sailing in the 2015 Swan 42 National Championships), and Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead, Mass.

All three clubs have previously raced in the Invitational Cup – and all are back hoping to win the coveted Rolex timepiece as well as the iconic trophy.

“Our club is very energized,” said Brian Ledbetter, Seattle Yacht Club Sailing Director. “We’re kind of like the [publicly owned] Green Bay Packers. Our team isn’t just the 11 members sailing in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, it’s the whole club.” Ledbetter made the comparison that the event was as iconic as “the old America’s Cup,” and cited the U.S. Qualifier, where the club proved that they were top-three in the country. “And then, the Invitational Cup is the next chance to prove where you stand on the planet amongst all the other yacht clubs. Seattle Yacht Club members have gotten behind us as if we were the Seahawks going to the Super Bowl,” added Ledbetter of the 2,500 members. Roughly 60 members will be in Newport to support the team on-the-water; for the members who did not make the trip, the club will have the tracker running on multiple tvs during racing. Seattle Yacht Club finished seventh at the 2013 Invitational Cup after sailing only one practice regatta in preparation. More focus has been put on this event: from racing in three regattas and spending more training time in Newport – a clear indication that they are here to win.