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The Joy of Teamwork and Racing

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In life there are few guarantees. In sport of sailing, however, an association with Rolex is a seal of authenticity that guarantees that both on and off the water an event – such as the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup – is prepared for with meticulous attention to detail. Like the warranty on its fine timepieces, the company is continually setting new standards and those standards are extended to the regattas and yacht clubs with which it partners.  

“The Rolex name on any sailing event immediately means it’s a premier event,” said Bruce Ferguson, co-helm of the team from Australia’s Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club, which has returned to Newport to race in the event for the second time. “Immediately, [the affiliation] gives it a cachet of a serious event. And the fact that you can maybe win a Rolex watch is always a good thing.”

In 2013, the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club team finished 11th overall out of 20 teams, after a penalty dropped them from fifth place.  Citing the joy of racing other countries, and representing their club, Ferguson explained that the team returned because they not only felt it was a real honor to be invited, but also that they could be in the mix to win. “All the guys on our boat, we’ve all been racing one-design for 18 years. This is probably the one place in the world where you get one-design racing for amateurs, with enough boats to race… and where you can find this same level of competition.” Ferguson also commented on the importance of racing at New York Yacht Club (NYYC).  “It’s significantly important on account of the fact that we won the America’s Cup from NYYC and we’re racing on the America’s Cup course; there’s a pretty solid rivalry.”


An observation by several skippers was that the level of competition has stepped up. “Definitely the top end of the fleet is tougher,” said Ferguson. “It’s still early in the event, but one thing is noticeable – there are less mistakes; everybody is doing the basics well and I think there’s more intensity this year.”  The team currently stands 12th overall after two days of racing.


Paul Zabetakis, skipper of host New York Yacht Club’s team, had a very similar assessment of the competition. “The level of the competition has gotten steadily better. Teams are practicing, if not on Swan 42s, then on similar boats; and they practice on a regular basis. The Seattle, Royal Thames and New York Yacht Club teams have been on the boats the longest, and it shows.”


Zabetakis has a very unique perspective on the event: he has been involved from the outset in 2009, setting up and chairing the technical committee for the first two events. Despite a good season on his Swan 42, Impetuous, in 2013, he did not try to represent the home club as he had become chair of the 2013 event. With a solid commitment from his team, they embarked on a campaign for 2015 that included Key West Race Week, the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, and the Swan 42 Nationals, with the latter event won on the final day to secure the honor of representing the home team.

“There is something about working together over and over again as a team,” said Zabetakis. “To me, what was most important was if the team dynamics were good on the boat and off the water. They were, and that allowed us to concentrate on the mechanics. [Nationals] was tough; it really put us through our paces.”


Today’s lone race favored the teams who were in the right place to strike and who were proficient in sailing in light air. Genoa, Italy, where the Yacht Club Italiano is based, is known for light breeze and, with Leonardo Ferragamo at the helm, the team parlayed that experience to win the race. Second across the line was the Irish team representing Royal Cork Yacht Club. Skipper Anthony O’Leary, who has raced every edition of this event, credited finding a hole in the starting line with their performance in the race. 


After two days, Seattle Yacht Club has taken over the top spot in the overall standings although it is tied on points (22) with Royal Thames Yacht Club. Royal Cork is third overall with 24 points, and Itchenor Sailing Club is fourth with 27 points. Three points back, tied at 30 points apiece, are Marblehead’s Eastern Yacht Club and Toronto’s Royal Canadian Yacht Club which is the two-time defending champion.

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