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St. Francis Yacht Club Reclaims Hinman Trophy Team Race

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NEWPORT, R.I. — After three years of close, but not quite, St. Francis Yacht Club is again the champions of the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy. The West Coast team has been one of the strongest masters team racing crews for the past decade, including a run of three straight Hinman Trophy wins from 2011 to 2013. But victory in this most prized of masters team race events had narrowly eluded them of late. The St. Francis team was third in 2014 and second in 2015 and 2016.

The 2017 edition of the Hinman Masters, which is sponsored by Porsche and was first run in 2000, came down to a winner-take-all race between St. Francis Yacht Club, of San Francisco, and two-time defending Hinman Trophy champs Noroton Yacht Club of Darien, Conn. That race was something of an anti-climax, according to St. Francis team captain Steve Marsh.

"They had two boats over early at the start, so we got control right off the start," said Marsh. "We held it with a one-two [at the first mark] and Shaun Bennett, who rounded in third held them all up and let us sail away. That was probably the easiest race we had all day."

To that point, however, the regatta had been a grind for the St. Francis team. In the round robin portion of the event they struggled, winning 11 of 18 races, but only two of eight against the top four teams.

"We were always really close," said Marsh. "Our losses [in the round robin] weren't big losses. The team was strong. The breaks just didn't come our way."

But they did enough to advance to the knock-out portion of the regatta, which would decide the winner. There, St. Francis started to find its rhythm, beating Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club 2-0 to advance to the semifinals where they dispatched New York Yacht Club 1, which lost just 2 of 18 matches in the round robins, by virtue of a 3-1 score.

In the best-of-five finals, Noroton jumped out of a 2-0 lead, but St. Francis battled back with two wins of its own to set up the deciding race.

"We got into a little trouble [in the first two races] and couldn't get out of it and they were really good at blocking us," said Marsh. "We just wanted to win a race. Then it was win another race. Then we go into the last race, they were over early and we were able to extend."

Continuity is one of the keys to the success of the St. Francis program. Of the 12 sailors on the team this year, five sailed in 2013, the last time the club won the Hinman Trophy, and 10 were a part of last year's runner-up squad.

"It's a fun group to be with, a fun group to travel with," said Marsh. "That makes it a lot easier, when you can sail with your friends. You trust the guys around you and you know the other teams can get it done."

The battle for third place featured the two teams who sailed the best in the round robin portion, New York Yacht Club 1 and Southern Yacht Club from New Orleans, which won 14 races. The teams split the first two races, with Southern winning the deciding race.

Winning Team, St. Francis Yacht Club: Russ Silvestri (skipper), Christopher Smith, Joe McCoy, Mario Yovkov, Nicole Breault (skipper), Rolf Kaiser, Thomas Iseler, Steve Marsh (team captain), Shawn Bennett (skipper), Tom Purdy, Tom Ducharme, and Melissa Feagin.

New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta
for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy
New York Yacht Club, Newport, R.I.
August 18 to 20
Gold Knock-Out Round
Finals: St. Francis YC d. Noroton YC, 3-2
Petit-Finals: Southern YC d. New York YC 1, 2-1
Semifinals: Noroton YC d. Southern YC 3-0, St. Francis YC d. New York YC 1, 3-1
Quarterfinals: Noroton YC d. Larchmont YC, 2-0, St. Francis YC d. Seawanhaka Corinthian YC, 2-0

Silver Sail-offs
For Seventh: Eastport YC d. Texas Corinthian YC, 2-1
For Ninth: Riverside YC d. New York YC Squared, 2-0

Final Results (with Round Robin Win Totals)
1. St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco (11 points), 2. Noroton Yacht Club, Darien, Conn. (14), 3. Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans (14), 4. New York Yacht Club 1 (16), 5. Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, Centre Island, N.Y. (12); 6. Larchmont (N.Y.) Yacht Club (8), 7. Eastport (Md.) Yacht Club ;(3), 8. Texas Corinthian Yacht Club, Kemah, Texas (8), 9. Riverside Yacht Club, Greenwich, Conn. (2), 10. New York Yacht Club Squared (2).

Full Results and Regatta Rosters

Photo credits: Katie Malafronte/NYYC

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