John Hele and Daring Team to Represent NYYC in Rolex Invitational Cup
The New York Yacht Club's entry in the 2017 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup will be led by a face familiar to anyone who has followed this premiere Corinthian regatta since it was first run in 2009.
Club Treasurer John Hele sailed in the first four editions of the regatta as the tactician for skipper Terry McLaughlin and the Royal Canadian Yacht Club team. This year, after emerging victorious from a challenging two-part selection series, Hele will skipper the host club's entry aboard his Swan 42 Daring.
"As a Club member since 1991, I have always held a strong interest in representing the host club," says Hele, who is Canadian by birth. "This year I decided to try for the berth this time, especially since I became a United States Citizen in 2016. It's an exceptional feeling and tremendous privilege to sail under the New York Yacht Club burgee and be helming for the event."
The other two teams competing to represent the NYYC in the regatta were Rear Commodore Chris Culver's Blazer and Paul Zabetakis' Impetuous, which was hoping to improve upon its second-place finish in the 2015 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.
After the 163rd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, Daring and Blazer were tied with 12 points. While Impetuous was 12 points further back, there was plenty of opportunity for a comeback. Zabetakis' campaign ended early when a family medical issue made him unavailable for the first three days of the Swan 42 National Championship in July. Hele took the early lead in the Nationals with a string of top-five finishes. While Culver's crew closed the gap later in the regatta there simply wasn't enough runway to retake the lead in the selection series. Daring finished fifth overall, with Blazer in sixth.
"Sailing conservatively, sailing 'in the same piece of water' as Blazer was our game plan going into the regatta, and we successfully managed it for the first two days," says Read. "That got us out to a 10-point lead over them at one point. On the second to last day, we had a significantly bad day, which cut our lead to four points."
When the wind didn't fill on the final day, that four-point difference proved to be the final margin of victory in the selection series standings, earning Hele a fifth trip to the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup.
While the Royal Canadian Yacht Club team finished 10th in the 2015 event, for the first three editions, it was the class of the field, finishing second in 2009 and winning in 2011 and 2013. Hele is certainly hoping he can bring some of that's team's magic to this year's crew. However, the nationality and club membership requirements mean that he will lead an very different group of sailors to the regatta this September.
"Although only two NYYC members were required for the selection series other than myself, we felt it was important to get the team together last year," says Hele. "Brad Read had been the RCYC team coach for the IC for many years, so it was natural for him to join us as tactician. Chip Whipple, main trimmer, has participated in two IC events, in 2011 and 2013. The other Club members on the team are Oakley Jones (bow), Chris Malloy (mast), Peter Cummiskey (navigator), Ashley Noble (pit assist), my daughter Kate Hele (mid-bow), and Peter Benedetto (reserve crew). The two Canadian holdovers are John Millen (spin) and Dave Jarvis (jib), in addition to Daring's boat captain Jim Gibson."
While he's been through the pageantry of the regatta four times before, Hele says sailing in the Invitational Cup never gets old.
"Many regattas provide great competition, but only a few provide and maintain a standard of outstanding amateur competition," he says. "The IC is the unique event in sailing that combines outstanding amateur competition with club and country representation. There is no greater feeling than to hear your club cheering you on as you cross the finish line."