HYC Finishes 11th at the 2023 Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup

28 September 2023
HYC Finishes 11th at the 2023 Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup

The Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup is the premiere Corinthian one-design regatta in the World. 2023 was HYC’s second invitation, the Wrights and their team having represented the Club in 2021. 19 clubs representing 14 countries took part, with teams comprising many past and aspiring Olympians, previous medallists, world champions and a few old stagers here and there.


The Invitational

The standard of sailing at the event was exceptionally high. The NYYC owns the fleet of IC37s used for the event, which is rarely used apart from at the Invitational event. The Mills-designed boats were identical in every respect and each had very talented and experienced crews on board. Many of the competing clubs have their own IC37 and their teams compete and train in these privately owned boats during the season prior to arriving at the Invitational Cup. Each of the NYYC fleet is carefully maintained and equalised pre-event, with strict rules around changes and additional equipment. To give an example, diesel levels are monitored and equalised several times during the week.

The attention to detail and effort by the New York Yacht Club on both the sailing and social side of the event was extraordinary. The teams were feted ashore with the highlights being an Opening Dinner, Defender’s Night hosted by 2021 winners Southern Yacht Club, mid-week Lobster Bake and then the Gala Dinner and Prize Giving on the last night. The Race Committee, umpiring (10 on-the-water umpires) and on-shore organisation were excellent, with a full media programme of onboard trackers, helicopters, drones, press boats, onboard cameras and even a chest-cam on Gary Cullen at one point.

Howth started with a 7th in Race 1, followed by a 15th and 17th, to finish day one, which was sailed in medium winds. These results were disappointing, given the quality of the starts and first beats in each race but emphasised the importance of being able to hold lanes and the respect required for the quality of the fleet with any errors being punished harshly. A solid 7th in Race 4 on day 2, also in medium conditions, was a reflection of the team getting to grips with how to change gear on an IC37 but, with a storm front approaching, the fleet was sent ashore after just one race. Day 3 brought unfamiliar 4 to 8 knots conditions and saw the HYC team achieve very disappointing 18th and 17th places in the two races sailed after being in strong positions during both. Day 3 finished with a well-deserved 2nd before going into the final day.


The final race

With one race to go in the 8th edition of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, the HYC team needed two strong results on the final day to reach their pre-event goal of a top 10. With winds of 25 knots plus and a hurricane due to land, the Race Committee decided to sail just one race starting at 9am and to lift all 19 of the IC37s out of the water by lunchtime. The Howth team arrived at the race area early and, after a brief discussion amongst the afterguard, decided to show the rest of the outbound fleet that “Howth is here to race,” hoisted the spinnaker and headed towards the Committee boat at 18 knots before carrying out a neat drop and waiting for the action to get going.

With a good start, HYC rounded 12th at the first top mark, sailed a strong downwind, picking off RCYC and others to get up to 6th at the bottom of the run and, after pinning Hong Kong out at the final top mark, held 5th down the final run to the finish line. This result secured a respectable 11th overall at the no-discard event. The 11th placing was a very encouraging result since, as a first-timer at the event, the crew’s goal had been a top-ten position. Given that only 8 races out of the scheduled 10 were completed and the crew was gaining experience all of the time, there was a strong sense onboard that 10th position, or better, would have been achieved if all the races had been completed.

San Diego Yacht Club’s win in the final race gave them an overall score of 43 points across 8 races, to secure an 11-point win over Corinthian Yacht Club. The Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron were third on 55 points with the New York Yacht Club fourth on 62 points and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club fifth on 66 points. Full results here


HYC and the NYYC experience

As 2023 is the 125th anniversary of the Howth 17, which is the oldest active racing one-design in the World that still races as originally designed, Howth YC commissioned a half model of a Howth 17 for presentation by the team to New York Yacht Club to mark Howth’s participation in the event and the 125th anniversary of the Howth 17 Class. The model was graciously received by NYYC Commodore Paul M. Zabetakis M.D. at the Commodore’s Reception on Friday evening.



The Howth team for 2023 was pulled together by David Maguire from some of the Club’s top boats: David and William Maguire from Valkyrie, driving and trim 2 respectively; Johnny Durcan, also of Valkyrie and the Irish Sailing 49er high performance programme, on strategy and downwind trim; Colin Kavanagh of Jeneral Lee on mainsheet and strategy; Diana Kissane and Graham Curran of Snapshot on downwind tactics/pit and trim 1 respectively; Luke Malcolm of Howth 17 Aura on mast, Carla Fagan of Lambay Rules on mid-bow and Gary Cullen of Checkmate XX on bow.

The crew selection process and planning for the event began in January. The training programme used the smaller but similar Cape 31, also a Mills design, and focused on four events in the UK and Ireland beginning in May. The team also travelled to the Safe Harbour Regatta in Newport, RI in August to compete in IC37s, which was key to building familiarity with the type of boat to be sailed at the event. Following the Safe Harbour Regatta, the team held a number of video review and information sessions in the Club, going through coaching feedback and go-pro footage in addition to attending sessions with Mark Mills on the differences between his Cape 31 and IC37 designs and with pro sailor Nin O’Leary, who has competed in and coached at the Invitational Cup a number of times, and has acquired lots of knowledge about tuning and sail trim for IC37s as well as the event itself, all of which were very helpful. Coaching support in the US was provided by Stan Schreyer, former Boston College coach and North Sails expert at Safe Harbour, and by the legendary US Olympic Coach Skip Whyte pre-event. Everyone on board learnt a huge amount in the process, not just about the IC37s and the event itself, but also about competing at top-level sailing events generally.

The Crew would like to thank David Maguire for all of his work and commitment in pulling together the program and the whole team would like to thank Howth Yacht Club, its Flag officers, General Committee, fellow members, friends and most importantly their families for all of the support before and during what was an incredible experience.

---Report by Colin Kavanagh

See the full photo gallery here. 

Watch the final gybe and finish of the last race