Wednesday, November 11, 2015

San Diego Recaptures Lipton Cup!

San Diego YC wins Lipton Cup (San Diego, CA)- So, how seriously does San Diego YC take the Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton Cup Challenge Regatta?  Well, after going through a “changing of the guard”, the SDYC Lipton Cup Committee elected to pick a next-generation crew that consisted of Tyler Sinks, Erik Shampain and others to lead the charge.  After nine (yes, 9) months of practice and training on J/105s with the likes of Vince Brun and Bennie Mitchell as their protégés, the SDYC team recaptured the Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton Cup back from their age-old adversaries from north of the Los Angeles aqueduct- the St Francis YC.  As John Laun (SDYC Commodore) told others more than once, “there are only three things which matter to a San Diego YC Commodore: air to breathe, water to drink, and winning the Lipton Cup!”

J/105s sailing Lipton CupThe outcome of the regatta was not for-ordained by any means.  After the first day of racing, it was the rock-stars from the north that led everyone home, led by Chris Raab at the helm and Russ Silvestri calling tactics for the St Francis YC entry.  After day two on Saturday, with just one race in the bag, SDYC’s crew took over a very, very slim lead.  A crucial race cancellation in race 7 may have turned the tables for the event; at the time, New York YC’s team (with Brian Keane at the helm) was leading with other top teams in the tank.  But, it was the last day on Sunday (and the last race) that produced all the histrionics and anxiety-ridden angst the Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton Challenge Cup has become renowned for over the past dozen or so years sailing matched J/105 one-design sailboats.

J/105s sailing start at Lipton CupDay One- Spectacular Sailing
For the first day, competitors from yacht clubs across the US were excited to be racing in the beautiful weather. The Race Committee was able to get the first race underway after a 1-hour postponement with consistent winds out of the Northwest at 5-10 knots. St. Francis YC leaped to an early lead with excellent boat speed. They were able to cruise across the finish line for the Race 1 with an easy win. How did they do it? Simple.  Start at the port end, race into the left corner with an ebb tide current pushing them past the USS Carl Vinson (a massive 1,200 ft 101,000 ton US Navy nuclear carrier providing some wind-enhanced acceleration) and hit the right turn signal when you reach the port tack layline.  San Diego YC’s team knew the same formula, just not so well executed.

For Race 2, SDYC’s crew was determined to win the pin (or close to it).  That shook things up as SDYC’s team took first place, while New York YC’s Keane made major improvements from 10th in the first race to take 3rd in the second. Newport Harbor YC’s skipper John Pinckney was unable to maintain their strong 4th place from the first race as they fell back to 12th in the second.

The winds increased for Race 3, gusting at 12-15 kts and held steady the rest of the day. San Diego built on their success with a second win.  Larchmont jumped into the game with a 2nd place finish, improving from their previous 7th and 4th, while St. Francis finished strong again with a 3rd place.

J/105s sailing downwind at Lipton CupCalifornia YC’s Bob Little showed their skills in Race 4 by taking the lead at the first windward mark rounding and keeping it through the finish. San Francisco jumped up to 2nd from the back of the fleet in the first three races and San Diego fell to third.

With the wind still consistent, the Race Committee PRO Jeff Johnson was able to get a fifth race in to complete a very successful first day of sailing. San Francisco made good moves to finish the day off with a 1st. St. Francis was able to end the day with another solid 2nd and New York YC came back up to 3rd.  All the teams were quite competitive and starts were aggressive throughout the day.

After the first day, St. Francis sat in first with 17 points, followed by San Diego with 18 points, Larchmont in 3rd with 26 points and New York in 4th with 30 pts. The rest of the fleet was tight, all within a few points of one another. It was going to be exciting to see who moved around after the next day of racing!

J/105 sailing with spinnakers at Lipton CupDay Two- A Light Air Dust-up
There was another delay to the start of racing in San Diego Bay as the light air forecast came through and the Race Committee started the day with the AP flag flying.

Race 6, the first of the day, began at 1:00 PM in 4-6 knots of breeze. San Diego had a great start, winning the pin and sailing off into clear air. Annapolis and St. Francis followed SDYC to the left side hoping to get a current boost as the tide ebbed. Annapolis passed SDYC as the first boat to round, followed by SDYC, and Coronado who was close behind on the windward leg. California YC who port tacked the fleet to go right after the start was able to lead his pack to the upwind mark. SDYC was able to take back their lead at the leeward mark and was first upwind again followed by Annapolis and California who ended up third, and these teams were able to keep those positions as they crossed the finish line. New York sank to last in the race due to an OCS/foul combination.  After Race 6, SDYC jumped into first place with 19 points, St Francis in second with 21 and Larchmont in third with 32 points.

Race 7 got underway around 2:30 PM, but was abandoned as the New York YC team approached the windward mark in first place, just 25 yards away from the first weather mark after just 20 minutes of sailing (the race time limit was 90 minutes)!  Nevertheless, the teams headed back to San Diego YC with just one race completed to reconvene at the Club for the formal Lipton Cup banquet in the evening.

At the evening dinner, Commodore Sean Svendsen of St. Francis YC was doing his part to help the defending champions retain the Lipton Cup for another year. "The StFYC considers the Lipton Cup regatta to be one of the premier club challenge events in the country. We went after the 100th last year with the hopes of an historic win for our club. So, when you only win something once every 100 years, you really want to defend it in the 101st year. Many thanks to San Diego YC for hosting such an exceptional event. May it carry on another century."

J/105s sailing off San Diego city frontDay Three- Thrilling Light Air Finale
A beautiful November day in San Diego greeted competitors on the race course on Sunday for the last stretch of the Lipton Cup regatta. The Sunday forecast didn’t look any better than Saturday, so the Race Committee PRO Johnson tried hard to find a place for the course in San Diego Bay and give the teams a chance to finish the regatta.

After an hour-plus postponement, the wind flowed in gently from the west southwest at a streaky 6 knots. Race 7 began with a crowded start at the signal boat end. Long Beach YC sailed clear ahead followed by California YC and Southwestern. Half of the fleet went to the right side of the course, hugging the Harbor Island shore. Long Beach was first to the windward mark with a great set, a good 3-4 boat lengths ahead. Just behind just about overlapped were Southwestern and Annapolis. Annapolis made big strides on the second upwind leg and was able to finish first followed by Long Beach then Newport Harbor with New York YC finishing overlapped with them.

In Race 8, the signal boat end of the line was heavily favored, and Long Beach came out with an excellent start again followed by Southwestern then St. Francis. The majority of boats decided to head right toward the shore, Long Beach being the last boat to tack over that way. Newport Harbor moved ahead, first to round the windward mark, followed by Coronado and then SDYC. SDYC was flagged for a foul and completed a penalty turn, which put them back a few places to finish in seventh. Newport Harbor won the race followed by Southwestern and Annapolis who fell back to third. New York committed another OCS/ foul combo to sink any aspirations of a top three finish.

California YC had a good start in race 9; the fleet stayed together toward the right side, Newport Harbor continued to improve by taking the lead around the top mark. Newport Harbor and California headed to the far left side of the course, St. Francis and Coronado decided to head right. Newport Harbor continued their streak to win and the wind velocity increased to about 7.5 knots after race 9.

At 3:00 PM, the Race Committee was able to start a 10th and final race.  After a few boats were OCS, the fleet spread out, Chicago led the right side, and California led the 3 boats heading left. Annapolis came back as first to round and hoisted a gybe set, Southwestern headed to the right side of the course downwind. On the final windward mark roundings, Newport Harbor was in the lead but led the fleet off to the right side downwind.  The next two boats trailing gybed early onto port and ended up finishing 1st (Long Beach) and 2nd (Southwestern) with Newport Harbor in 3rd.  Shockingly, that one move cost Newport Harbor the entire Lipton Cup Challenge Trophy, little did they know!  While Long Beach celebrated their line honors, Newport Harbor soon realized they had ultimately thrown the regatta in the last gybe to the finish!

Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton Challenge CupBack at the SDYC docks, San Diego’s skipper Tyler Sinks, who was a recent winning skipper at the ISAF Team Race World Championships, weighed in on Sunday's racing; "Well, it was one of the toughest days sailing I've ever had. We ended up doing 4 races today, and at first, we were focusing on St. Francis, since they were closest to us in the standings. I think we did a really good job executing that plan. But, as we were putting points on St. Francis, Newport Harbor kind of snuck in the back door. Going in to the last race, they were 7 or 8 points behind us. We got off the line good, we had a good start, and we were actually beating them halfway up the first leg.  But, we missed a big shift and from there it felt like it was hard for us to find a lane, even downwind.  We could see Newport Harbor rounding quite far in front of us.  But, the team stuck together and these guys got the win, and I'm happy to be a part of a team like this."

A big “thank you” goes to Regatta Chairman Jeff Brown and regatta coordinator Joanne O'Dea who made this special event happen. Additional thanks to the dock team, boat maintenance team, the famous “Dockettes”, Jeff Johnson and the race committee, and the Jury for a well-run regatta.  In addition, Brown mentioned, “we greatly appreciate our regatta partners Tesla Motor, JK3 Yachts and McCarthy Holthus LLP for their support over the past two weekends!” Tracking information   Sailing photo credits- Cynthia Sinclair   For more Lipton Cup sailing information