Strong American teams topped the leaderboard at the Royal Thames Cumberland Cup, the international team racing challenge for the world’s leading yacht clubs at the weekend.
The cup was won by New York Yacht Club who had built a clear lead over three days of closely-fought racing between the eight teams competing for the only major international keelboat event regularly hosted in London.
Launched in 2008, the Cumberland Cup, raced in four-handed J80s, is regarded as the most important two-boat team racing event in the world. Raced in Royal Thames YC-owned J80s on Queen Mary Reservoir, west London, with support from Audemars Piguet, the club has been forced to select entries on a “first come, first served” basis as interest in the event has built.
This year’s teams were from Eastern Yacht Club (Marblehead, MA), New York YC, Seawanhaka Corinthian YC (Long Island), Southern YC (New Orleans), Royal Northern and Clyde YC (Scotland), Royal Perth YC (Australia), Island Royals (a combined team from Royal London YC, Royal Corinthian YC and Royal Yacht Squadron) and the Royal Thames YC.
The event began with 30-knot gusts forcing cancellation of Thursday’s practice. Racing runs virtually non-stop with each two-boat team competing against every other team in races typically of under 10 minutes. The winner in each four-boat race is the team avoiding having the last boat across the line.
After Saturday’s racing, New York YC was in a dominant position with 10 wins from 11 races. However, Seawanhaka Corinthian YC was in hot pursuit with eight wins out from nine races, closely followed by Eastern YC. With another 16 races to go to complete a second round robin, victory was very much up for grabs on Sunday.
The box-shaped course, with starboard mark roundings and no spinnakers produced highly tactical and aggressive racing. New York YC continued with their run and by race 45 had only dropped one result. The race committee stopped the second round-robin at race 45 with all teams having completed the majority of their races. Race 45 saw Seawanhaka Corinthian YC take on Eastern YC to choose a finalist to go up against the team from New York.
The race took around 25 mins with frequent lead changes, luffing matches and tactical mark roundings. The team from Seawanhaka grabbed victory on the final leg and earned their place in the final against New York YC. Eastern YC claimed third place in the cup.
The final was a best-of-three match between New York YC and Seawanhaka Corinthian YC with the first victory going to NYYC. In the next race NYYC clinched another victory on the finish line to seal their overall win.
Stu Saffer, team captain of NYYC, said: “The race was intense. We had a hard time against the boys from Seawanhaka. They raced well and got us into some tight corners. However, we pulled the two races out of the bag in the end and are really pleased with our win”.
Saturday’s 10-knot breeze had also seen highly competitive racing. Larry Ehrhardt, team captain from Eastern Yacht Club said: “The lead changes four or five times in a race with the finishes being pretty nail-biting in most instances. The light air is really giving us a chance to race aggressively, which we love.”
The cup has its origins in the late 18th century, in what was the sport’s first ever open regatta. The Royal Thames Yacht Club began in 1775 in London as the Cumberland Sailing Society. That year the Duke of Cumberland gave a cup for a regatta for the, until then, miscellaneous fleet of yachts that had been holding yacht races on the Thames since the first recorded yacht race, from Greenwich to Gravesend and back, in 1661. It is the oldest yacht club in Britain, and probably the world, with a demonstrable continuous history.
Final (best of three races)
New York Yacht Club: two wins – winner
Seawanhaka Corinthian YC: 0 wins – runner-up
Cumulative scores of the round-robins:
Eastern Yacht Club: 7 wins out of 12 races – third placed
Southern YC: 5.5 wins out of 11 races
Royal Thames YC: 5.5 wins out of 12 races
Royal Northern & Clyde YC: 4 wins out of 11 races
Island Royals: 2.5 wins out of 11 races
Royal Perth YC: 0 wins out of 11 races