Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Newport Harbor Wins Lipton Cup!

J/105 Lipton Cup winners- Newport Harbor YC (San Diego, CA)- The 102nd Challenge for the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup, San Diego Yacht Club’s signature fall regatta, was sailed on October 28-30, 2016. Twelve teams from around the country sailed the full round-robin of twelve races in evenly matched J/105s generously supplied by their owners. Representing the California contingent were Cabrillo Beach YC, California YC, Coronado YC, Long Beach YC, Newport Harbor YC, San Diego YC, San Francisco YC, Southwestern YC, and St. Francis YC.  Representing the East Coast were Eastern YC, Larchmont YC, and New York YC.

The song remained the same this year, with the three protagonists from the past three years dueling one another for the ultimate honor of being crowned Lipton Cup Champion.  All weekend-long, it was a mighty battle between Newport Harbor, St Francis and 2015 winners- San Diego.  In the end, the Newport Harbor team comprised of skipper Jon Pinckney, Bill Menninger, Michael Menninger, Greg Helias, JP Peschelt, and Peter Kinney, were crowned 2016 Lipton Cup Champions.  It was a very successful week for the Newport Harbor gang, the previous weekend it was Bill Menninger winning the International Masters Regatta with Pinckney as tactician!

New York YC J/105 crew at Lipton Cup in San DiegoDay One- Friday
In contrast to some pre-event forecasts, the breeze filled in nicely on Friday.  After a delay of about 20 minutes, races one and two began in 8 knots of wind with a battle between the California teams at the top of the fleet. Newport Harbor Yacht Club (NHYC), San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC), and St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) finished in the first three places in race one, and the three were tied for first place overall after race two. NHYC pulled out the win for race one and race three later on in the day, helping to solidify themselves as the day one leaders.

Jon Pinckney from NHYC said his strategy behind winning the first race was to "stay in the pressure and stay out of the other guys’ bad air. We just tried to get a clean start with clean air and we’ll try to do that for the next 11 races.”

Jon is no stranger to the San Diego Bay, having participated in SDYC's Masters Regatta last weekend. However, Jon said there is a difference between the Masters Regatta and the Lipton Cup this weekend. "This weekend is far more intense than last weekend. There’s more pressure. We keep coming to this event every year, and we were third two years ago and second last year. Last weekend was great, but the pressure is on for this weekend. It was good to get a win in the first race and get some of that pressure off.”

Larchmont Yacht Club won the second race after finishing eighth in the first race. Larchmont YC was the first team from out of state to win a race. Eastern Yacht Club in Massachusetts, another out of state team, finished second in race three.

After a brief delay, the course was changed slightly for race four once the wind speed was up to 7-8 knots. Though StFYC started out with the lead, Southwestern Yacht Club (SWYC) passed them on the first downwind leg and kept the lead to win race four.

Shala Youngerman, the skipper of the SWYC team, contributes her win to breathing and communicating well with her team. “I think the big strategy was that my tactician said 'don’t forget to breathe'. Breathing is very important. We got a nice, clean start and we were really, really patient to make sure that we didn’t tack too much or didn’t turn the boat too much. We kept our communication clear.”

J/105s rounding markDay 2- Saturday
Saturday was a picturesque day of racing. With bright, sunny skies and winds between 7 and 10 knots throughout the afternoon, the Race Committee ran five races and the competition stayed equally fierce throughout each race. San Diego Bay was packed with activity, from a Lipton Cup spectator fleet, to the Cortez Racing Association Halloween Regatta competitors, to kite-boarders practicing foiling and jumps.

Three of the twelve teams participating in this year's Lipton Cup are from the East Coast. Danny Pietsch, the skipper from Larchmont Yacht Club, is happy to be sailing in San Diego's warm weather for this event. “We’re from New York, but we love coming to San Diego- the weather, the people, the event itself. This is our second time at the Lipton Cup. We had a blast last year and were pumped to be invited back this year."

Feeding off the great weather and the bay energy was host club San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC) who were tied with Newport Harbor Yacht Club (NHYC) for first overall going into the last race. According to SDYC's skipper, Tyler Sinks, “The last race went well- we got second. We were shooting for top three, so we were pretty happy with the finish.”  That second place finish moved SDYC from second place to first place overall at the end of the day.

Most racers attributed their success to good starts and staying on the left side of the course where there was more pressure and strong ebb current in the main shipping channel. Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC) raced well today, finishing second in race five. After race five, skipper Shane Young reflected on his performance, "We did well. We had a tough time holding our lane off the start. The first run we caught a lot of boats, held on to the lead and stayed in the pressure. We ended up in second."

Young claims that his strategy on the downwind legs is a secret, but whatever he's doing is working because LBYC won race eight, and they are in fourth place overall after day two.

After a general recall during race six, NHYC started with a great lead, which they successfully maintained throughout the whole race to the finish line. Coronado Yacht Club, who is essentially racing in their own backyard, won race seven.

St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) had the most wins of the day, bookmarking their afternoon with winning race five and race nine. Perhaps StFYC skipper, Chris Raab, was trying to get off the water as quickly as possible to get ready for one of his favorite Lipton Cup traditions- the Saturday night dinner.  Raab says, "We started with a bullet and we ended with a bullet. We had a couple things go haywire in between, but we had a good team effort across the board. It was a great day for us and now we’re excited for the greatest party of all at SDYC!”

J/105 team- St Francis YC at Lipton CupDay 3- Sunday
The regatta ended dramatically on Sunday under ominous clouds and light rain. Despite challenging wind directions on San Diego Bay, the Race Committee ran three races, completing all twelve scheduled races for the weekend, meaning every team competed in each of the supplied J/105s with identically-matched sail inventories.

Newport Harbor Yacht Club (NHYC) won the first two races and even though they finished ninth in the third race, they were able to keep their overall lead and win the regatta by one point. NHYC finished third in 2014 and second in 2015, so it was game on to see if they could pull off the win this year.

The first race of the today was between Coronado Yacht Club (CorYC) and NHYC. CorYC was leading until the second weather mark when NHYC moved into first place, with a clean spinnaker hoist. Race two was a Southern California battle between San Diego Yacht Club (SDYC), Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC) and NHYC who were all neck and neck at the beginning of the race. LBYC passed SDYC on a tack and maintained their lead around the second weather mark and downwind to the finish.

Pinckney shared how he was successful both today and during the whole weekend. "We fought really hard and we had a really good team. I think one of keys was whenever we were down in the race, we were able to come back. There were two races we didn’t, but there were also a lot of other races when we did. The first two races today we started well, but the last race we had to battle once again. When you’re battling you have to rely on your whole team and everyone was really good.”

The skies opened up and it started raining for the final race of the day at 3pm in about 9 knots of wind. Almost the whole fleet rounded the first weather on top of each other, but St. Francis Yacht Club (StFYC) managed to break in front of the fleet and keep the lead until the finish. StFYC's win of the last race moved them up to a second place finish overall and just one point away from the overall win.  Finishing second in the race was San Francisco YC and taking third was Brian Keane’s team from New York YC.

StFYC's skipper, Chris Raab, knew where he needed to finish going into the last race. "I was thinking about how badly I screwed up in race eleven, so I knew we had to win the last race. It was an interesting race since SDYC and NHYC were so close. My strategy was to get ahead of NHYC, because once we get ahead, we stay strong and nobody catches us. So that's what we did."

J/105s starting at Lipton Cup in San DiegoDuring the awards ceremony, Pinckney reflected on his overall win, ”It feels really good. It's been a long time coming."  Pinckney commented further, “it’s hard sailing in the corner (of San Diego Harbor).  I mean, with the tide ebbing like crazy, if you don’t win the pin, you’re like shot out the back into the pack.  Life’s tough when that happens.  Rabo (Chris Raab) and Sinks (SDYC) really fought hard to get that pin end start, you saw that!  Sinks even rolled up his jib just to hang there head to wind- that’s how desperate they were to start at the pin. It’s crazy, man. Just plain crazy. Gotta fix that somehow, maybe skew the line about 10 degrees!  Then, today, with that breeze coming from the north and the rain?  Wow, we nearly got roasted.  And, putting the weather marks in under the hotels (Sheraton) or under that restaurant creates complete chaos.  Boats stalled at the weather mark with other’s flying in from both laylines makes for a scary scenario, we’re just happy to get out of there each time without getting hit!  In any event, kudos to San Diego YC, they run a great event and their volunteers are simply awesome!”

The Lipton Cup would like to thank its sponsors: Ballast Point, Helly Hansen, North Sails, Pacific Gate San Diego & Zeal Optics. And special thanks to the local J/105 owners for lending their boats to make this regatta possible.  For more J/105 Lipton Cup sailing information