Wednesday, November 8, 2017

San Diego YC Tops J/105 Lipton Cup Challenge

J/105 Lipton Cup winners- San Diego YC (San Diego, CA)- The 103rd Challenge for the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup hosted by San Diego Yacht Club invited twelve yacht club teams from California, New York, and Illinois.  After three days of racing, it was “clear as mud” which team was going to walk away with the coveted Sir Thomas Lipton Cup, a massively beautiful piece of silverware donated for this event by the famous “tea baron” from the United Kingdom.  In the end, proving their resiliency yet again in very tough, tactical conditions, it was the young Tyler Sinks leading the host team- the San Diego YC crew- to the overall victory on the last day over their arch-rivals, and nemesis, the 2016 victors Newport Harbor YC skippered by Jon Pinckney.  In this regatta, it has held true that “the opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings”; any one of three teams could have won going into the last race.

All races were sailed on the San Diego fleet of J/105s in North Bay on the normal venue…bordered by downtown San Diego and the U.S.S. Midway to the east, to the south the US Navy’s North Island (without a 1,200 ft carrier this year), and to the north by Harbor Island with the Sheraton Hotels at San Diego Airport.  Typically, with the breeze in the Southwest to Northwest quadrants, the ship channel next to the North Island Navy base is a significant factor for current, mostly westerly flowing at up to a full knot.

This year, the conditions were pretty basic San Diego, light, sunny... 6-10kts from the northwest for the first two days.  The last day was from the south, very puffy, streaky and shifty, and made for some fun shorter legs with up to three laps! Here is how it all went down. 

Day One- Light stuff
Racing in the northern part of San Diego harbor, the SDYC RC/ PRO team managed to run the first four races.  It was certainly a light day with the breeze hanging around 5-6 knots all day. The heaviest air that Race Committee saw was 8 knots, but unfortunately it did not stay for long and competitors were mostly battling in light air with some current. Because of the light air, Race Committee shortened the course during races 1, 2, and 3. Race 4 was not shortened, but the wind was shifting to the right for a large portion of the race.

The sailing was hugely variable because of the fact that almost every team in the event was in the top 3 boats at any given mark rounding throughout the afternoon!

There were four different race winners on this day.  Race 1 went to Commodore Phil Lotz from New York Yacht Club.  Race 2 went to Shane Young from Long Beach Yacht Club.  Race 3 to Chris Perkins from San Francisco Yacht Club.  And, race 4 to Jon Pinckney from Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

At the end of the day, only four points separated positions one through three. Interestingly enough, the top three teams after day one are the only non-California teams participating!  That was another historical “first” for the Lipton Cup!

The top three teams after day one were Chicago Yacht Club with the young Will Holz as skipper in first place; the New York Yacht Club led by Commodore Lotz in second; and Larchmont Yacht Club’s Danny Pletsch in third. Notably, all three of these teams were vying for their first win of the Lipton Cup trophy.

Back at SDYC's guest dock after racing, Chicago Yacht Club skipper Will Holz shared his successful strategy for the day.  "Today it was all about grinding back from bad situations. If I found myself in 9th or 10th at a mark rounding, I tried to grind one boat at a time to get rid of those double-digit races. We focused on our starts for the most part; if you had a good start, you were likely rounding top 6. Other than that, we just tried to stay fast and I tried to let my crew run the boat while I steered. We have a lot of talented sailors on board, so I tried to put ourselves in a position to let them rumble."

Philip Lotz, skipper and 2017 Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, shared what it was like to win the first of the twelve scheduled races for the three-day regatta.  "Race one was the first race out of the shoot for us. We had a clean start, we got going a little to the left, and we actually stayed in the middle of the race course on the first leg, trying to connect the dots on the breeze lines. We were one of the first boats at the weather mark and we got to the downwind left on the spinnaker run. We got lucky there with more breeze, came in first at the gate, and held that lead for the rest of the race."

The team from Larchmont Yacht Club, skippered by Danny Pletsch, had some challenges today, but is still third going into Saturday. "Overall, we did well today although we made a few different mistakes that got the umpire involved. Aside from that, we feel that we sailed really well and we feel good. Right now we are in the power of 3s- we got 7th the first year and 4th last year so now it's win or go home. We're pumped for tomorrow."

Day Two- Roller-coaster Scorelines
The second day started out similarly to the previous day’s conditions. The marine layer burned off by 10:00 am and wind at 3-5 knots greeted the racers heading out to the course by 11:00 am. The race committee worked hard, managing a very busy San Diego Bay and was able to get five races off, completing Race 9 around 5:00 pm.

With clear skies and a clear start, the first race of the day got underway and Long Beach YC was ahead right off the line. The team was able to maintain their lead the entire race and secured the top spot. Competitors learned early on that the left side of the course was paying as they followed the leader on the second beat. Long Beach skipper Shane Young said of their victory, “Our game plan was to keep it clean, minimize mistakes, get off the line and we did exactly what we planned.” Meanwhile, San Diego YC continued where they left off yesterday finishing second and Newport Harbor YC got into a consistent groove finishing third and decided that was as low as they were going to go the rest of the day!

Race 6 began with another clear start and Southwestern YC found themselves second row off the line and threw in a tack briefly before returning to join the rest of the fleet on the left side once again. San Francisco YC and San Diego YC had an excellent match race starting at the first weather mark rounding. At the leeward gate, both boats rounded simultaneously and tried to make gains on their second upwind leg. San Diego YC took the win and got their first taste of the top spot in the 2017 regatta.

Balboa YC, eager to improve their streak of ninths, had an aggressive start and was OCS for Race 7; but, was able to make it up and finish third. St. Francis YC also managed to improve their score for the third race of the day. During a flurry of protests at the second windward mark rounding, St. Francis YC was able to stay focused, with clean maneuvers and round the mark in second before setting off for their final run to the finish. They crossed the line in second to secure their best race of the regatta so far. Newport Harbor YC also capitalized at the second windward mark rounding while their fellow competitors were making penalty turns and they took first for race seven. Skipper Jon Pinckney said, “With everyone slowing down, it opened up the lead for us... we were the benefactor of a huge pile up at the weather mark. Sometimes the luck goes your way in the Lipton Cup.” Surely, the Newport Harbor team hopes that luck continues into the final day!

Racers had some external challenges in Race 8 with some major shipping traffic; thankfully, all boats were able to maintain their course. SDYC jumped ahead and Coronado YC got in the game for a top three spot. After the first weather mark rounding, all teams stayed to the left side of the course and Coronado YC decided to go right. Three year veteran Lipton Cup skipper Patrick Powell later said, “I think this was the first race you had to go right a little bit and we played the shifts really well.”

Race 9 got off to a rocky start with a postponement followed by a general recall. Once the boats were off the line, they were ready to sail fast. Cal YC was first to the windward mark on the first beat and held the number one spot until the finish. Newport Harbor YC landed in second and Larchmont YC improved from placing fifth in Race 8 to third in the final race of the day.

Day Three- Dramatic Finale
The final day began with a postponement while breeze filled in from the South. The SDYC Race Committee was able to get the first race off at 1:45pm setting a shorter, 3-lap course across the bay that was key in achieving all 3 races needed to complete the regatta.

The sun was just breaking through the clouds at the start of Race 10. Chicago YC was OCS, St. Francis YC won the boat end, and Larchmont YC had a great start at the pin; but was soon rolled by San Diego YC. Chicago YC recovered from their start moving into third at the first windward mark rounding. With lots of lead changes throughout the 6-leg course, it was anybody’s race. Cal YC found themselves in great pressure sailing deep on the second run. They were able to keep that momentum and secure the top seat in the first race of the last day. Larchmont had an impressive race as well, finishing second, their best race of the regatta. This morning, main trimmer, Chad Corning, talked about going into the final day, “It’s a hard regatta, the Lipton Cup, to stay consistent. So, today we just want to get some good starts.”

Consistency came into play in Race 11, as there were not nearly as many lead changes throughout the race. The fleet stayed in the middle to right on the course and there was a change of course to the right for the 3rd leg. At the finish, the results were completely shaken up from Race 10 as Cal YC went from first to twelfth and Coronado came up to take the top spot. Balboa YC also made a big leap to second whereas they finished eleventh in the previous race. Meanwhile San Diego YC and Newport Harbor YC earned a fourth and a sixth respectively for both Race 10 and 11, fighting their point battle further back in the fleet.

At the start of the dramatic 12th and final race of the series, San Diego YC was sitting in first place overall with 47 points, Newport Harbor YC in second with 48 points, and San Francisco YC in third with 55 points. And in the event of a tiebreaker, Newport Harbor YC would have had the edge.

It was very quiet as the Race Committee sent the boats on their way up the course. The fleet was even off the line and New York YC was in the lead at the first windward mark rounding. Newport Harbor YC made their way through the fleet on the first three legs and approaching the second windward mark rounding were in the lead, but were just under the layline. As they stalled and slowly managed to get around the mark, Chicago YC and San Diego YC were able to pass by. Chicago YC lead the pack for a little while until Coronado YC sailed in front on the last run of the regatta getting another first. San Diego YC came in at seventh and Newport Harbor YC in tenth resulting in a 4 point overall win for the San Diego team as they won the regatta and brought the Lipton Cup trophy back home to SDYC.

San Diego YC had a tough first day of the regatta but improved throughout, seeing their best scores Saturday, which put them neck and neck with Newport Harbor YC, the defending 2016 Lipton Cup champs. After the victory, San Diego YC skipper, Tyler Sinks, said, “It feels like redemption. Having won and lost once before – it’s definitely more fun to win than to lose.”

SDYC Commodore John Reiter talked about the win and regatta. “The future of the sport is in provided boats. We had visionaries back in 2010 that helped to make this event one of the best of the best. The 2017 Lipton Cup win was a great way to cap off a strong year.”  For more J/105 Lipton Cup sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.