O'Leary and de Barros set the benchmark
Even as a light snow decorated daffodils breaking through the ground around New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court, the realization that the 2011 sailing season in the northern hemisphere is not far off has been confirmed by the announcement of two skippers who will lead their yacht club teams in the upcoming New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. The biennial event, which puts its primary focus on Corinthian competition by virtue of allowing only non-professional sailors to compete, made its debut in 2009 to widely acclaimed success and returns to Newport on 10-17 September. After a qualifying event for 24 of America’s foremost yacht clubs was run during its off-year, a firm roster of 19 participating clubs was announced and it is now expected that additional entries will bring the event close to its maximum number of 24.
While several participating yacht clubs will hold a sail-off to determine their 2011 team rosters, two clubs have set the standard by confirming their team captains. Royal Cork Yacht Club will return to the event with Anthony O’Leary who led the Irish entry to a fifth-place finish in 2009; and first-time participant Clube Naval de Cascais will have Patrick Monteiro de Barros at the helm of the Portuguese team.
O’Leary made sporting headlines in February when he was awarded the Afloat Irish Independent Sailor of the Year award in recognition of his on-the-water accomplishments during 2010, the highlight of which was his performance at the helm of his Ker 39 Antix in the Rolex Commodores' Cup that allowed Ireland to take a commanding overall win. O’Leary is the head of a well-known sailing family from Cork that includes sons Peter, a 2008 Olympian in the Star class, and Nicholas, who was tactician for the 2009 Invitational Cup and is the only three consecutive times ISA All-Ireland Sailing Champion. Yet to set his crew list for the Invitational Cup, O’Leary has confirmed that he will draw from the crew that sailed together in the Rolex Commodores' Cup which included Peter, as well as his youngest son Robert.
“We will continue to sail Antix up to mid-season in handicap fleets, as our boat is similar in characteristics to the Swan 42,” said O’Leary of his preparations for the Invitational Cup while also noting that he and his crew had not been on a Swan 42 prior to the 2009 event, or since. “Closer to September we will focus more on one-design sailing which is really the ultimate challenge as shown in the Invitational Cup. Apart from our not finishing on the podium, there was not a single disappointing aspect of the 2009 regatta! The entire event was a great experience - strict one-design sailing in a truly international event, superbly organized by a wonderful club.”
With a lengthy and varied sailing resume, Patrick Monteiro de Barros is a legend in sailing circles. Representing Portugal at the Olympic Games, twice in the Finn (1968, ’72) and twice in the Star (‘84 and ’88), de Barros was awarded the Medal for Fair Play by Juan Antonio Samaranch at the 1988 Olympics in Korea after he rescued a drowning woman while on the way to a team dinner. He has twice circumnavigated the globe, dipped his toe in the America’s Cup arena and was instrumental in bringing the 2007 ISAF World Sailing Championship to his homeport of Cascais, a coastal town similar in size to Newport, R.I.
To determine who will compete on the Portuguese team de Barros has established a comprehensive sailing program with some 15 days of sailing planned. In addition to chartering a 40ft yacht which has features similar to the Swan 42, de Barros has also arranged to practice on a Swan 42 in France before leaving for Newport in late August. “Our program is essentially aimed at boat handling, tactics and physical condition,” said de Barros, adding that only one of the team has previous experience on a Swan 42. “We will have a team of 15 candidates, and we rotate some sailors in different positions. Final selection will be made in late July based on performance.”
The NYYC Swan 42 – the eighth one-design class created by NYYC since 1900 – is the competitive vehicle for the NYYC Invitational Cup. The result of a 2005 design contest with a goal of creating a Corinthian class of racer/cruiser, the NYYC Swan 42, unlike previous NYYC one-design classes, was developed to be a global class with fleets run and organized outside NYYC. Known abroad as the Club Swan 42, today there are 50 of the keelboats globally with active one-design racing in the USA and Europe, as well as participation worldwide in IRC events. For the NYYC Invitational Cup presented by Rolex most competitors are sailing chartered boats, while several are bringing their own. Sails are supplied by NYYC, and rigs tuned and then locked down, making the boats as one-design as possible and putting a premium on the sailors' skills.
"From its inception, it was envisioned that the NYYC Swan 42 would be used to encourage ‘friendly competition’ between world-class yacht clubs,” said Dr. Paul Zabetakis, president of the NYYC Swan 42 Class. “In part due to the success of the first NYYC Invitational Cup, the class has indeed experienced a healthy growth beyond the enthusiastic support of NYYC members. That growth led to the ability of NYYC to host an Invitational Cup in 2009 that witnessed two yacht clubs bringing their own Swan 42s. This year about 19 yacht club teams will compete, and of those, five will be sailing their own boats. Clearly, the boat has exceeded the growth expectations and vision as outlined in 2005.”