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On the Bay: October 23, 2009

What a weekend we had last week. After adults worked all week and children toiled in school, Mother Nature decided to reward all our efforts with a weekend filled with high winds, tons of rain and temperatures that were more normal for mid-December than for late October. Such are the vagaries of weather as those who spend a lot of time on the water know all too well.


The weather had an impact on many people, especially those who had signed up for the 2009 Manhasset Bay YC Fall Series. Way back when this regatta was started, the idea was to race when the wind was up on western Long Island Sound. Well, as the saying goes, be careful about what you wish for. The winds on Saturday started strong, and as the front moved by, it took the wind, forcing RC Chair, Commodore Sue Miller to postpone the second race. But by end of day, three races were completed, due, in part, to the expertise of the RC and the support boats that reacted quickly to the constantly changing wind conditions. On Sunday, all racing was cancelled, as the fierce nor’ easterly hit our area bringing sustained winds at 30 knots and gusts reported as high as 50. All sailors had the day off to do that “honey do” list that has been sitting on their desk for the last five months. Whether or not anything got accomplished is another story. Racers have a tendency to dodge activities that aren’t directly related to racing, tuning their boat, or spending time with crew and other racers rehashing their last race. Racing will resume next weekend, where Long Island Sound will again be the venue for the last race of the 2009 regular season.

After the conclusion of the Fall Series, the bay quiets down a bit. Boats are finding their way to their respective boatyards and are put to bed for the long winter season. Manhasset Bay is a bit quieter this time of year, but not entirely so. For now is the beginning of the frostbite season for those racers who prefer to race all year round. There is really something very special about this group of people. They are not the fanatics that many readers would think, but every day people who enjoy the cold weather (well, maybe that is a bit of a stretch) and an afternoon out in the elements on a Sunday afternoon is rather appealing. Competition in frostbiting is quite high, as all those sailors who raced in Sonars or MBOs or on Thirsty Thursday, have no other place to go other than frostbiting in either IC Dinghies, Ideal 18s or, new this year, Lasers. So one can just imagine how good the competition is when all these racers are on the starting line having a go at getting a good start. So some of you armchair racers, why not come out this year and try it. The racing is great and back on land the camaraderie is terrific, and the warmth of the fireplace and the good food are not bad either.

The New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup took place this past September and it turned out even better than anyone’s wildest imagination. With all the shenanigans with the American’s Cup, the NYYC decided to bring back the glory days when the Cup was raced in that “City by the Sea” in 1983, the last year the Cup was raced in Rhode Island Sound. This time around, the racing was not for the “Auld Mug,” but for the Invitational Cup, whose purpose is to revive amateur racing. “While the current America’s Cup competition is embroiled in legal contretemps, the New York Yacht Club is running an international event that features teams from as far away as China, Finland, Germany and New Zealand,” said event chair John Mendez. “The event will showcase the finest amateur sailors in the world and will be the most significant event that the New York Yacht Club has hosted in recent memory.”

While no one knew just what to expect, one could say with confidence that if the NYYC was putting over a year into planning for the event, the results would be absolutely spectacular. And it was. Nineteen teams from 14 nations participated in the inaugural NYYC Invitational Cup. This high profile regatta for amateur yacht club teams had all the pomp and ceremony – and yes, glory - of those days long ago that were associated with the American’s Cup. And if as a repeat of history, the NYYC’s team, skippered by Phil Lotz, on Arethusa, beat out the Canadian Terry McLaughlin by 11 points after four days of racing and 11 spectacular races on Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay. Among his crew was his wife, Wendy as navigator and his two sons Chris (mast man) and Doug (spinnaker trimmer). “We used tactician Ken Read’s (Newport, R.I.) patience in picking wind shifts and the crew’s flawless execution of maneuvers. They were key to the day and were the two things that got us through the regatta.”

Arethusa snagged the NYYC’s berth at the Invitational Cup after emerging as top boat in an elimination series that included the NYYC 155th Annual Regatta presented by Rolex and the 2009 Swan 42 National Championship, which it won. “We are very pleased and proud to be representing New York Yacht Club,” said Phil Lotz. “The core team has been sailing together since January, and this was a stated objective of the program.” Looking at the line-up for the Invitational Cup, Lotz added, “We have sailed against several of the skippers and crews, mostly the teams closer to the U.S., such as Bermuda and Canada. We have certainly heard of and know the reputations of many of the other skippers and teams, and we very much look forward to sailing against them. I think every team will be very competitive and tough to beat.”

For those who could not get to Newport for the festivities, which includes most of us, there will be a one-hour special on the New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, scheduled to air on Sunday, October 25 at 7 p.m. Eastern (4 p.m. Pacific) on ESPN2. Presented by Rolex, the program is produced by Emmy award-winning producer Gary Jobson and features highlights from racing among 19 teams from 14 nations as well as interviews with participants and side stories about Newport, Rhode Island, where the New York Yacht Club hosted the event in one-design NYYC Swan 42s. More information on the event can be found at

Phil Lotz and his crew on Arethusa are racing in the MBYC Fall Series, and have completed 3 races in the IRC division, with a scorecard for the first 3 races of 4, 3 and 2. It will be interesting to see if he can better his position and beat the frontrunner Leo Vasiliev on Peacemaker. There’s a lot more racing, and it should get very interesting around those marks. Stay tuned…