Team racing is a sport of split-second decisions. A moment of hesitation can quickly undo a promising race. A good day on the water can often be broken into a series of smart moves that can seem extrasensory in nature. But there’s still a lot of value in long-range planning and a methodical approach. Just ask Phil Lotz, the captain of the New York Yacht Club team that won the Grandmasters Team Race today at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court.
“I worked early in the year to make sure we had the right team,” says Lotz, a past New York Yacht Club Commodore who won the right to represent the team at an intraclub team race event in May. “We sailed a little bit since then. All the skippers Sam (Altreuter), Billy (Tripp) and I sailed what we could. We had an excellent crew that’s sailed with us for years. All the skippers have their wives on board, and then we had some excellent tacticians.”
The planning and the practice was evident as Lotz’s team went 16-2 during the three-day regatta and beat archrival Texas Corinthian Yacht Club—the two-time defending champion—both of the times the two teams squared off. TCYC finished second with 14 wins while Newport Harbor Yacht Club was third with 13.
The New York Yacht Club helped usher in a new era of adult team racing with the creation of the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy in 2000. That race, which requires skippers to be at least 45 years of age and crew to be over 40, was soon followed by the New York Yacht Club Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Morgan Cup, an all-ages event, in 2003 and, in 2010, the New York Yacht Club Grandmasters Team Race Regatta, which mandates skippers be at least 60 years of age and crew at least 50. The three team races are traditionally held over consecutive weekends in August at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, using the Club’s fleet of 22 Sonar keelboats, and annually attract some of the best adult team racers in the United States and Europe. New York Yacht Club Regatta Association sponsors for 2023 include Helly Hansen, Hammetts Hotel and Safe Harbor Marinas.
To find the missing ingredient to best Texas Corinthian Yacht Club, which has dominated racing on the grandmasters circuit of late, Lotz recruited the heart of the New York Yacht Club team that won the Hinman Trophy last weekend. More talent doesn’t always translate into more wins. As with many other sports, team chemistry is very important.
“We worked through that,” says Lotz. “We introduced some new people this year, had a little discussion on the comfort level because these are people we haven’t sailed with before. But they’re excellent sailors and we wanted to bring some new people in.”
In the end, Lotz and his team needed every scrap of advantage it could find as Texas Corinthian Yacht Club once again brought a polished unit to the Grandmasters Team Race and then jumped out to an early lead by winning its first eight races. New York Yacht Club Lotz stumbled right out the gate and had to play catch up.
“We knew it was going to be a shootout, those guys are so good,” he says. “We lost our first race, which was against Newport Harbor, which was like, ‘Uh oh, what’s going on here.’ It was light, they sailed great and we just weren’t awake yet, I guess. But then we sailed against Texas [at the end of the first round-robin] and beat them and then we sailed a perfect day today which we knew we had to do. We were one down in theory so we had to win every race.”
A perfect run in the second round-robin set up a deciding match between New York Yacht Club Lotz and Texas Corinthian Yacht Club in the regatta’s penultimate race. The race was run under the kilo flag, which means no spinnakers can be used.
“When it’s that windy I think the team racing is better without the chutes,” says Lotz. “It takes a little bit of a questionable thing out of it, keeps everybody in the game and makes it tight. We knew (that final race) was going to be a nail-biter, it was breezy, which we like, no spinnakers. We got off to a good start, but it was a fistfight all the way around the course. We were tacking and jibing a lot. That long downwind leg is where a lot of stuff happens, a lot of jibing back and forth, and positioning so you get where you want to be at the leeward mark. We got it just right at the leeward mark and we able to trap two of their guys.”
Just like he drew it up back in the spring.
While Texas Corinthian fell short of the three-peat, the little club on Galveston Bay did claim the Peter Wilson Trophy, which is awarded annually to the best scoring yacht club in a series of four grandmasters-level team racing. Newport Harbor Yacht Club finished second, losing a tiebreaker with TCYC, with New York Yacht Club third.