Newport Harbor Rules at Global Team Race Regatta

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Global Team Race Regatta

You could be forgiven for thinking that Newport Harbor Yacht Club was the home team at the 2022 Global Team Race Regatta. There’s the name, for starters. But also the comfort level displayed by the eight-person team during the three-day event. Newport Harbor looked right at home winning 23 of 25 races, including it’s final nine in a row, to claim the third edition of this international two-on-two team race championship. In fact, Newport Harbor Yacht Club hails from the other coast, from Newport Beach, Calif. The home team was the New York Yacht Club, which hosted the event and finished second. The Corinthian Yacht Club of Marblehead, Mass., defeated St. Francis Yacht Club from San Francisco in the battle for third. The top international team was Royal Cork Yacht Club of Ireland in fifth.

“For us, it’s huge,” says Justin Law, team captain for Newport Harbor Yacht Club. “Newport Harbor Yacht Club is very much a team-racing club. We put our heart and soul into two-on-two, 3v3, 4v4 and basically our entire calendar year is built for team racing. Coming here and winning is fantastic.”

The Global Team Race Regatta was conceived by the New York Yacht Club, which hosted the first edition in October 2018. A second edition of the Global Team Race Regatta was held in England in 2019. The third edition was scheduled for Italy in 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-10 pandemic, and eventually rescheduled for this summer in Newport, R.I., where it was held July 22 to 24 out of the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court.

Click here for 2022 entries & team rosters

Team Racing, which features two teams of two of four boats each sailing against one another in a close-quarters win-or-lose format, is popular around the world. World Sailing ran the Team Racing World Championship 10 times between 1995 and 2015. That event featured three-on-three competition in two-person dinghies, which favored teams of younger and lighter sailors.

While the fundamentals are very much the same, the Global Team Race Regatta uses the two-on-two format, making the competition easier to follow. The team with the last boat across the finish line in an individual race loses the race. The Global Team Race Regatta also uses keelboats instead of dinghies, making the competition accessible to a wider variety of sailors—both from a size and age perspective—and brings the added complexity of spinnakers into the mix.

According to Law, it was the use of spinnakers that helped Newport Harbor get off to a strong start in the round-robin portion of the regatta.

“The first two days, [it was] very much boathandling [that gave NHYC an edge],” says Law. “In that medium-light air, if you can just keep the spinnaker full, keep your boat moving, things are a lot simpler.”

Newport Harbor won all 10 races in the initial full-fleet round robin and then dropped just two of 10 races in the Gold-Fleet double round-robin, which included the top six teams. Momentum can be fleeting in team racing, and this is especially true when, as was the case today, the top four teams are seeded into a knock-out tournament. A dramatic change in the wind conditions, and the race committee prohibiting spinnakers due to the increased breeze, only added to the sense that the regatta was effectively starting over for the top four teams.

“We weren’t really sure what was going to happen today,” says Law. “Once you took the spinnakers down, it kind of reset the racing, and with knockouts you can never be too comfortable.”

Any fears of a letdown were largely unfounded. Newport Harbor dispatched St. Francis Yacht Club 2-0 in the semifinal round and then did the same with the team representing the host New York Yacht Club in the finals.

“Today, with the breeze on, it was just keeping things simple,” says Law. “There wasn’t a race today where we felt we were faster than a team. Today was matter of hanging on and choosing your moments.”

In the final, the key moment in both races was the start. Newport Harbor wanted to start to the right of their opposition as they felt it gave them a small advantage at the first windward mark. In both races, Newport Harbor rounded the first mark in first and second.

“It’s really hard in these [windy] conditions for someone to overtake you downwind and really mix it up,” says Law.

One of the missions of the Global Team Race Regatta is to foster growth of team racing around the world, particularly outside the traditional power centers, the United States and Great Britain. While the top four teams all hailed from the United States, Phil Lotz, the event chair and a past commodore of the New York Yacht Club, was encouraged by the enthusiasm displayed by teams from places like Japan and Belgium, where team racing isn’t as common.

“We believe we’re making progress,” says Lotz, citing the popularity of team racing events in the Optimist class, the continued growth of two-on-two adult keelboat racing in Europe and the growing activity in the U.S. “We want to increase the international competitions at a high level to the point that all regions of the world are represented.”

While most U.S. team racing uses the three-on-three format, Lotz remains convinced the decision to run this event using the two-on-two model is correct.

“There are fewer boats required, and it’s a little easier to learn the skills,” says Lotz. “The two-on-two format has contributed to the growth in Europe and even some growth in the U.S. and outside the traditional team-race locations. We’ll continue to focus on two-on-two for this regatta as it seems to be the platform that supports the most growth.”

The 2023 edition of the Global Team Race Regatta is tentatively scheduled for the Solent in England in September. Additional details will be forthcoming in the near future.