NEWPORT, R.I. – With steady sailing across a full range of conditions and against a fleet of determined opponents, the Royal Thames Yacht Club (London, U.K.) claimed the championship at the inaugural Global Team Race Regatta, a two-on-two keelboat team race hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, in Newport, R.I., October 5 to 7. The octet of sailors from the historic London yacht club won 18 of 21 races over the course of three days. The team representing the host New York Yacht Club finished second with a 16 wins and five losses. St Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco) was third at 15-6 and Reale Circolo Canottieri Tevere Remo (Rome, Italy) fourth with a 14-7 record.
“We’re really pleased,” said Royal Thames team captain Ben Field (front row, second from left). “One of the great things about two-on-two is that it’s never really over [until the fourth boat cross the finish line]. We just keep sticking to the game plans and nibbling away and hopefully we’ll get the result that we want. It is good that some of us have sailed together for a long time, Me and Andy, the other helmsman, have sailed together for almost 20 years in various team races.”
A dozen teams from 10 countries, including Japan (right), Argentina and Australia, traveled to Newport for a frenetic weekend of sailing at the very end of the northeast sailing season. They were rewarded with wind from 5 to 20 knots, a matched fleet of 22 Sonar keelboats, an efficient race committee that cranked out 126 races and the unparalleled hospitality of the New York Yacht Club. Proponents of team racing, including New York Yacht Club Commodore Phil Lotz, who threw his full support behind the event, hope the Global Team Race Regatta will spur team racing’s ascendancy to the pinnacle of competitive small-boat sailing, the Olympic Games. Of course, one successful team race isn’t going to sufficiently charm the International Olympic Committee, but there was nonetheless a lot riding on this event.
“This regatta was very much a proof-of-concept event,” said event chair Steven Wolff, who also served as one of the umpires for the event. “Given the number of unknowns, we couldn’t be more pleased with the final product. It was an incredibly successful test. Royal Thames is a worthy champion. But it was really great to see how everyone progressed and learned over the weekend, including the competitors, umpires and race organizers. There’s a lot here to build upon for the second edition next September in England.”
While the basic tenets of two-on-two team racing are the same as the more ubiquitous three-on-three and four-on four versions, the two-on-two game has a few advantages when it comes to progressing as a global sport. Fewer boats means fewer sailors per team and easier logistics for regatta hosts. The scoring is also much simpler. In two-on-two, the team of whatever boat crosses the finish line last loses the race.
Filippo Molinari is the president of the 2K Team Racing International Association, which is charged with promoting two-on-two team racing. He is also an avid competitor and sailed this weekend as part of the team from the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Italy.
“The organization and the people here were incredible,” he said. “We had a fantastic three days of racing and one day of practicing, so we had a very long weekend. It was tiring, but very satisfying. For the YCCS team, it was satisfying sailing. For the 2K Association, it was fantastic to build up this relationship with New York Yacht Club and the other teams that came from very far away. We hope that, with the help of the NYYC, it’s going to grow.”
While there’s a lot of work still to do, the enthusiasm of the nearly 100 competitors combined with the announcement that the Royal Yacht Squadron will hold the second edition of the Global Team Race in Cowes, England, next September, would seem to indicate that two-on-two team racing is on the right track.
Final results here!