The New York Canoe Club International Challenge Cup
Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia
The New York Canoe Club Cup is the second oldest international sailing trophy after the America's Cup. It was first raced for in 1876 and it bears the names of all the challengers, defenders and their boats. The team racing scoring system is unique in that, in a best-of-three series, it is only first place that counts, the winning boat taking the race for their country.
The races were held at McCrae YC following the Worlds. The Australian team won the right to challenge the United Kingdom team, and the representatives were Colin Brown, John Robson and Simon Allen for the UK, and Hayden Virtue, Seth Dunbar and Tim Wilson for Australia. Racing was over a short triangle/sausage course set close inshore for the spectators and started in warm sunny conditions with a light 4-5 knot wind for the opening race on 7th January.
Race 1: Tim Wilson sailed into the lead from Colin Brown and Hayden Virtue after the first beat. Simon Allen caught up with Colin and Hayden as Tim extended his lead down the reach. The Brits laid on a double cover on Virtue, who had to do turns at the wing mark. John Robson took a flyer and headed Tim by the start of the run. By the leeward mark Hayden had regained the lead, but in the light and shifty conditions the Race Officers had to second guess the shifts and debated options and shortening. However the wind filled in again allowing the race to continue. On the last beat Simon got past Seth to mount a challenge to Hayden but he sailed safely and conservatively covering Simon to the line and taking the first race for Australia. As he passed the committee boat he said that it was the most tense race he can remember sailing.
Race 2: At the start Colin Brown forced Hayden Virtue over the line and the Brits sailed into a comfortable lead. Simon Allen played the shifts beautifully to lead around the first mark in a dying breeze. He extended this lead on the first reach but with reports from all the marks of erratic and very feeble wind the Race Committee reluctantly abandoned the race. Competitors came ashore to await more wind.
Restarted Race 2: The breeze was up in the afternoon for the showdown and John Robson quickly asserted his heavier air sailing prowess to lead at the first mark. Hayden Virtue however had superior speed on all the downwind legs and although John closed up on every beat Hayden was never headed after taking the lead on the first reach. Australia therefore won the Cup with a 2-0 score-line despite valiant efforts by the British team.
At the prize giving in the evening it was stated that the Cup will be exhibited in either the Sydney or Freemantle Maritime museums. After a long sojourn in the UK (since 1993 - Ed.) it is good to see it going abroad and hopefully inspiring new fleets and sailors in the lead up to the next World Championships in Travemunde in 2011.