Elation and Heartbreak as Qualifying Wraps Up on Day 2 of the 2016 Resolute Cup

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16 September 2016

NEWPORT, R.I. (September 15, 2016) — The 2016 Resolute Cup is only half over, but Jay Mills and the rest of the team from Shelter Island (N.Y.) Yacht Club (above) have plenty of reason to celebrate. After 12 up-and-down races they were the final team from the Blue Group to qualify for the Gold Fleet, which means they have some good news to report back to the membership of the SIYC in Eastern Long Island.

"Our membership was really behind [this campaign], from a fund-raising perspective they were instrumental in making it happen," said Mills. "When someone donates money that's not tax-deductible to a cause that they're not really sure what it means, it's a relief to show them that it paid off and that we live to try for another day."

The 2016 Resolute Cup features teams from 28 yacht clubs from all corners and coasts of the United States. Each team is comprised of three or four amateur sailors, all members of the club they represent. The first two days of the regatta were used to select the 10 teams that will sail the final two days in the Melges 20s for the Resolute Cup and a pair of spots in the 2017 Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. The remaining 18 will sail in the Sonars for Silver Fleet honors. The 2016 Resolute Cup is sponsored by Porsche, Helly Hansen and Melges Performance Sailboats.

Mills and two of his three crew members sailed in the 2014 U.S. Qualifying Series, the predecessor to the Resolute Cup. While the Shelter Island team made the Gold Fleet and finished on a strong note in fifth place, Mills feels their inexperience in sportboats stood between them and the podium. So their preparation for this year, in addition to the usual sailing in Shelter Island's Etchells fleet, involved quite a bit of time in a Melges 20.

"Two years ago we worked really hard at the event trying to get our sea legs [in the sportboat]," said Mills. "The sport boat was where we struggled early. We excelled toward the end of the regatta, but we didn't have enough runway. So this go around we knew that we needed to put more effort into the sport boat. So we made some arrangements to have a boat available to us in April. We went to the training event in Newport. That was really important to us."

The regatta got off to a rocky start, with a 12th in the first race. Mills and his team recovered well enough in the remaining six races in the Sonar to finish Day 1 in sixth, one point out of qualifying. The time spent practicing in the Melges 20—along with a go-for-broke approach—resulted in a strong start to Day 2, but the two final races were less than stellar, leaving the Shelter Island team to sweat the math—they had a bye for the final race—before finally learning they had qualified by 7 points.

"We like being in the position where we made mistakes going into the championship round," said Mills. "We know what we've been doing poorly and how to improve that. We're going to go into the next two days hopefully peaking and bringing out a first or a second."

As with any sailing event, there's a multitude of paths to the top. The team from the New York Yacht Club met each other in person for the first time four days before racing started. The trio was assembled from a group of interested members and unlike every other team, featured a pair of helmsman: Drew Wierda for the Melges 20 and Garrett Woodworth. Tactician Colin Smith rounded out the crew.

It was an approach with plenty of risk, from whether the sailors would get along to the fact that midway through the qualifying series the team would have to switch boats and completely reconfigure the crew. But there was also some upside.

"This event has a really unique format and we sort of set up our team in a way that would help us take advantage of that," said Woodworth (at right, at the helm). "We approached the Melges 20 from the standpoint of, 'Let's go fast, let's try to be in the hunt and we'll get some great practice and sail together as a team,' which we haven't been able to do as much. We did switch drivers and that was where we had to change how we're doing our communication, so it took us a little bit to get that sorted out. And the conditions to start the day were very different for the rest of the day. Once the breeze moderated and the course became more of a double-sided course that really helped us out. Hitting shifts and getting off the line were a lot easier in the afternoon.

New York started Day 2 with a 12, which would be their throwout, but improved quickly from there, finishing seventh in Race 2, fourth in Race 3, and then not worse than third in the remaining four races. At the end of the day, the host team tied Southern Yacht Club for the best score on Day 2 in the Red Group and finished second in the overall standings, comfortably qualifying for the Gold Fleet.

"I give major props to [New York Yacht Club] Vice Commodore Phil Lotz and the Sailing Committee for putting together three guys [who had never sailed before]," said Wierda. "We met on Saturday at noon and said, 'Hey how are you.' and some of these teams have been practicing in the 20s all summer. We clicked. The learning curve isn't going to stay at the rate it is, but now it's pretty high."

For the 28 teams competing, the game will change once again for Day 3. A different breeze—a fickle easterly—is expected. The top 10 teams will all be sailing Melges 20s; the other 18 will battle in the Sonars. While every team came into this event with the hope of qualifying for the Gold Fleet, the amazing depth of talent—three quarters of the fleet finished in the top three in at least one race during qualifying—means the competition for the Silver Fleet will be just as intense as it is for the grand prize.

Racing will start tomorrow at 1030. A live, multi-camera webcast, with commentary from America's Cup sailor Andy Green and America's Cup umpire Brad Dellenbaugh, will allow sailing fans, and fellow yacht club members, from around the country to follow and root on their team. The LiveStream broadcast can be found here. Live tracking of each race can be found here, or via the TracTrac app for iPhones and Android devices.

Team Rosters: Click here

Social Media: Follow the Resolute Cup on Facebook and Instagram(#resolutecup)

2016 Resolute Cup
New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, Newport, R.I.
Qualifying Series Preliminary Results*
For race-by-race results, click here
Gold Fleet Teams in Bold

Red Fleet: 1. Southern, 27 points; 2. New York, 38; 3. Balboa, 42; 4, St. Francis, 47; 5. New Bedford, 51; 6. Newport Harbor, 54; 7. San Diego, 66; 8, Larchmont, 73; 9, Cleveland, 76; 10, Beverly, 84; 11. Nantucket, 86; 12. Coral Reef, 89; 13. Corinthian (Phila.), 101; 14. Beaufort, 102.3.

Blue Fleet: 1. Storm Trysail, 31 points; 2. Sea Cliff, 48; 3. Austin, 50.8; 4. Eastern, 51.8; 5. Shelter Island, 52; 6. Corinthian (Marblehead), 59; 7. Carolina, 60; 8. Wadawanuck, 70; 9. Bayview, 75; 10. Lake Geneva, 68; 11. Chicago, 76; 12. Winnipesaukee, 87; 13. American, 80; 14. Sandusky, 116.

*Pending Protests

Competing Clubs
American Yacht Club (Rye, N.Y.); Austin (Texas) Yacht Club; Balboa Yacht Club (Corona del Mar, Calif.); Bayview Yacht Club (Detroit); Beaufort (S.C.) Yacht and Sailing Club; Beverly Yacht Club (Marion, Mass.); Carolina Yacht Club (Charleston, S.C.); Chicago Yacht Club; The Cleveland Yachting Club (Rocky River, Ohio); Coral Reef Yacht Club (Miami); Corinthian Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.); The Corinthian Yacht Club of Philadelphia (Essington, Penn.); Eastern Yacht Club (Marblehead, Mass.); Lake Geneva Yacht Club (Fontana, Wis.); Larchmont (N.Y.) Yacht Club; Nantucket (Mass.) Yacht Club; New Bedford Yacht Club (South Dartmouth, Mass.); New York Yacht Club; Newport Harbor Yacht Club (Newport Beach, Calif.); San Diego Yacht Club; Sandusky (Ohio) Sailing Club; Sea Cliff (N.Y.) Yacht Club; Shelter Island Yacht Club (Shelter Island Heights, N.Y.); Southern Yacht Club (New Orleans); St. Francis Yacht Club (San Francisco); Storm Trysail Club (Larchmont, N.Y.); Wadawanuck Club (Stonington, Conn.); Winnipesaukee Yacht Club (Gilford, N.H.)