This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Royal Yacht Squadron, which was founded on June 1, 1815, in Cowes on the Isle of Wight in the UK. During a race around the Isle in 1851, NYYC Commodore John Cox Stevens successfully challenged for the Squadron’s £100 Cup with the yacht America. That Cup became known as the America’s Cup.
The highlight of this summer's celebrations was the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Bicentenary International Regatta, which was held on the Solent July 25-31. Twenty-five yacht clubs were invited to take part, including San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club.
More than 200 yachts entered the regatta including three of the majestic 130-ft J-Class yachts: Velsheda, Lionheart and Ranger. StFYC team members participated in four divisions, including team racing in J/70 boats for six members under 30 and the Corinthian Beneteau First 40 one-design with a crew of 10 including at least one person under 25 years old and one lady. StFYC members also raced in IRC Class 1 on Odin, a Swan 90 with a host of star talent including Peter Isler, navigator; Charlie Ogletree, tactician; and Steve Hayles, strategist/trimmer. Craig Healy trimmed the main, and owner Tom Siebel was on the helm. StFYC members Pam Rorke Levy, Mark Dahm, Brad Whitaker, David Chamberlain and Doug Hope crewed on the 1929 52-ft yawl Dorade helmed by owner Matt Brooks in the classic IRC Class 3.
Five days of racing were scheduled for the IRC classes. Unfortunately, strong weather conditions cancelled racing on Monday, July 25. Conditions improved throughout the week, and by Wednesday, the 27th, the IRC fleets, including the J-Class boats, took off on a clockwise race around the Isle of Wight. Peter Stoneberg, Staff Commodore of StFYC, was sailed on Odin and collected their 3rd Place Overall trophy as presented by Sir Ben Ainslie.
The level racing fleet in the identical yachts supplied by Sunsail provided a highly competitive platform between the crews of the competing clubs which included seven from overseas, the New York Yacht Club, Real Club Nautico of Gran Canaria, Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Royal Varuna Yacht Club, St Francis Yacht Club, Yacht Club Costa Smeralda and four UK clubs including the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Royal Yacht Squadron, the Royal Solent and Royal Thames Yacht Clubs. The StFYC faced some tough competition in this fleet and the crew of Chris Raab (helm), Russ Silvestri, Commodore Sean Svensdsen, Mario Yovkov, Pascal Hines (under 25), Doug Robbins, Chris Welsh, Kermit Schnickel, Nicole Breault and Rick Brent finished the regatta in sixth place, only nine points off the leaders from the New York Yacht Club.
StFYC's biggest achievement in all the fleets was in the Team Racing. In three days of racing,126 races fit into almost three complete round robins. Light winds forced the early end to Round Robin 3, and teams moved directly into the semi-finals. Here, the StFYC team of Kieran Chung (captain), Kevin Laube, Hans Henken, Claire Dennis, Kayla McComb and Tyler Baeder, which went into the semi-finals with only two losses thus far, took on NYYC in the best of three series, while the Royal Thames Yacht Club took on Costa Smeralda Yacht Club. The StFYC won the semi-finals in two races and the Royal Thames moved forward after completing all three races.
Conditions were getting lighter and lighter as teams prepared for the finals in a bay nestled under the Osborne House, summer home to Queen Victoria. Only one race determined the finals as the wind died away. With the StFYC boats finishing one and two, they solidly secured their victory. "We had an awesome time," said StFYC team tactician Tyler Baeder. "Our team have sailed with and against each other for a while. We made mistakes, but not too many; we stuck to the basics.”
There was also a week-long social program to accompany the sailing at the Bicentenary International Regatta which included an Opening Reception at the Royal Yacht Squadron, individual Class dinners throughout the week and a Royal Yacht Squadron Bicentenary Regatta Grand Party at Osborne House. North Sails held a panel discussion at the Cowes Yacht Haven, hosted by Ken Read and featuring Sir Ben Ainslie, Sam Davies and Jimmy Spithill. During the final awards presentations, guests and participants were treated to a display by the Red Devil Parachute team who landed in the water just next to the Royal Yacht Squadron’s iconic lawn.
At the conclusion of the event to celebrate the club’s 200th birthday, Commodore Christopher Sharples thanked all the crews from the 24 clubs that attended from all over the world and said, "This is not just for the club but for the town of Cowes as well. The next two hundred years begins now."
It was a grand event on every level, and San Francisco was represented well by the members of the St. Francis Yacht Club.
- ellen hoke
For the photos that accompany this story, see 'Lectronic Latitude on August 7, 2015.