By Airwaves Writer Dillon Paiva
The Baldwin Cup is a yacht club challenge type regatta hosted by Newport Harbor Yacht Club in Newport Beach California. This event is one of several regattas just like it that together make up a circuit of yacht club challenge team race regattas. Other regattas on the circuit include the Morgan Cup at New York Yacht Club, Lee Trophy at Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, and Soiland Cup at Southern Yacht Club. These are not your typical open events where anyone can sign up, your yacht club must be invited. One of the hardest events for a club to get an invite to is the Baldwin.
Hosted in early April every year, the Baldwin Cup presented by J.P. Morgan Chase is on every team racer’s calendar. The regatta is sailed in a fleet of Harbor 20 keelboats in 4 vs 4 races. The Harbor 20 is an excellent class that is primarily fleet raced, but certain aspects of the boat make it a good choice for the Baldwin Cup: the class has very strict one design rules which makes for even boats, they are easy to race with two people (no spinnakers at the Baldwin), and have a keel with a long chord length which improves down speed maneuvering. All of this adds up to make an ideal platform for team racing. Anyone who has tried to get boat owners to lend their vessels out knows how difficult it can be, but NHYC pulls out all the stops for this regatta, getting members to lend over twenty four boats for racing. For this event, each team is comprised of eight sailors with everyone on the team required to be: a member, or spouse, of the club they are representing, twenty one years old, and with at least four members of the team being thirty years of age or older by the start of the regatta.
Every regatta takes immense amounts of time and energy to pull off a great event. The backbone of all of that work is a strong volunteer base. The Baldwin not only has some of the best sailors competing, the fleet contains Olympians, Team Race World Champions, and College Sailors of the Year, but they have an incredibly long list of dedicated and hard working volunteers. Those who dedicated their time include: Race Committee, umpires, boat owners, pit crew, host families to provide housing for competitors, media team, sponsorship team, and shore logistics. They have so many volunteers that an entire page on the regatta website is saved for a list of all the people who gave their time to make the Baldwin Cup such a great event, and a staple in the team racing community.
The racing itself takes place in beautiful Newport Harbor, right in front of the host club. Every other day of the year, the harbor is crowded with boats on moorings and sailing a major event like this would be challenging if not impossible. For this Baldwin; however, the club manages to clear the mooring field and have the boats relocate for the duration of the regatta. With a harbor empty of mooring balls and their boats, and a race course set right off of the yacht club, sailors get to experience one of the closest things to a stadium that exists in our sport. Throughout the event, there is live commentary over several speakers by announcer Brooks Clark of Boats N’ Prose and Adam Deermount. This, among other things such as the spectacular view, weather, and Goslings Rum, draws a crowd of spectators to watch the exciting team racing live and in person.
Bill Crispin has been the Regatta Chair for this regatta ever since it’s inception in 2008. I asked him what makes the Baldwin Cup so special?
“The venue, the volunteers and competitors. The Venue is right in front of the club docks not more then a eighth of mile away at the furthest distance. You can see every start, every mark rounding and every finish right from the dock. Stadium racing at its finest!
The Volunteers donate their boats and take pride in each one being equal and ready to race! All of the boats have sails that are only used in this event. All sails are fresh and equal. The many other Volunteers work hard and long to bring the best support to the competitors, racing and social functions!”
This year was the tenth edition of the Baldwin Cup, and it certainly did not disappoint. Twelve teams from across the country (one from across the pond) competed to become only the sixth team ever to win the coveted Baldwin Cup. The regatta was sailed in three stages. Stage one was a complete round robin of all twelve teams where each team gets one chance to compete against every other team. St. Francis Yacht Club led with a 10-1 record after stage one.
For stage two, teams were split evenly into gold and silver based on their win/loss record from the first stage and would complete a double round robin within their group. This year presented race committee with a challenge because after stage one, there were five teams tied for the last spot in the gold group, but after some complicated math, the tie was broken and the defending champions, NHYC Thunder, squeezed into the gold round. The competition was tight to say the least, and after stage two, St. Francis YC and NHYC Lightning were tied for the lead with records of 15-6.
Stage three was a first to two wins knockout bracket, with teams one through five from gold, and the winner of silver. St. Francis YC and Lightning both had a first round bye. This is when the tensions rise and pressure is on for everyone as the sun started to go down on the last day of racing. Due to wind delays, this year’s racing ran especially long with navigation lights already illuminated on support boats for the last races. The final match ended up being between the two teams who were dominant the whole regatta, St. Francis YC and NHYC Lightning. The home team of
Newport Harbor Yacht Club Lightning proved to be dominant going 2-0 in the championship match to become this year’s winners of the Baldwin Cup!
Mark your calendars for this regatta next year, and whether you are there to compete, volunteer or spectate, you will not be disappointed. To learn more about the Baldwin Cup, please follow the link below.