Phew York

The oak panelled bar at the New York Yacht Club on West 44th Street is a happier place today. The venerable members can breathe a mighty sigh of relief as their America’s Cup journey is done, for now. The circus can stop. The conversation can change. The brandy tastes slightly sweeter, the barman is smiling and the leather armchairs feel far more comfortable than of late.


©KOS Picture Source / www.kospictures.com

For the news filtering through is that the club has withdrawn all efforts towards the 37th America’s Cup and will not be entering in 2024, 2025 or whenever the competition takes place next. It could be the smartest political move ever by the world’s second-best yacht club. Phew what a ride.

Since midway through the Challenger series in Auckland, things haven’t gone swimmingly for the club. The elimination of their club steed, American Magic, after THAT capsize was a hammer-blow…they were going like Billy-O and were my tip, and many others’ to ace the series and advance to the Match as the only syndicate capable of bettering the Italians and Team New Zealand on their day. Behind the scenes though Commodore Culver, sure in his standing, was agitating for change. The Cup community wasn’t listening and didn’t fancy a return to water-shifting lead-mines so Culver’s stock began to fall faster than a meme share on the New York Stock Exchange.


©Sailing Energy

Then post-Cup, the Commodore’s manoeuvrings were again under the spotlight. First was the unfathomable decision to jettison the peerless Terry Hutchinson, a club member no less, and refuse to support American Magic’s hierarchy going forward ahead of an unbelievable decision to back the nascent Stars & Stripes gang previously from the Long Beach Yacht Club who couldn’t raise funds to compete in Auckland.

Then came a spurious ghost challenge issued from the Club in a seemingly vain attempt to usurp the Royal Yacht Squadron (Ltd) as Challenger of Record. The two top clubs in the world have a long and close friendship – this wasn’t the done thing.

It was dismissed graciously and rather embarrassingly. Meanwhile rumours of New York rappers and mega-deals with Microsoft swirled and rich committee members postured and pulled imaginary strings. It has felt like amateur hour for a while and unbecoming of the status of the New York Yacht Club.


©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

With Commodore Culver into his final year, I suspect a mighty dose of reality has been heaped upon him and his committee by powerful members who quite simply have had enough. To save faces, they’ve been told to calm the narrative down, face facts and put the club first. Good move by those who are really pulling the strings. No single person is bigger than the club and all it stands for.

Furthermore, the decision to withdraw from the Cup could well be not only a smart one from the point of view of the membership but could also be one of the finest political moves in the club’s history ahead of the venue announcement.

The Americans have been pretty clear that an event in the Middle East doesn’t work for them and that raising sponsorship dollars from corporate America to support a Cup in Saudi Arabia would be nigh on impossible. By withdrawing now, the NYYC doesn’t have to face any questions post the venue announcement and can spin away on the corporate landscape changing narrative and never touch into the murky world of geo-politics. It’s a clean exit. And just in the nick of time.


© Sailing Energy / American Magic

 So, what now for the club? It’s a very active place that doesn’t stand still. Their relentless calendar of racing is probably the most impressive anywhere in the world. But it absolutely needs to be performing, and be seen to be performing, at the pinnacle of the sport. Its whole status relies on that. It’s what turns the membership on.

Club Swan regattas are all well and good, 12 Metre Championships are lovely and J-Boat regattas with the kids in the summer up at the Newport clubhouse are sublime but that’s not cutting it at the standards that the club sets itself. But with the America’s Cup entering a la-la phase in its history, what replaces it?

Step forward SailGP. If the New York Yacht Club buys a franchise – perhaps even the USA Team currently competing (if Larry will sell) – then it’s the perfect springboard for future campaigns in the Cup. The profile would be bang on and at a cost that some are saying is around $12m all-in, that’s far more palatable than a base cost of $100m for the Cup in the current economic environment. Look hard enough and they can probably find that sort of cash down the back of one of the club’s green leather sofas in the members’ lounge.


©Ricardo Pinto for SailGP

 Most importantly, an entry into SailGP puts the New York Yacht Club back in the pro game which is getting to be a pretty crowded, frenetic space of late. By being on the circuit and in the conversation, it’s a powerful place to rebuild from and let’s be honest, there is absolutely no shame whatsoever in ducking out of this next Cup.

Unless you’ve got money, and big money, to sign up major players across the board and attract high-technology partners, you may as well whistle in the wind. Right now, American sailing doesn’t have the talent and the technologists are busy playing the space race trying to colonise the Moon and Mars. It’s a wise choice to sit on the sidelines and watch this one unfold.

The New York Yacht Club will weather the storm clouds around it. New blood will come in at the right time on the committee and steady the ship. The club will be back in the America’s Cup in time and the competition will be richer for it.

The Cup needs the Club more than the Club needs the Cup. Whether it will ever be back on the plinth and bolted securely in West 44th Street is anyone’s guess. It might take a while but I’m sure one day it will return.

They just might have to race around the Isle of Wight for it.


19 thoughts on “Phew York

  1. Wither S+S if this is the case, though? From their recent GQ article it seems like they’d actually be a great team to represent the US on an international stage — if they can only get the money.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. @ Kai: the S&S PR is outstanding but with no substance in my eyes. Had made a comment about this in an earlier article from our friend here, when I was kind of shocked that M. did fall on their wayside.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The NYYC mentioned during the AC36 cycle that they wanted to “build an AC culture” in the US (with no mention of their immediate predecessors’ cultural impact), why wouldn’t working with two young champions who have a proposal to build a young and socially-conscious team who “look like America” and the business savvy to sign deals with the likes of Condé Nast and GQ be a good step towards that goal?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When you say “The Cup community…didn’t fancy a return to water-shifting lead-mines” you are referring primarily to yourself and young people with a TikTok attention span. There are many of us who very much fancy a return to tactical match racing starts and elegant gybe sets and boats that are within 1% of each others speeds and where the trailing boat can blanket the leading boat on the downwind legs (remember going downwind?).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. The word “others” in my original comment should have had an apostrophe. I apologize.

        Having said that, “water-shifting lead-mines” is a disparaging way of referring to Stars, Etchells, J boats, 5, 6, 8 and 12 meters, Cal 40s, Santa Cruz 50s, TP52s and the boats that 99% of us sail after we grow out of adolescence.

        I still love your blog.

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  4. Great!

    And if you have ever engaged in or watched a proper match racing starting sequence you will understand why many of us think this is more interesting than the reaching start madness. Do you dial up or down? Circle? Sail backwards a bit? Maybe a weather drop at the leeward mark to split? All of these interesting questions that we face as sailors have gone out the window in the current AC and SailGP formats.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree with that; I have enjoyed them more than I had anticipated. I also enjoy watching the kite boards and wing sails and so forth from the bar Thursday evenings at the St. Francis YC. However, this is not America’s Cup match racing. I thought the Louis Vuitton Cup finals between Prada and AmericaOne was the best racing of the modern era. The prospect of one boat going 50 knots about 2 km away from a boat doing 5 knots is not edifying.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Fair point but when we had Britannia crossing Prada by a whisker or the starts in the Match, i thought they were terrific. And some of the racing in SailGP, especially in the breeze is out of this world…i like the foilers and like seeing them at the very apex of the sport but I completely understand your point of view.

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  5. I was surprised and saddened that NYYC gave this away so quickly. My understanding is there is very “little” financial liability these days to the “clubs” behind each boat (see RNZYS). But the prestige & mana of being seriously involved (& we all know it takes 2-3 cycles to get up to speed enough to take the Cup), along with RYS & obviously, the holders, is/was huge.
    Surely, the membership & committee could have sorted the shenanigans & continued the campaign with Terry as manager, & the hugely rich backers who have signed on again?
    Venues, boats, protocols, (COVID) all up in the air, but these are uniquely difficult & different times, and as “betting people”, there is serious doubt (for sponsors, owners, backers) around any plans for major events, anywhere in the World at present, with COVID.
    Thanks for your great blogs!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great article and great comments. We need to get Shakespeare back to finish the last Acts.

    But methinks there are unknown forces at work. Namely Covid. Obviously, Team NZ can stage a great and successful in Auckland so why not? I suspect that Jacinda told them that Auckland will be closed for years and that the new normal will not allow for moving big yachts around like F1 cars.

    So sorry Magnus but you are just going to have to put up with Isle of Wight as permanent HQ. Temporarily of course.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ‘NYYC second greatest club in the world’, how nice to open your excellent blog today and see such informed high praise for Keyhaven YC as No1, my second home. Thanks Magnus, from all our 1,600 members.

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