The Lipton Cup is San Diego Yacht Club’s signature fall regatta. Photo courtesy SDYC.

Racing for one of the most coveted trophies on the West Coast, the 103rd Challenge for the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup will be sailed from Oct. 27-29. Named after Sir Thomas Lipton, the famous yachtsman and tea baron, The Lipton Cup is San Diego Yacht Club’s signature fall regatta. This year 12 teams representing yacht clubs from across the country will race for the chance to win the prestigious trophy and determine which club’s team is the best of the best.

Racers will compete in San Diego Bay, allowing plenty of viewing opportunities for friends and family along the downtown waterfront. To ensure fairness, the regatta will be held in a round robin format using equalized J/105s provided by owners of local Southern California boats.

The 12 teams competing this year are: Balboa Yacht ClubCalifornia Yacht ClubChicago Yacht ClubCoronado Yacht ClubLarchmont Yacht ClubLong Beach Yacht ClubNew York Yacht ClubNewport Harbor Yacht ClubSan Diego Yacht ClubSan Francisco Yacht ClubSouthwestern Yacht Club, and St. Francis Yacht Club.

Newport Harbor Yacht Club won the 2016 Lipton Cup under the leadership of Skipper Jon Pinckney. Previously, Newport Harbor Yacht Club had not won the event since 1980. Winners in the past 5 years have been San Diego Yacht Club (2015, 2013, 2011), St. Francis Yacht Club (2014), and California Yacht Club (2012). Chicago Yacht Club, Larchmont Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club will be vying for their first win of the trophy, while San Francisco Yacht Club’s last win was back in 1916.

Jon Pinckney will return to the San Diego waters to defend the trophy on behalf of Newport Harbor Yacht Club. “There can be a lot of pressure to win this regatta and you only get so many chances before your club replaces you, so it was a huge relief to win on our third attempt, and an incredible achievement at the same time.

“By equalizing the fleet of J/105’s, and implementing a round robin format, SDYC has truly created a level playing field where everyone’s speed is the same. Success is determined by execution of fundamentals like starting, decision making, and consistency. Three years ago we surprisingly found no correlation between our practices and overall results, so we conveniently no longer practice ahead of the event.”

Pinckney also shares the challenges behind implementing a winning strategy: “As long as you can get the sails up and down on a J/105, your only focus is to be the most fundamentally sound team for three days. It’s the most basic lifelong strategy, and at the same time the most difficult to execute, because 11 other outstanding teams all share the same game plan! Any team can win, and everyone experiences pain and adversity. No throw-outs and it always comes down to the last race. We would love to win again, but you just never know. Welcome to the Lipton Cup!”

The 2017 Lipton Cup will feature three days of competitive sailing with a dockside social on Friday, and a Saturday night banquet for competitors and guests. The awards party will take place on Sunday after racing.

Event Co-Chair Tim Fuller shares that, “Things are shaping up nicely for a great Lipton Cup Regatta. Many thanks to all of our volunteers and SDYC staff for helping organize the event. We encourage you to come on down to the bay to check the action out.”

The 2017 San Diego Yacht Club Commodore, John Reiter, summarizes the reputation of the event.

“Since a forward thinking group helped us reinvigorate this regatta back during 2011, SDYC has run six incredible competitive and fully subscribed events. With equalized boats using the same suits of sails designed and used specifically for the regatta, it has become one of the few ‘must sail’ events among the most competitive clubs in the U.S., and we’re proud to host the most elite sailors the competing clubs have to offer.”