Sailing: Newport Harbor Yacht Club can't be denied

The previous 11 times the Morgan Cup Invitational Team Race was sailed, either host New York Yacht Club or Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club won the regatta. But Newport Harbor Yacht Club made sure it wouldn't happen in 2014 and NHYC captured the Morgan Cup in dramatic fashion.

New York Yacht Club's website touted NHYC's feat with the headline: "Newport Harbor Wins 2014 Morgan Cup: It's a Cinderella Story."

A tweak to the regatta format breathed second life into Newport Harbor Yacht Club's prospects of winning the Morgan Cup at Harbour Court in Newport, R.I. on Sunday.

The team then took full advantage of the opportunity, battling through a handful of win-or-go-home matches to claim one of team racing's most coveted trophies. In doing so, Newport Harbor became just the third yacht club to win the Morgan Cup, as New York or Seawanhaka Corinthian had won it since 2003.

"We hold [the Morgan Cup] as probably the toughest event on the [yacht club team racing] circuit," NHYC team captain Brian Bissell said in a release. "There's a reason only two teams have ever won it; it's because those two teams are really good. We're happy to be the first non-New York or Seawanhaka team to win it."

After struggling through the first round robin, winning just five of 11 races, NHYC was on the outside looking in as the 12 competing teams were split into Gold and Silver fleets. But a last-minute change to the regatta format created a path for one team from the bottom half of the standings to work back into the championship round.

Newport Harbor survived the Silver Fleet elimination tournament and then defeated one of New York Yacht Club's two teams and top-seeded Yale Corinthian Yacht Club in best-of-three matches before meeting Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in the finals.

All three of NHYC's duels in the championship knock-out came down to a winner-take-all race.

"We started off a little slow, we lost our first three races of the event and we ended the first day below .500," Bissell said. "At the end of Saturday's racing we thought we were eliminated. As a team, we hit our stride [Sunday], with all boats being organized on the starting line. We timed it right and came in with a full head of steam in the light-air races. The starts were key."

The Newport Harbor Yacht Club team included: Brian Bissell (skipper/captain), Mike Nash, Perry Emsiek, Robbie Rader, Michael Menninger (skipper), Matthew Cohen, Brendan Faria, Robert Kinney, Mac Mace (skipper), Brooks Clark, Taylor Grimes, Greg Helias.

— From staff reports

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