Sixth Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge

By Michael Fortenbaugh

Dennis Conner International ChallengeNineteen teams representing 14 countries participated in the Sixth Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge in New York Harbor on August 15-17. Organized by the New York Harbor Sailing Foundation and hosted by Manhattan Yacht Club, the Challenge was created for amateur club sailors with the goal of creating international goodwill through friendly competition. The Challenge is sailed on a fleet of identical J/24s with the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of Manhattan as the backdrop. Dennis Conner, US Sailing’s “America’s Greatest Sailor,” is the Patron of the event. He was in attendance throughout the

Every race in the Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge starts and finishes at the Honorable William Wall, Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse.   © Scot Surbeck/

Challenge to greet participants and watch the races. It was a great thrill for the visiting sailors to meet this sailing legend.

Learning New York Harbor’s tricky currents is a key to winning the Challenge.

The current is normally stronger in the center of the harbor than at the shore. All races start and finish at Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse, the Honorable William Wall, which is anchored on station near Ellis Island. When the winds are out of a westerly direction, races begin downwind. Due the weather patterns during this year’s Challenge, seven of the nine races began downwind.

This year’s competition was among the best ever, with the first five races won by five different yacht clubs. Lead changes in the windward-leeward races were frequent, and most teams had their moment leading a race. Teams rotated boats after each race to ensure the fairness of the competition. The Royal Cape Yacht Club from South Africa finished first, with the Royal Danish Yacht Club from Denmark second. The Cercle de la Voile de la Société Nautique de Genève from Switzerland was third and the Royal Amateur Hamilton Dinghy Club form Bermuda was fourth. Howth Yacht Club from Ireland finished fifth, followed by the host Manhattan Yacht Club in sixth.

Denis Conner International Challenge1.jpgThe Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge began in 2006, and have been held roughly every other year since. The first “International Yacht Club Challenge” was organized by Manhattan Yacht Club in 1988, a year after the club was founded. The first event was a success, and the regattas were then co-organized with Yacht Club de Monaco with subsequent events held in Manhattan in 1989, Monaco in 1991, and Manhattan in ‘92. The Challenge was then revived under Conner’s patronage in 2006.

Nineteen teams representing 14 countries raced in the Sixth Dennis Conner International Yacht Club Challenge. © Scot Surbeck/

 In addition to the racing, the Challenge focuses on social events and generating international goodwill.  Teams began the organized events on Wednesday evening by watching the club races from the clubhouse in the harbor. The Opening Ceremony was held on Thursday evening on Arabella, Manhattan Club’s new 157-foot megayacht clubhouse at North Cove. Friday evening was a steak dinner at les Halles Downtown. Saturday evening was a Starlight Cruise in the harbor on Arabella to see the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.  The Awards Ceremony on Sunday was held in Soho at Felix Restaurant. All of these events were designed to give visiting sailors a real taste of the Big Apple. For more information on Manhattan Yacht Club and the New York Harbor Sailing Foundation, visit and

Michael Fortenbaugh is the Commodore of Manhattan Yacht Club.

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