John Hele wins Swan 42 National Title
Published on July 21st, 2013
Newport, RI (July 21, 2013) – John Hele (Rye, N.Y.) may have named his boat Daring, but after seven years sailing a Swan 42 he has come to appreciate that persistence and consistency are more often the keys to victory in this competitive, Corinthian one-design class.
With a thoroughly impressive performance on Rhode Island Sound and in Narragansett Bay, Hele and his largely Canadian team won the 15-boat 2013 Swan 42 National Championships by 19 points. Two-time national champion Ken Colburn (Dover, Mass.), on Apparition, was second. In third was Paul Zabetakis (Jamestown, R.I.), who nipped Phil Lotz (Newport, R.I.), also a two-time national champion, in the tie breaker. The regatta consisted of 10 races over four days in winds from 8 to 20 knots, though there was no sailing on the final day as the breeze never settled in enough to even convince the race committee to tell the fleet to leave the dock. As it has been since the inception of the class, the national championship was hosted by the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court station in Newport, R.I.
“It’s a great regatta and it’s not easy to win, as I’ve known for many years,” says Hele, who has sailed in all seven national championships, but had never won it until this year. “The competition is tremendous, and you never know what can happen because you can have a great race and you can have a bad race in this fleet. This regatta we ended up having mostly good finishes, even when we were back a little, and I think that’s because our team really came together, we kept our air clear and we concentrated on going boat by boat by boat.”
While Hele’s margin of victory was large by class standards, it wasn’t indicative of the overall level of competition in this regatta. Boats were frequently overlapped at the finish. Eight of the 15 boats won a race, and with the exception of Hele’s Daring team, which didn’t have a result worse that sixth, every boat in the regatta had at least two finishes in the bottom half of the fleet. The battle for third was especially tight, with nine points separating third through seventh.
“They were hard to beat,” said Colburn, the 2011 and 2012 national champion, of the Daring crew. “Congratulations to them for sailing a fabulous regatta.”
In addition to finishing second, Colburn also won the heated intra-club competition for the New York Yacht Club berth in the 2013 Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. He and his team (Bow 35, above) will return to the biennial September regatta hoping to improve upon their second-place finish in 2011.
Hele’s team, which includes former America’s Cup skipper and Olympic silver medalist Terry McLaughlin as tactician, has been sailing together for many years both in the Swan 42 class and before. In 2011, the team represented the Royal Canadian Yacht Club in winning the Invitational Cup presented by Rolex. The team will defend that title in less than two months’ time—the Invitational Cup takes place September 7 to 14, in Newport, R.I.—though Hele and McLaughlin will switch roles, as they did in 2009, when the RCYC squad finished second in the inaugural Invitational Cup, and 2011.
Four other teams were using the Nationals as a chance to tune up for the Invitational Cup. Teams from the San Francisco Yacht Club, Seattle Yacht Club, Yacht Club Italiano, and Royal Thames Yacht Club all sailed hoping to become more familiar with the boat and the conditions off Newport. None of the teams were a factor at the top end of the standings, but come September it’s almost certain they will look back at this regatta as a crucial part of their preparation.
As the defending champ, and with his first national championship now in the books, Hele knows that the RCYC team will get plenty of attention as the pre-regatta favorite.
“I’m sure we’re not going to get a lot of breaks upwind,” said Hele. “The Invitational Cup is a spectacular event, with people from all over the world participating. We’re really looking forward to it. It’s never easy, and it’s going to be tougher this year because we have more teams already practicing. And you could see those teams improving in their scores all week long. It’s going to a very exciting regatta.”
For full results, please click here. For more information on the Swan 42, visit the class’s website. For more on the Invitational Cup presented by Rolex, click here. High-resolution photos are available upon request.
Communications Director, New York Yacht Club