Annual Regatta Goes Big For 160th Anniversary

Published on June 2nd, 2014

It will be an anniversary to remember when the 160th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex hosts sailing’s biggest players on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound this June. The three-day event, distinguished as America’s oldest continually run regatta, is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, June 13-15, and hosted by the New York Yacht Club at its on-the-water clubhouse, Harbour Court, in Newport, R.I.

Team Alvimedica, the Rhode Island-led team preparing for the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, is on its way across the Atlantic Ocean from Lisbon, Portugal, to debut its just-launched Volvo Ocean 65 in the IRC division at the Annual Regatta’s Around-the-Island Race, which kicks off the event’s three days of competition on Friday. The 19-mile circumnavigation of Conanicut Island is separately scored from the Annual Regatta’s weekend of buoy racing, and Team Alvimedica plans to use it as a further shakedown opportunity as well as a showcase for its Volvo effort.

“The Annual Regatta is a fantastic event in one of the best places to sail in the world,” said Mark Towill (Kaneohe, Hawaii) by email from onboard his team’s VO 65, which is skippered by Charlie Enright (Bristol, R.I.) and will sport a total crew of 10 during the Annual Regatta. “Newport is our team’s homeport, and we are looking forward to getting there, engaging with the community and enjoying all that it has to offer. After the Around-the-Island Race, the boat will have its naming ceremony, and we will kick-start our campaign.”

Also making a trans-oceanic trip (by plane) to race is the Brazilian team onboard the chartered Whitbread MOD 60 Cuba Libre, which will take on other IRC boats of similar size during all three days of Annual Regatta racing. “This is our first time racing in the Annual Regatta and our first time racing this type of boat,” said the team’s tactician Norman MacPherson (Niteroi, Brazil). “There are 16 sailors onboard, including me, and although we aren’t professional sailors, everyone has a lot of racing experience. The MOD 60 is an incredibly fast and technical boat, so I am looking forward to seeing what our team can do with it.”

The weekend classic is garnering extra attention this year as the first of three events in the venerable Onion Patch Series, a multi-regatta series that includes the biennial Newport Bermuda Race. Of the 147 boats currently registered to compete in the Annual Regatta, many go on to participate in the Newport Bermuda Race, which starts the following Friday (June 20). Among those are two IRC Mini Maxis, Alex Schaerer’s (New York, NY) Caol Ila R and Hap Fauth’s (Minneapolis, Minn./Naples, Fla.) Bella Mente. At 68 feet and 72 feet, respectively, the two have been engaged in an aquatic version of musical chairs all season.

“It is a bit of a risk for serious competitors to race in the Newport Bermuda Race without first competing at Annual Regatta,” said Mike Sanderson (Auckland, NZ) who will join Fauth and fellow countryman John Cutler in Bella Mente’s afterguard. “Caol Ila R is doing really well at the moment and a hard boat for us to race against because we owe them quite a bit of time. We need to pin our ears back and get quite a long way in front to win.”

Sanderson added that the majority of the rival’s team is made up of Australian sailors from the successful maxi yacht Wild Oats XI. The Annual Regatta will be Bella Mente’s first competition since April when she broke her mast midway through Les Voiles de St. Barth, leaving Alex Schaerer’s Caol Ila R to take the class win. Prior to that, Bella Mente won the mini maxi class at Key West Race Week (Caol Ila R came in second) and finished second overall and second in the IRC Z class at RORC 600.

“We will also have our hands full with the TP52s competing,” said Sanderson. “The 52 is such a formidable IRC boat and makes for a good grudge match against a well-sailed mini maxi.”

In addition to IRC, the regatta is open to yachts with a minimum LOA of 25 feet in Classic, 12 Metre and One-Design classes; PHRF, ORR and Doublehanded boats that want a more relaxing racing experience can compete in the Navigators Division, which sails one race per day around government marks.

Significant in size will be the Etchells Class, since the Annual Regatta serves as a prelude to the 2014 Etchells World Championship hosted by New York Yacht Club and Sail Newport later in June.

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