NYYC Annual Regatta: Robust as ever

Published on June 14th, 2015

Newport, RI (June 14, 2015) – The 161st New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and when the three-day event concluded after a day of around-the-island racing (Friday, June 12) and a weekend of around-the-marks competition (June 13-14), there was plenty of satisfaction to be had.

For Event Chair David Bush-Brown, there was satisfaction that the Annual Regatta, robust-as-ever with 169 entries, had successfully upheld its keen sense of tradition, which for well over a century and a half has kept the New York Yacht Club at the forefront of sailing. “A lot of changes have happened to our sport and the regatta over 161 years,” said Bush-Brown, “but one thing remains the same: spirit of competition and camaraderie.”

That spirit was evident on Saturday night when the New York Yacht Club hosted over 1,000 sailors for cocktails and dinner on the expansive grounds of its waterfront Harbour Court clubhouse. It was also evident during Sunday’s two-hour postponement ashore when the Newport Shipyard, where many of the boats were docked, felt less like a paddock area for preparation and more like a venue for a class reunion, with long-time friends as well as newly-established acquaintances swapping war stories and discussing what lies next on the sailing horizon.

Sunday’s sailing, when it got going by mid-afternoon in an easterly of 10-14 knots, delivered even more color than Friday’s and Saturday’s held in relatively lighter air, and when all was said and done, winners in 19 classes were the most satisfied of all that they had shined on the stages of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound for a rotating mix of stadium-style, drop-mark and navigators-course competition.

In particular, J/111 winner George Gamble (Pensacola, Fla.), steering My Sharona, hoped he saw his future for the J/111 World Championship scheduled for next week in the same waters. “We raced against 19 J/111s this weekend and will compete against about 27 in the J/111 Worlds, so the Annual Regatta was a great event for the team,” said Gamble. “It allowed for us to practice against a majority of the same players and get us better acquainted with the local conditions. The competition was off the charts, and there wasn’t one boat that won a race more than once all weekend.”

Gamble said his team’s victory came down to a tiebreaker with Lake Effect. We both had a first, a second, a fifth and a sixth at the end of the regatta, so we had the exact same scores. The tiebreaker was who did better in the last race, which was us. Winning this regatta keeps team momentum going, which is really important, and we have a better feel for our speed and how we are against the other boats in different conditions, which is huge.”

For Swan 42 class winner Paul Zabetakis (Stuart, Fla.) driving Impetuous, victory here in the nine-strong fleet meant his team is one step closer to representing the New York Yacht Club at the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup in September. This was the first of two qualifying events (the Swan 42 Nationals in July will be the second), and Impetuous had to work hard to keep Apparition, Blazer and Mutiny, who are also in contention for the club’s berth, at bay.

“The Invitational Cup, which hosts yacht club teams from around the world, has been getting more competitive,” said Zabetakis, “so there is no question that the level of competition at Annual Regatta makes you better for that event. We also were competing against Daring, which is the Canadian boat that has won the Invitational Cup the last two times, so it gave us some sense of how they’re going to race.”

Zabetakis explained that compared to Saturday’s big swells, it was fairly flat on Rhode Island Sound on Sunday, more like what he expects to see at the Invitational Cup. Impetuous and Apparition tied on points in overall scoring, but since Impetuous won both its races Sunday, it broke the tie in its favor. (Blazer, which finished third, was followed by Daring in fourth.)

For the four boats preparing for this summer’s Transatlantic Race – the custom 48 Carina, RP 56 Siren, Ker 50 Snow Lion, and Juan K-designed Rambler 88 – satisfaction was the chance to hone crew skills one last time before undertaking the sure-to-be epic 2,800 nautical mile journey that starts in Newport and ends in Plymouth, England. In the middle of the ocean, no one but the crew will hear Rambler 88’s low mechanical growl as she eases her sheets to gybe, but Sunday, when sailing’s newest technological wonder stretched her powerful legs in the compact “stadium” setting of outer Newport Harbor, spectators on shore were within earshot and reacted with their own exclamations of gratification.

Dennis Williams (Hobe Sound, Fla.), who skippered Victory 83 to defend his 2014 class win in 12 Metre Modern class, also sailed stadium-style on Sunday and was one of nine America’s Cup vessels of yesteryear that wowed those who watched with their graceful beauty. When asked to explain what brings him back to the Annual Regatta every year, Williams said, “All you’ve got to do is look around. It’s great competition, it’s well organized, and the club does a great job, so it’s fun to be part of it. I mean, think about it: it’s the 161st Annual Regatta. How many other clubs can say that?”

Other defending champions who claimed class victories were: Andrew and Linda Weiss (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) on the Sydney 43 Christopher Dragon in IRC 2; Bill Sweetser (Annapolis, Md,) on the J/109 Rush in IRC 4; Kenn Fischburg (Norwich, Conn.) on the J/111 Wild Child in PHRF 1 Spinnaker; and Charlie Ryan (Providence, R.I.) on the NY50 Spartan in CRF Non-Spinnaker.

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