IRC and Swan 42 Championships

Published on July 19th, 2015

Newport, RI (July 19, 2015) – With all the regattas that populate the summer sailing schedule on Narragansett Bay, it’s a surprise to find there’s any kind of a hole between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In fact, however, the odd years had little competition for larger, handicap yachts after the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex in early June.

To offer a remedy, the New York Yacht Club’s Sailing Committee decided to fill the gap with a mid-season IRC regatta, which was run in conjunction with the Swan 42 class’s ninth National Championship. Both four-day events (July 16-19) were run out of the New York Yacht Club at Harbour Court and finished up today with all fleets sneaking a single race into a day marred by a very persistent fog bank.

Despite being a last-minute addition to the schedule, the 2015 IRC East Coast Championships proved its worth by pulling in 26 boats from 30 to 55 feet. Equally as impressive was the variety of designs and ages of the yachts that competed in the event, from NYYC Rear Commodore Bill Ketcham’s J/44 Maxine (build in 1989) to the brand new C&C 30 one-design yachts and the just-launched Botin HPR 44 Interlodge.

“I think the biggest success was the participation we had,” said event chairman Art Santry. “We had 26 boats and we did not have much time to get it organized and get the word out. I think the second biggest success was if you looked at the types of boats that did well, it was pretty varied. That’s a testament to PRO Sam Wakeman, who put together the courses. It wasn’t strictly windward-leeward, it was a lot of different stuff that worked out for everybody.”

Santry was a competitor in addition to being the event chairman. And the success of the event was just one reason for the smile on his face at the end of the day. His Ker 50 Temptation won IRC 2 by 1.5 points. Santry pointed to a trio of firsts on the third day of the regatta as the key to the victory.

We had a huge day [on Saturday, the third day of the regatta] and that was partially due to the fact that we had 15 to 16 knots of breeze out of the south west, lumpy water and at least a 2-mile windward leg twice on every race,” said Santry. “Temptation is hard to beat in that stuff. We got some good starts, got out ahead, and the wind and the water was in our favor. We were even doing well against the planing boats.”

In IRC 1, Jim Swartz’s TP52 Vesper (top, crossing in front of White Rhino) won five of nine races and walked away with a 7-point win over Interlodge. Vesper—all of Swartz’s boats have had a James Bond theme—is nearing 8 years old, but the boat has been regularly modified, and he races with a crack crew of some of the world’s top professional sailors.

“We came into the regatta not knowing what to expect because Interlodge had done really well, and it is an optimized boat for IRC,” said Swartz. “But Vesper is just a very sweet boat. It’s a great hull shape, and we have worked on it constantly. The crew has been sailing together for quite a while, and it makes all the difference in the world.”

In IRC 3, the J/122 August West, which is skippered by Jamey Shachoy, was equally as dominant as Vesper, winning four races, finishing second in four others and winning the division by 10 points. IRC 3 featured a subclass of C&C 30 One-Designs. Small, planing designs don’t traditionally fare well under IRC, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the C&C 30s struggle to compete with larger displacement boats. But there was still plenty of value for the class competing in the event, says Geoff Ewenson, the tactician on Themis, which won the subclass.

“It was really nice to sail against the people we have been sailing against for the last few events,” said Ewenson. “And it’s obvious that the group is getting tighter, the racing is getting tighter, and everyone is getting up to speed. Any opportunity to grow the one-design fleet and grow the knowledge base has been what we are looking for.”

Three Years of Hard Work Lift Mahalo to Swan 42 Title
The Swan 42 National Championship has been a staple of the Newport summer schedule since the boat debuted in 2007. This year, it was Charles Kenahan’s Mahalo that walked away with the championship, finishing first or second in six of nine races.

Kenehan is a relative newcomer to the class, having bought Mahalo in 2012. And he’s had to fight his way up the ladder. A week ago he and his team finished seventh of eight in the Sail Newport Regatta.

“We had not had our core crew together since the Rolex Swan Cup last September in the Med,” said Kenahan. “We were all very excited to be back together. I spent plenty of time in the back end of the fleet and you look forward and see these boats that are just set up so well, just ‘locked in’, and they tend to carry it for most, if not all, of a regatta. We were just lucky enough that this was our first time ‘locked in’. We’re very pleased about that and we hope we can do it again. It’s camaraderie, pursuit of excellent and it’s a lot of hard work.”

The 2015 Nationals also featured two interesting subplots. Four of the boats were competing for the New York Yacht Club’s berth in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, sailing’s premiere Corinthian one-design big-boat regatta. This competition came down to the final race with three teams all but tied in the qualification standings. Paul Zabetakis and his team on Impetuous came through when it counted, taking a second in the final race and beating the other two boats, Chris Culver’s Blazer and Colin Gordon’s Apparition by two points apiece in the qualification results.

“It’s pretty emotional,” said Zabetakis, who was the Invitational Cup event chairman in 2013. “We started this back in January. The crew was great, and I can’t say enough about tactician John Baxter. This is my first season sailing with him, but I’ve known his father for years.”

Zabetakis, who has sailed in the class since its inception, said the regatta was particularly stressful, with the four boats focused almost exclusively on beating one other, even to the detriment of their overall results.

“We were tacking on each other, taking each other off the course,” said Zabetakis. “It was like the last day of a major regatta—when you have one boat you need to focus on—for the last three days of the event.”

The second subplot featured the teams that were using the Nationals as part of their training for the Rolex Invitational Cup. Seattle Yacht Club and the Royal Thames Yacht Club both showed they are in strong form with a second and a third, respectively in the Nationals. Defending Invitational Cup champion Daring, from the Royal Canadian YC, was fifth with Barry Sampson’s Long Echo, which will represent England’s Itchenor Sailing Club, in eighth.

“The important part [in the Invitational Cup] is to be fast in and out of the corners, that’s where you make your gains and loses and we’re [sailing in the Nationals] to be very smooth in those places,” said Andrew Loe, the Seattle Yacht Club skipper. “[In 2013], leaving this week, we were still frustrated by a lot of things, but now we feel like were polishing as opposed to learning every day. We’re very confident compared to last time.”

The New York Yacht Club Rolex Invitational Cup will feature teams from 17 of the world’s top yacht clubs and will be sailed out of Harbour Court, September 12 to 19.

Click here for complete results.

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