NYYC Annual Regatta: Last laughs
Published on June 10th, 2016
Newport, RI (June 10, 2016) – Win, lose, or something in between, the first day of the 162nd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex was a day of sailing that few participants will soon forget. After nearly four hours of nip-and-tuck racing, a perfect storm of factors turned this race into one of the most interesting, unique and exciting race finishes of all time.
As has been the case for the 12 years, the 162nd edition of North America’s oldest annual regatta started with a 19-mile lap of Conanicut Island. When possible, the race committee starts the slowest boats first, allowing the fleet to sail largely in the same wind conditions and hopefully have everyone back on shore at a reasonably similar time.
However, the plan was never supposed to work as precisely as it did today, with the majority of the 131-boat fleet finishing within a few minutes of one another and creating an extremely challenging situation for skippers and tacticians and the race committee, not to mention the jury which was called in to hear a number of protests.
Right in the middle of the maelstrom was a 32-year-old J/35 from Houston, Texas, called Leading Edge. To that point, the race had been a mixed bag for Tom Sutton’s team, which includes his wife, son and many close friends. They’d missed some shifts on the first beat, and fouled a boat at the first mark, leading to a penalty turn. But they ground back when the breeze got extremely light toward the south end of Conanicut Island, and then made the right calls on the final leg, northbound through the East Passage of Narragansett Bay against a particularly tough ebb tide.
“We knew that was a graveyard [on the Newport shore] so we stayed away,” said Sutton. “Then when we were coming in [to the finish line], we were coming in so fast, and all these guys ahead of us were so slow and these were big boats, 50-footers. So we took our spinnaker down 100 yards before the finish line and we had so much momentum we just drove it on in. You couldn’t dream of a race like that. And I’ve been in the nightmares before, where we’ve been doing really well and the guys came up like that and blew us away.”
The team’s persistence and grace under pressure appears to have resulted in a win in IRC 5, and an overall IRC win for the race, which would earn Sutton one of two Rolex watches that will be presented to the top performances from the 162nd Annual Regatta. Both watches will be presented at the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Awards Dinner in November.
“That boat I’ve owned for 20 years,” said Sutton. “But this is a people deal. A boat is an inanimate object. People bring the boat to life. And we have great people. That’s what’s so fantastic about our sport. Yeah you can spend a lot of money on your boat, but if you don’t have a great crew it doesn’t matter how much money you spend. It’s a family crew and they’ve all sailed all their lives.”
Watching the chaos unfold was the crew on Jason Carroll’s 62-foot Gunboat Elvis. Due to the Gunboat’s size and limited maneuverability, the race committee opted to start the catamaran’s first. While a clean track made for less boats to navigate around, the race was still anything but easy.
“It was a really interesting start in terms of trying to figure out what to do,” said Baxter. “We started on port tack, which was a little dicey, but we only had four boats and it ended up being the right thing. It was quite a good beat, but when we came down to Beavertail, after the full run along Jamestown, the race reset. We ended up in an easterly, a southerly for a bit. We tried to hug in toward Mackerel Cove [while sailing up the East Passage to the finish], and got the last bit of a Northerly and inched our way to the finish line before the southerly and the park-up affected the whole fleet. We were lucky to duck out of that.”
Others were not so lucky. One of the hard-luck boats of the day was Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente (at right), which crushed the first half of the race and built a lead that was every bit of a mile over the other three boats in the Maxi72 fleet. But the breeze evaporated just as the Maxi72s approached the finish and the massive 72-footers, which can generally power through on the lightest zephyrs, found themselves struggling against a strong ebb tide to hold position for the better part of an hour.
George Sakellaris’ Proteus slipped across the line after 2 hours and 26 minutes of sailing, the first monohull to cross the line, and won the class. It would be another 26 minutes before Bella Mente finished. If there is any consolation in what was surely a frustrating day, it’s that the Around the Island Race will not count as part of the class’s North American Championship. Racing for that starts tomorrow and will run through Tuesday.
With a handful of protests and scoring inquiries due to the rapid-fire finishes, the race committee opted to hold the awards until Sunday.
The 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex will continue through Sunday, with buoy racing for the IRC and one-design classes and point-to-point races for the classics, Gunboats and navigator classes.
About the 162nd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex
More than 150 boats are expected to compete in the 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex. The event will feature a race around Conanicut Island on Friday, June 10, and then two days of buoy racing for the IRC and one-design classes, and point-to-point racing for the multihulls and navigator classes. The regatta is part of the prestigious Onion Patch Series, along with the Newport Bermuda Race and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta. The sponsors of the 162nd Annual Regatta include presenting sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsor Porsche Cars North America and the participating New England Area Porsche dealers.
Report by Event Media.