Embracing Diversity at New York Yacht Club Race Week
Published on July 6th, 2016
Among sailors, there is plenty of debate regarding what qualifies as a race week, let alone what makes one particularly noteworthy. The name signifies a temporal requirement—weekends don’t cut the mustard—but there’s more to it than four or five days of competitive sailing.
A centralized regatta hub, especially when it’s located in an iconic sailing port, is a hallmark. Variety also seems to be essential. Just one class of yachts constitutes a championship, it takes some diversity to earn entry into the pantheon of great yachting race weeks.
It’s the latter area where the 2016 New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex is proud to keep pushing the boundaries. Hosted on even-numbered summers, the fleet will include five 60-something Gunboat luxury catamarans along with a 53-foot catamaran designed by renowned high-performance guru Paul Bieker.
New York Yacht Club Vice Commodore Phil Lotz, a veteran one-design sailor who enjoyed regular success in the Etchells, J/105 and Swan 42 classes before purchasing his first catamaran last summer, has enjoyed the transition to multihull sailing with his Gunboat 60 Arethusa.
“In many ways it is more casual [than monohull one-design racing],” he says. “But the group is trying to add a bit more structure on ratings and racing format, now that there are more boats racing a year-round calendar. I think everyone wants to keep it fun, with a good social scene and as much sharing of racing tips as of cruising tips and itineraries.”
The fleets at Race Week, which takes place at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court in Newport, RI, are divided into two stages. Part 1 is July 9-10 and Part 2 is July 13-16.
For Part 1, the sleek, modern multihulls will be contrasted by fleets of Metre yachts and classics, which will include five S Boats, a Nathanael Herreshoff design that is one of the world’s oldest active one-design classes. Also bringing in a fleet is the 12-Metre class, whose place in sailing history is cemented by the design’s use in the America’s Cup from 1958 to 1987. Three of the six 12-Metres competing—Weatherly, Intrepid and Courageous—are former winners of the America’s Cup.
“I have always admired the grace and beauty of 12-Metre yachts from the shore,” says Jay Schachne, the skipper of Weatherly. “They are truly majestic works of living, breathing art. But they must be more than preserved, they must be sailed.
“When we are racing hard, and the team is coming together, we all realize what an incredible privilege it is to try to make her go fast and in the right direction. No one ever really owns a boat like Weatherly. They maintain it and keep it pristine for the next generation. But I have to tell you, sitting leeward and driving upwind in the groove and feeling her responsiveness like a dinghy, I get a smile on my face that no one can wipe off.”