Mother Nature Delivers at NYYC Race Week
Published on July 13th, 2016
Newport, RI (July 13, 2016) – Winds in the teens got the opening day started for Part 2 of New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex, which has fleets racing in IRC, ORC, Swan 42, J/109, C&C 30 OD, J/88, and M32s.
Just before noon today, on a sparkling, lumpy, Rhode Island Sound, the race committee for the White Circle competitors called for the mark to be set at a bearing of 220 degrees and a distance of 1.7 nautical miles. Four-plus hours later, a pair of race committee volunteers hauled the mark and ground tackle back on board having not touched it through nine races and 146 individual roundings. Newport is known for its steady summer sea breeze. But this was still a rare day.
“[The breeze was from] 220-222 all day long and then 230 right at the end,” said Chris Larson, the tactician on Steve Benjamin’s TP52 Spookie. “It was making my job fun because there was not a lot in it with the other boats; It was just a lot of positioning and starboard-tack advantage. The first beat of the third race we were pushed hard left and Vesper went hard right and we actually came out slightly ahead, which was surprising as you think late in the day it would come in hard right.”
In the six-boat IRC 1 fleet, which is stocked with blazing fast custom designs and top professional sailors, the combination of Benjamin and Larson—both winners of the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award—proved quite potent. With the top four boats separated by less than a minute in each of the three races, Benjamin and Larson and the rest of the Spookie team were as steady as the breeze, scoring three seconds to lead by one point over Jim Swartz’ Vesper and two points over Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s Interlodge.
While three of the six boats in IRC 1 are TP52s, the class’s box rule allows for slight differences between boats. When sailing under IRC, owners are constantly looking for the right combination of outright speed and beneficial rating. The perfect solution is never obvious, if even attainable.
“We slowed ours down a little bit and Phoenix increased their speed, while Vesper stayed right in the middle,” said Benjamin, a silver medalist in the 1984 Olympics. “We just re-weighed the boat. So far so good.”
Equaling Spookie’s consistency—and going one better in the position department—was Maxine, the J/44 owned by NYYC Rear Commodore William Ketcham, which won all three races in IRC 3. Two of those wins were by substantial margins, while the delta in the final race was just four seconds. But they all count the same on the scorecard. With three races in the books, Maxine has a five-point lead over Larry Landry’s White Witch—the largest of any fleet racing in Part II. Tom Sutton’s Leading Edge, the smallest boat in IRC, is third.
The scores of the top three boats in IRC 2 are identical to those in IRC 1, with Andrew & Linda Weiss’s Christopher Dragon in the pole position with six points, John Cooper’s Cool Breeze in second with seven points and Stephen Murray’s Decision in third with eight. Murray’s day took an unexpected turn in Race 2 when a lifeline snapped just as the boat was about to round the windward mark.
Three crew fell into the water and into the path of the rest of the fleet. Some quick work by the Decision crew got everyone back on board in relatively short order. While the resulting sixth place is nothing to write home about, it’s a few points better than the DNF that would’ve resulted had the lost crew been picked up a support boat. And in these tight IRC fleets, that could well be the ultimate difference between first and second.
Among the one-design keelboats, the teams coming ashore with the biggest smiles were Paul Zabetakis’ Swan 42 team, the J109 crew led by David Rosow, Dan Cheresh’s C&C 30 One-Design team and the J/88 crew of Mike Bruno. But in each case, there is reason for caution as no one-design class leader has an advantage of more than two points.
Among the 6-boat M32 catamaran class, the top two boats—Michael Dominguez’s Bronco and Ron O’Hanley’s Escape Velocity—are tied on 10 points after six races. Third place is a ways back after Day 1, but this fleet rips off so many races in a single day that not one of the six team competing could be considered out of it after Day 1.
The final group of boats racing is the four teams in ORC Club. Brian Cunha’s Ker 55 Irie won both races and leads that by two points over Tom Wacker’s J/105SD Trading Places.
The biennial multi-class regatta is hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court and is a highlight of Newport’s busy summer sailing season. Race Week is known for its split format: Classics and multihulls sailed in Part I of the regatta, from July 9-10, while one-design and handicap classes sailing Part II from Wednesday, July 13, to Saturday, July 16, when the regatta will culminated with a Rolex Awards Dinner on the spectacular grounds of Harbour Court.
Aside from winning Race Week hardware, the event is also being used as the J/109 North Americans, the Swan 42 US Nationals and the inaugural C&C 30 One-Design Class North Americans.