Blurry ending for 2020 NYYC Race Week
Published on September 26th, 2020
Newport, RI (September 25, 2020) – After three stellar days of competition, the toughest calls on the final day of New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex were left to the race committee.
Fog and a disappearing breeze made getting racing in a distinct challenge. The Melges IC37 fleet started and finished a race in visibility that made seeing the competition a challenge, let alone the marks of the course, while the ORC fleet waited for the fog to clear before starting a race, only to see the wind evaporate halfway through.
Sailors and race officials waiting patiently for the breeze to return, but it refused to fill before the 1500 deadline for a final start, and the three fleets headed for the dock with just one race completed between them and no changes to the podium standings.
Winning the three classes at Race Week were Vesper (TP52), skippered by David Team (Newport Beach, CA) in ORC 1; Impetuous (Swan 42), skippered by Paul Zabetakis (Jamestown, RI) in ORC 2; and Blazer II, skippered by Christopher Culver (Newport, RI) in the Melges IC37 class.
Culver and Team, who was the overall winner among the two ORC groupings, each earned a Rolex Steel and Yellow Gold Submariner Date for their outstanding performances on the water during the regatta.
The second season of the New York Yacht Club’s innovative Melges IC37 charter program was supposed to stretch from early June through mid-October, a string of six regattas culminating in the class’s national championship. But COVID-19 had other plans.
The revised season is now reduced to just two events over the space of two weeks, Race Week at Newport and the National Championship on October 2-4 which will be part of the 166th Annual Regatta. That left limited time for teams to get up to speed with a class where technique is very much still evolving.
“Half the team is new this year,” says Culver, the Vice Commodore of the New York Yacht Club. “And I have to tell you that this year has been great, the camaraderie of the team has been spectacular.
“What we always say about this class is we’ve got great competitors, but let’s make sure we have fun, and that starts with our team. We’ve got a spectacular team. Tactician Pete Levesque gets us going in the right direction and keeps a level head on his shoulders, but all for all the Blazer team members out there, great job.”
Blazer II had a strong start to the regatta with a first in the opening race and two more top-three finishes on the first day. But it nearly all came undone on Day 2. A pre-start collision on Day 2 left the team with a compromised boat that handicapped them three of the day’s four races. While redress got them back in the hunt, they still needed to switch boats and refocus.
Three more top-three finishes followed on Day 3. Then Culver and his crew put the cherry on top with a win in today’s only race to build an 11.3-point advantage over Pacific Yankee, skippered by Bill Ruh (Del Mar, CA) and Drew Freides (Los Angeles, CA) which took second, and a nearly 20-point lead over Qubit, skippered by Chris Lewis (Seabrook, TX) in third.
“I don’t actually tell Chris much at all about driving the boat,” says Levesque, a former team race world champion. “I put him in the hardest positions I can imagine, and he comes through every time, especially at the windward mark.”
For David Team and his crew on Vesper, the deciding moment came in the class’s final race, a 22-mile distance race in Narragansett Bay and on Rhode Island Sound sailed yesterday.
“The start was key,” says Team. “It allowed us to get to the right side and seek relief from the current off Jamestown. It was a great race, Fox got us at the end, but fortunately we corrected out on them.”
In fact, not only did Vesper slip past Fox, but Hap Fauth’s Maxi72 Bella Mente was able to sneak between the two boats in the final result for that race, turning a one-point deficit for Vesper into a one-point advantage in the overall standings.
“Thank you to the yacht club, the trustees, and the race committee,” says Team. “It was great to go sailing again and, fortunately, we had some good Vesper weather. It made for interesting racing. We have had a great relationship with Fox from racing each other on the West Coast. [Skipper Victor Wild] is a great guy. It was great to race against the Bella Mente team as well. We just went out and sailed our own boat which is all you can do with a class that disparate.”
In the ORC 2 class, Tom Sutton’s Leading Edge (Houston, TX) took the early lead with a pair of wins in the first two races. But once Zabetakis and his team on Impetuous got a taste of victory it was all over. Impetuous won the final five races of the regatta to take a two-point win over Sutton, who was second in each of those five races.
“The boat was fast and it really pointed well so we were able to lift off other boats and keep lanes,” says Zabetakis. “The crew work in the corners, they knew what to do. I remember in the old days watching what everyone was doing on the boat and telling them what to do. Now I just focus on driving and they do everything.”
Vice Commodore Culver closed the awards ceremony at Harbour Court with a quick tribute to longtime New York Yacht Club partner Rolex.
“This has been an extraordinary year; one we’ll never forget. We worked very hard to get back on the water for the New York Yacht Club. Rolex has stood by us for a long time, but never as much as they did this year, and that’s very meaningful for the New York Yacht Club.”
The biennial regatta was held September 23-26 on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound. The next edition of Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex will take place in July of 2022.
FINAL RESULTS (Top Five):
ORC 1 (ORC – 6 Boats)
1. Vesper, David Team , USA – 1 -2 -1 -1 -3 -2 -1 ; 11
2. FOX, Victor Wild , USA – 2 -1 -2 -2 -1 -1 -3 ; 12
3. Bella Mente, Hap Fauth , USA – 3 -3 -3 -6 -2 -4 -2 ; 23
4. Rigadoon, Jim Grundy , USA – 5 -3 -6 -5 -4 -3 -4 ; 30
5. Summer Storm, Andrew Berdon , USA – 4 -5 -4 -3 -6 -5 -6 ; 33
ORC 2 (ORC – 8 Boats)
1. Impetuous, Paul Zabetakis , USA – 2 -3 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 ; 10
2. Leading Edge, William Sutton , USA – 1 -1 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 ; 12
3. Das Blau Max, Cory Sertl , USA – 4 -2 -5 -3 -6 -7 -4 ; 31
4. Rikki, Bruce Chafee , USA – 8 -6 -3 -8 -4 -4 -3 ; 36
5. Maxine, William Ketcham , USA – 7 -7 -4 -7 -3 -3 -5 ; 36
Melges IC37 (One Design – 12 Boats)
1. Blazer II, Christopher Culver , USA – 1 -6 -3 -2 -6 -2.89 -2.89 -2.89 -1 -3 -3 -1 ; 34.67
2. Pacific Yankee, Drew Freides / Bill Ruh , USA – 4 -1 -1 -6 -5 -13 -6 -2 -3 -1 -1 -2 ; 45
3. Qubit, Chris Lewis , USA – 3 -4 -6 -4 -2 -7 -3 -6 -2 -6 -2 -9 ; 54
4. Waka Jawaka, Michael Goldfarb / Laura Grondin , USA – 2 -7 -4 -7 -1 -1 -1 -3 -8 -8 -6 -10 ; 58
5. Midnight Blue, Alexis Michas , USA – 6 -2 -5 -11 -3 -5 -5 -8 -7 -2 -4 -4 ; 62
The New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex was first run in 1998, with the biennial regatta, traditionally run at the apex of the summer sailing season, having established itself as one of the premier summer race weeks in the Northeast thanks to its attractive combination of great racing conditions off Newport and the superlative shoreside hospitality at the Club’s waterfront Clubhouse overlooking Newport Harbor.