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Balancing needs at 167th edition

Published on June 3rd, 2021

A decade ago, someone surveying the big-boat racing scene in the Northeast United States might’ve predicted that the future lay predominantly in one-design classes. But like many things in life, the balance between one-design and rating-rule competition is cyclical.

The 167th edition of North America’s oldest sailing competition, the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, is witnessing a rise in handicap racing.

The surge in ORC entries, at over 50, has been a pleasant surprise given that the rule, while popular abroad, is just now gaining traction in the United States. This is the first year the New York Yacht Club will utilize ORC for all of its top-level rating-rule competition.

“It’s never easy to transition from one rating formula to another, so we are really excited to see the enthusiasm for the ORC rule,” says Peter Cummiskey, the event chair for the Annual Regatta. “The Annual Regatta has always been a showcase for top competition under the most advanced rating rules. We feel ORC’s triple-number rating and transparency makes it the best rule available right now. The numbers indicate that sailors agree.”

The Annual Regatta was first sailed on the Hudson River in 1846, but since 1988 has been sailed out of the Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, RI. The current three-day format includes a race around Conanicut Island and two days of buoy racing or navigator-course racing. Nearly 140 teams, which also includes classics and one design, are entered to race this year on June 11-13.

While the ORC fleets will race around the buoys on Saturday and Sunday, nearly 40 boats PHRF boats—sailing in spinnaker and non-spinnaker classes—will sail navigator courses. Both groups will compete in the Friday’s Around the Island Race, which will be scored separately.

“Not everyone thrives on the precision of ORC or the intensity of buoy racing,” says Cummiskey. “The PHRF fleet at Annual Regatta has been really consistent over the past decade, though this year is showing a slight increase. It’s a great group of boats. Winning isn’t necessarily any easier than in ORC or the one-design fleets, but the vibe is really conducive to family programs and sailors who prefer longer courses.”

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