IC37 North American Championship
Published on October 8th, 2023
Thirteen teams competed in the IC37 North American Championship on October 6-8 in Newport, RI. Six points separated the top three after eight races, with Steve Liebel’s New Wave team taking the title, followed by Hannah Swett/ Benjamin Kinney in second and Peter Wagner in third.
The extraordinarily shifty and variable winds that dominated the series were in rare form for the final two races of the regatta, sailed inside Narragansett Bay. No lead was safe, no deficit was too great to overcome.
The New Wave team went into the final race of the regatta, which was hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, with a three-point lead over the Members Only syndicate led by Swett and Kinney.
“The last race, Members Only started right next to us, and they were over early,” says Liebel. “[After restarting], they hammered the right corner [of the racecourse], and, at one point, we thought they were going to clear us by 200 yards. And we’re like, ‘Oh my god, they just won this race.’ And we were in sixth.”
Had those positions held, the championship would’ve gone to Swett and Kinney. While the Members Only team did come back enough to beat New Wave in that race, it was just by one place—seventh to eighth—and New Wave was able to claim the North American title. The win in the 2023 summer finale also wrapped up the IC37 season championship for Liebel, for the second consecutive year.
Main trimmer Marty Kullman, the lone professional sailor on New Wave—while primarily an amateur class, each IC37 can sail with one professional—echoed the importance of consistency. He noted that the origins of the program go back more than 20 years to a Henderson 30, also named New Wave, owned by Mike Carroll.
“The amount of time we’ve sailed together over the past 30 years is why we can get on a boat and pull it together,” says Kullman. “Every time you introduce a new person to the team, it’s hard, it’s different, it’s changing [the crew dynamic].
“If you can sail together as a team, more, you’re going to be better because you’re going to be sharper. Everything gets better and better, the more you sail together, and that’s really where the New Wave team has its strengths, we’ve been able to sail a lot of hours together.”
The regatta got off to a slightly rough start for the New Wave team with a fifth and two sixths on the first day. Kullman thought they might’ve lost their chance at the championship as the team was nine points out of first and seven points out of second. But Liebel wasn’t bothered.
“We couldn’t piece it together [on Day 1],” he says. “But again, we have great crew. We had a fun night that night, no one was concerned.”
On day two, New Wave won two of three races, finished third in the other and vaulted into a tie for the overall lead with Members Only leading into the final day, with Wagner’s Skeleton Key lurking. John Hele’s Vigilant and Peter McClennen’s Gamecock, the defending North American champion, were also in contention heading into final two races. Those two boats would finish fourth and fifth respectively.