After sweeping the classic yacht competition with his 12 Metre New Zealand in Part I of New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex (July 12-13), Newport’s Gunther Buerman is preparing for the biennial event’s second half with his newly acquired IRC 52 Hooligan. Part II of the biennial split-format regatta will host renowned local and international sailors alike in IRC, PHRF and One-Design classes for four days of racing starting tomorrow (July 16) and continuing through Saturday. Courses are planned for mid-distance and around-the-buoys racing on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound.
'The 12 Metre and the IRC 52 are such different animals that you have to think differently on both boats,' said Brad Read, Sail Newport’s executive director and a multiple world champion who sails with Buerman in the afterguard of both New Zealand and Hooligan. 'The 12 Metre is a momentum machine where you have to plan a lot farther ahead, while Hooligan is a 52-foot planing dinghy. With it, you can dance your way up the course upwind and can get yourself in and out of trouble quicker, and things happen a lot faster onboard.'
It is because of the opposing strategies needed onboard both boats that Buerman’s original plan, to have the same crew sail on both the 12 Metre and the IRC 52, didn’t pan out in the end. Read is one of only a few sailors that has carried through to Part II of Race Week with Buerman. (Another is Lexi Gahagan from Wilmington, Delaware, a four-time America’s Cup crew.) 'I drive during the start on both boats, and when Gunther takes the helm I transition to being the strategist onboard, working with tactician Lexi Gahagan,' said Read, adding that the Hooligan team will have its work cut out for it, as seven other strong competitors will be vying for the IRC 1 win, including the IRC 52 Near Miss whose team, led by Franck Noel, is coming from Switzerland to race. Jim Swartz’s (Edgartown, Mass.) IRC 52 Vesper and George David’s (Hartford, Conn.) 90-foot Reichel Pugh Rambler both won their divisions at Race Week in 2012 and will be on the starting line with Hooligan as well. 'We are looking forward to some exciting sailing all week,' said Read.
Most of Read’s family also show exemplary sailing skills, especially his brother Ken Read, who also lives in Newport and is an America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race skipper. He will be skippering the feisty Marstrom 32 One-Design catamaran named POW!, and his 16-year-old nephew Brendan (Brad Read’s son) will be crewing for him.
'For me, getting this boat was about the kids,' said Ken Read. 'This class is meant to bring new people into high performance sailing. There are so many kids Brendan’s age that would give their left arm for the opportunity to jump on a boat like this, and we have to give them the platform to get out there, have fun, learn and make mistakes.'
Read added that transitioning from dinghies to big boats can be difficult for junior sailors, and the Marstrom 32 Class is a perfect medium between the two. 'My brother and I, along with many other sailors of our time, were included by the generation of sailors before us, and that is why we got the opportunities that we did on big boats. It is now our turn to bring the next generation under our wing, and if we don’t then we’re failing.'
POW! will go head-to-head against four other Marstrom 32s on 'stadium' style courses off Fort Adams, designed to resemble those used during the America’s Cup World Series in Newport last year.
'This setup is entirely new for the New York Yacht Club,' said Ken Read. 'All the dinghies and fast boats will be ripping around close to land, so it will be lots of fun for people on the shore and on the water.'
Other boats bringing a fresh perspective to racing are Sandra Askew’s Farr 280 Flying Jenny and Max Buerman’s C&C 30 Thirty in IRC 3; both boats are brand new builds that are smaller and lighter than the average IRC boat. Race Week is also serving as the National Championship for the Swan 42 Class and the North American Championship for the J/109 Class; at the conclusion of Race Week, Rolex timepieces will be awarded to the winner in each of those classes. A third Rolex timepiece will be awarded for best overall performance in IRC. NYYC website