Yachts representing a millennium’s worth of combined history will take to Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound this weekend for the first half of the New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex. The biennial event, in its ninth edition, invites Six Metres, Herreshoff S-Boats, 12 Metres and a variety of other legendary vintage wooden racing yachts between 70 and 100 years old to compete for two days (July 12-13) of around-the-buoys racing held out of New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court clubhouse.
'The Classic Yacht scene is alive and well in New England,' said Bill Doyle (Newport, R.I.), who will crew aboard Jed Pearsall’s (also Newport) 50-foot P Class Sloop Chips, which was built in 1913 and is the oldest yacht entered. 'In my opinion, the classics are the fastest growing classes at both the New York Yacht Club’s Race Week and Annual Regatta (held earlier this summer). Race Week is an event we would like to build upon, and by having a special weekend for classics, we can continue to encourage more and more classic yachts to make this event part of their sailing season in even-numbered years.'
Chips will race alongside a number of strong competitors in the Classic Rating Formula (CRF) non-spinnaker division. They include Sam Croll and Henry Skelsey’s (Greenwich, Conn.) eight Metre Angelita and Trevor Fetter’s (Dallas, Texas) 1938 Sparkman and Stephens yawl Black Watch. Angelita famously won an Olympic Sailing Gold Medal in 1932, and Black Watch is just back from the Newport Bermuda Race where it won an award for exemplary seamanship after volunteering to slow down and stand by a competing yacht that had suffered serious damage to its rudder.
Trevor Fetter’s 1938 Sparkman and Stephens yawl Black Watch at Race Week in 2012. The classic yacht will be racing again this year in Part I of the event. - © Rolex-Daniel Forster
Black Watch’s storied history includes service to this country during WWII when it became part of the 'Hooligan Navy,' a civilian picket patrol that helped the US Coast Guard locate German U-Boats during World War II.
Halsey Herreshoff (Bristol, R.I.), grandson of the famous Nathaniel Greene Herreshoff will be making a return to the event with his NY 40 Rugosa. Built in 1926, Rugosa was designed by 'grandfather' Herreshoff to become part of the NY 40 class, which was commissioned by the New York Yacht Club.
More heritage and history comes with Andrew Norris’s (Wilton, Conn.) pristinely restored 15 Square Metre Vixen, a Race Week newcomer, sailing in spinnaker division. The yacht was built in 1938 by Kungsörs Boatyard in Stockholm and in 2010 was the only boat to enter the Uffa Fox Challenge Race, a 1,000 nautical mile race from Cowes, England to Stockholm, Sweden. (Vixen completed the race in 12 days.) Pushing Vixen on the race course will be the Luders 24 LEAF. Restored last year by New Zealand yachting legend Chris Bouzaid, LEAF will be making her sailing debut here at Race Week.
Gunther Buerman (Newport, R.I.), whose New Zealand (KZ3) will be racing in 12 Metre Grand Prix class in the first part of Race Week, will also sail in the second half of Race Week aboard his newly acquired IRC 52 Hooligan. 'I was looking for something that would be fun for my 12 Metre crew to do during the winter, so I looked into chartering an IRC 52 for the Caribbean series,' said Buerman, whose wife Maggie and son Matt sail with him. 'Instead I ended up buying the former Emirates New Zealand.' Buerman’s theory that he could easily sail the IRC 52 with his 12 meter crew was quickly discredited at Key West Race Week earlier this year. 'We put up a (spinnaker) kite and the boat was going 25 knots,' said Buerman, adding with a chuckle: 'If you hit double digits in a 12 Metre that’s pretty amazing, so these (IRC 52) things go two and a half to three times as fast! I have to have people who have been on these boats and have the experience sailing them; it’s a whole different game.'
Race Week’s latter half begins Wednesday July 16 and continues through Saturday July 19. It is open to HPR, IRC, PHRF and one-design racing. In addition to buoy racing, a mid-distance race is planned, plus racing may also include using government marks and a compact 'stadium' course inside Narragansett Bay by Fort Adams.
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