The first weekend of the eighth biennial New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport, presented by Rolex, commenced today.
28 classic yachts from the 1920s through the early 1960s graced upper Narragansett Bay, racing in decidedly challenging tides and moderate breezes that increased throughout the afternoon.
The event’s first half is hosting seven classes of the classics for two days of racing (July 14-15), while the second half starts on Thursday (July 19), with nearly 100 boats sailing in Handicap and One-Design classes through Sunday (July 22). Separating the two sessions, on Wednesday (July 18), is a 19-mile Around the (Conanicut) Island Race, which has 34 boats entered.
'What’s represented here this weekend are the finest classic yachts of this area, and each one has its own intriguing provenance,' said Bill Doyle, a crew on Jed Pearsall’s (Newport, R.I.) 37-foot 6 Metre Clarity, which won a silver medal at the 1924 Olympic Games and wound up fourth overall in Class 3 after posting finishes of 5-4 today. Doyle also noted the passion one needs for restoring classic yachts, and there was no shortage of it among the competing owners, skippers and crew. 'Personally, we make a concerted effort to enjoy the beauty of wooden boats; it’s not always about winning,' added Doyle, who with Pearsall maintains a private collection of classic yachts that includes three additional wooden sailboats and a motor launch, all as immaculately kept as Clarity.
Sailing with every inch as much majesty to win Class 3 was Joe Loughborough’s (Newport) slightly larger Luders 24 Belle, which sailed to a 1-2 to top Chuck Townsend’s (Middletown, R.I.) S&S 39 Fidelio by one point in overall scoring.
After an hour and a half delay on an 1100 start time, a 12-14 knot southerly made up for lost time and allowed all but one class—Class 2--to sail two races today.
Winning Class 2’s single 14-mile race was another grande dame of classics competing here, Sam Croll’s and Henry Skelsey’s (Greenwich, Conn.) 8 Metre Angelita. She also won an Olympic medal long ago, this one gold in 1928, and she proved today that she still holds on to her winning ways.
'It was an extraordinary day; the wind was consistent, and the most challenging part of racing was judging the tides,' said Skelsey, who helmed the boat. 'This is such a competitive class with an outstanding group of sailors, and we are honored to be racing against them.'
Robert Patterson (Warwick, R.I.) said he put six coats of varnish on his 27½-foot S Boat before splashing it this year, and he is counting this as his first race of the season. As such, his Pirate posted a modest 9-4 to land in eighth place for the day out of ten boats sailing in the very competitive one-design Herreshoff S Class. The day panned out much better for Stephan Sloan (Greenwich, R.I.) whose Argument finished fifth in the first race and topped it off with a victory in the second. The team tops the scoreboard with one point over second-place finisher Osprey, which was steered by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
'We started off the first race in the third row of a two-row start, fouled a boat at the windward mark and had to do a circle and sail ourselves back into the fleet,' said Sloan. 'In the second race we had another really lousy start and just dug through. There was a right-hand shift that came through in the second race, and we weren't too far on the wrong side of that, and in the last run down, we went straight and things just worked out.'
The S Class sloops, designed by Nathaniel Herreshoff in 1919, comprise one of the most significant one-design racing classes of the era and perhaps of all time. They are revered by their owners for their responsive helm, for their ability to stand up to a breeze, and for their ability to ghost along in light air. The S Boat’s 42-foot tall spruce masts are tapered, hollow and raked back, while their booms are 20 feet long, overhanging the boat’s transom to create a powerful image and a thrilling ride as they carry a relatively large amount of mainsail area (426 feet).
'They look like swans on the water,' said the class’s Commodore Fred Roy (Newport) who sailed his S boat Surprise to a fourth today. 'Today all of the modern boats have curved or bendy masts, but the S Boat is original to its design in 1919; it was a class before its time.'
The 12 Metres, which starred in the America’s Cup here in Newport from 1958 to ‘83 -- with one last hurrah in 1987 in Western Australia -- saw Dennis Williams’s (Hobe Sound, Fla.) Victory 83 lead the Modern Class. Kip Curren's (Newport) Laura -- the former KZ5 -- was first in the Grand Prix Class, and Herb Marshall's (Newport) American Eagle, with Rick Bready (Newport) at the helm, stands at the top of the Traditional Class.
12 Metre AMERICAN EAGLE, USA 21, leads over COLUMBIA, USA 16, on Day 1 - New York Yacht Club Race Week - Classics - © Rolex-Daniel Forster
'It was a wonderful experience, and we are hoping for the same type of conditions tomorrow,' said Bready, who started sailing only one year ago and tomorrow will go head-to-head with Alain and Dan Hanover's (Weston, Mass.) 12 Metre Columbia. 'The chances of winning are split 50/50, which will make for a more interesting day.'
Top Five Results:
12 Metres Modern Class 4 (3 Boats)
Victory 83, Dennis Williams, Hobe Sound, Fla. 2-1 (3)
Intrepid, John Curtin, New York, N.Y. 1-3 (4)
Courageous,Ralph Isham / Alexander Auersperg, New York, N.Y. 3-2 (5)
12 Metres Grand Prix Class 5 (2 Boats)
Laura, Kip Curren, Warwick, R.I. 2,1 (3)
USA, James Heckman, Arlington, Va., 1-2 (3)
12 Metres Traditional Class 6 (2 Boats)
American Eagle, Dan MacDonald and Rick Bready, Newport, R.I. 2-1 (3)
Columbia, Alain and Dan Hanover, Weston, Mass. 1-2 (3)
Classics Class 2 (5 Boats)
Angelita, 8 Metre 50.33’, Sam Croll and Henry Skelsey, Greenwich, Conn. 1 (1)
Sonny, S&S Custom 53 53, Joseph Dockery, Newport, R.I. 2 (2)
Black Watch, S&S 68 68, Trevor Fetter, Dallas, Texas 3 (3)
Fortune, custom Crowninshield 50, John Taft and Tom Glassie , Newport, R.I. 4 (4)
Sumurun, Classic Ketch 94ft, Armin Fischer, Camden, Maine 5 (5)
Classics Class 3 (6 Boats)
Belle, Luders 24 38.25, Jonathan Loughborough , Newport, R.I. 1-2 (3)
Fidelio, Sparkman & Stephens 39, Chuck Townsend, Middletown, R.I. 3-1 (4)
Ruweida, R Class 38.83, Joseph Huber, Wynnewood, Penn. 2-3 (5)
Clarity, Six Metre 35.5, Jed Pearsall, Newport, R.I. 5-4 (9)
Madcap, 6 Metre 32, Tom Fair, North Kingstown, R.I. 4-6 (10)
Herreshoff S Class (10 Boats)
Argument, Stephan Sloan, East Greenwich, R.I. 5-1 (6)
Osprey, Sheldon Whitehouse, Newport, R.I. 4-3 (7)
Aquila, Angus Davis, Bristol, R.I., USA 1-8 (9)
Surprise, Fred Roy, Newport, R.I. 7-2 (9)
Swallow, Leeds Mitchell IV, Providence, R.I. 2-7(9)
12 Metres INTREPID, USA 1222, & VICTORY 83, K 22, in Modern Class - New York Yacht Club Race Week - Classics - © Rolex-Daniel Forster
Complete results at NYYC website
by Barby MacGowan
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1:52 AM Sun 15 Jul 2012GMT
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