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Skeleton Key and Cavalino win Around-the-Island Race at 167th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta

by New York Yacht Club 11 Jun 2021 21:53 PDT June 11-13, 2021
Skeleton Key wins ORC honors in the Around-the-Island Race at the 167th NYYC Annual Regatta © Paul Todd /

It can't simply be coincidence that the boat that took overall ORC honors in today's tricky Around the Island Race at the 167th Annual Regatta is named Skeleton Key. Peter Wagner's J/111 was true to its name today, opening one metaphorical locked door after another during a spirited lap of Conanicut Island until it found itself in rarified air, sailing a mile ahead of the 140-boat fleet with just the Maxi72 Bella Mente for company.

The two boats started the 19-mile race 48 minutes apart, but as they crossed tacks with just a few miles remaining in the race, the overall ORC crown hung in the balance. Hap Fauth's 72-foot Bella Mente, sailing with many members from the American Magic America's Cup crew, would scoot away to win line honors, completing the course in 1:49:03. But the 36-foot Skeleton Key, from San Francisco, took the big prize of the day, first place in ORC E and first place in ORC overall, with John Cooper's 43-foot Cool Breeze in second (first in ORC B) and Bella Mente in third (first in ORC A).

"It was fantastic, good racing, but also just a great day on the water," says Wagner (Atherton, Calif.). "We were sort of smart about sail selection and chose some good lanes through the traffic, of which there was plenty. It wasn't really an ideal set up for a J/111, as there wasn't enough wind for us to plane. Nevertheless, it came together."

The Annual Regatta was first sailed on the Hudson River on July 16 and 18, 1846. A similar competition the previous year was called a Trial of Speed. With a few exceptions for world wars and other global crises, the event has been held every year since. For the majority of its existence, the New York Yacht Club held its Annual Regatta on waters close to New York City. Since 1988, however, the event has been sailed out of the Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, R.I., and has settled into the current three-day format, which includes a race around Conanicut Island on Friday and two days of buoy racing or navigator-course racing on Saturday and Sunday. The 167th Annual Regatta is sponsored by Hammetts Hotel, Safe Harbor Marinas and Helly Hansen.

When the traditional southwesterly seabreeze fills in, the Around the Island Race plays out like one lap of a very long windward leeward course, a start to windward, a spinnaker set at Beavertail Point, a douse around the north end of Conanicut Island and then a beat to the finish. A strong easterly component in the today's breeze complicated things significantly, with many boats setting spinnakers shortly after the start and carrying a downwind sail of some kind two-thirds of the way around the course. Those boats equipped with Code 0s or reaching spinnakers executed multiple sail changes. Those without hung on with skill and guile.

After a career racing all over the world, Mike Toppa has acquired plenty of both. And they have lifted the Newport, R.I., native to the top of the sailing world, notably as a member of the America3 team that won the 1992 America's Cup in San Diego. But, pardon the hackneyed expression, there's no place like home. And Toppa couldn't have been more pleased with today's race. An overall win in PHRF in the W-37 Cavalino was almost secondary. Almost.

"I’ve never found a place that’s more fun and beautiful to sail than Narragansett Bay; I tell everybody that," says Toppa. "And then today, the race around the island, such a cool event because the boats were strung out for what seemed like miles. The scenery is amazing and the course is really challenging because there are all these geographic shifts."

For Toppa, one of the big keys to the win was the start.

"We were watching the earlier starts and seeing how that slow, persistent right shift was affecting the starting strategy," says Toppa. "During the earlier starts, you couldn't cross the line on starboard, then for our start you could sail from committee boat to the pin on starboard. Our strategy was originally to start on port and be very aware of starboard tackers. But then we started on starboard at the pin and were able to tack."

That staked Cavalino to a sizable lead, but there were plenty of pitfalls still to come. With just a main, jib and one spinnaker, Cavalino didn't have a lot of options when it came to sail selection. What Toppa did have was a crew of family and old—and very talented—friends, and a boat that they could work.

"It’s a very simple boat to sail," he says. "We have just a roller-furling jib, an A2 spinnaker, and main sail, and a giant cockpit. If the boat is 37 feet, the cockpit is 20 feet long. It’s fun and simple. I love it because it my opinion, it’s very pretty. And it’s quick. If it wasn't fast, it wouldn't be so pretty."

While Toppa and his team were plying familiar waters, Wagner was sailing 3,000 miles from his home port on San Francisco Bay. With the 2021 J/111 North Americans and World Championship both on Chesapeake Bay, Wagner moved his program east this summer.

"We don’t do much [point-to-point racing], we're usually just a pure one-design program," says Wagner, "This is a bit of change of pace for us, and we're really happy to be participating. Lovely weather, great conditions and a great venue."

Like Toppa, Wagner and his team benefited from a strong start and then made some savvy sail selections on the first leg. Once they gapped away from their division, the path to victory required maneuvering Skeleton Key past the 36 boats that started ahead of them.

Beating up the East Passage, the Skeleton Key crew could see the entire fleet astern of them, at least until a certain 72-foot rocket ship charged past.

"The highlight of the day was Bella Mente tacking on us," says Wagner, with a laugh. "We were admiring Bella Mente coming across on port, then we were a little surprised to see them tack on us. But they were just sailing their own race."

Racing in the 167th edition of the Annual Regatta will continue this weekend with a two-day series of buoy racing or point-to-point racing on Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay.

167th NYYC Annual Regatta - Friday (Around-the-Island Race): (complete results here)

Classics (CRF MkII - 7 Boats)
1. Dorade, S&S 52 52.5, Matt Brooks , Fremont, CA, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Marilee, NY 40 58'6, Ken Colburn , Boston, MA, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Sonny (spin), S&S 53 53, Craig Venter , La Jolla, CA, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Angelita, 8 Metre 50.33, Skelsey / Croll , Greenwich, CT, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. NEITH (NS), Herreshoff 53 53, Van Brown , Newport, RI, USA - 5 ; 5pts

12 Metre - GPM (One Design - 3 Boats)
1. Challenge 12 (M), 12 Metre 67, Jack LeFort , Jamestown, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. New Zealand (GP), 12 Metre 64, Gunther Buerman , Newport, RI, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Enterprise (M), 12 Metre 66, USMMA Sailing Foundation , Riderwood, MD, USA - 3 ; 3pts

12 Metre - T/V (One Design - 4 Boats)
1. Onawa (V), 12 Metre 69, Mark Watson , Newport, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Columbia (T), 12 Metre 69, Kevin Hegarty Anthony Chiurco , Newport, RI, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Weatherly (T), 12m 68, Steven Eddleston , Bristol, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Gleam (V), 12 Metre 69, Gleam LLC. , Bristol, RI, USA - 5 ; 5pts

Melges IC37 (One Design - 16 Boats)
1. Midnight Blue, IC37 37, James Wilson , Rye, NY, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Pacific Yankee, IC37 37, Drew Freides / Bill Ruh , Los Angeles, CA, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Gamecock, IC37 37, Peter McClennen , Newport, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Das Blau Max, IC37 37, Nick and Cory Sertl , Jamestown, RI, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Ticket, IC37 37, Whitmore / Greenhouse , Norfolk, VA, USA - 5 ; 5pts

ORC A (ORC - 6 Boats)
1. Bella Mente, Maxi 72 72, Hap Fauth , Naples, FL, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Gladiator, TP52 52, Tony Langley , Retford, Nottinghamshire, GBR - 2 ; 2pts
3. Interlodge, Botin 44 44, Austin and Gwen Fragomen , Newport, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. IRIE 2, Kerr 55 55, Brian Cunha , Newport, RI, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Stark Raving Mad IX, Carkeek 47 47, Jim Madden , Newport Beach, CA, USA - 5 ; 5pts

ORC B (ORC - 7 Boats)
1. Cool Breeze, Mills 43 Custom 43, John Cooper , Cane Hill, MO, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Temptation - Oakcliff, Ker 50 50, Arthur Santry , Oyster Bay, NY, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Xpatriate, Xp44 44, Peter Grueterich , Riverside, CT, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Settler, Tripp 43 43, Thomas Rich , Portsmouth, RI, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Pterodactyl, R/P 45 45, Scott Weisman , White Plains, NY, USA - 5 ; 5pts

ORC C (ORC - 11 Boats)
1. Impetuous, Swan 42 42.5, Paul Zabetakis , Jamestown, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. After Midnight, CTM41 41, Paul Jeka , Atlantic Highlands, NJ, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Entropy, Swan 42 42'6, Patricia Young , Jamestown, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Lagertha, Club Swan 42 42, Kurt Kalberer II , New York, NY, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Zammermoos, Swan 42 42, David Fass , Mamaroneck, NY, USA - 5 ; 5pts

ORC D (ORC - 13 Boats)
1. Incognito, J 121 40, Joe Brito , Bristol, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Flying Jenny, IC 37 37, Sandra Askew , Annapolis, Md, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Peacemaker, Ker 11.5 37, Leo Vasiliev , Bayville, NY, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Wings, J 121 40, Ashley Maltempo / Bill Wiggins , Johns Island, SC, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Ranger, Farr 40 39, Midn 1/C Luke Gillcrist , Annapolis, MD, USA - 5 ; 5pts

ORC E (ORC - 12 Boats)
1. Skeleton Key, J 111 36.5, Peter Wagner , Atherton, CA, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Moneypenny, J 111 36.5, Ken Comerford , Annapolis, MD, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Bravo, J 111 36.5, Andrew Ward / Sedgwick Ward , Shelter Island, NY, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. ZUUL, Aerodyne 38 38, Benedict Capuco , Alexandria, VA, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Leading Edge, J 109 35, Tom Sutton , Houston, TX, USA - 5 ; 5pts

PHRF 1 - Spinnaker (PHRF - 6 Boats)
1. The Cat Came Back, Swan 42 42.5, Lincoln Mossop , Providence, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Defiance, Swan 56 56, Peter Noonan , Saratoga, CA, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Red Herring, canting keel ketch 55, Stephen Clark , Warren, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. True, J 160 52’8, Howard Hodgson , Ipswich, MA, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Tramontana, Swan 56 56, Heidi Herlihy / Todd Barbera , Marblehead, MA, USA - 5 ; 5pts

PHRF 2 - Spinnaker (PHRF - 12 Boats)
1. Cavalino, W-37 37, Mike Toppa , Newport, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Byte, Sunfast 3300 33, Robert & Libby Alexander , Rye, NY, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Stardust, Farr 30 30, George Johns , St. Paul, MN, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Falcon, Sydney 36 36, Charles Stoddard , Barrington, RI, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Divided Sky, Summit 35 35, Vincent & Kristina McAteer , East Greenwich, RI, USA - 5 ; 5pts

PHRF 3 - Spinnaker (PHRF - 12 Boats)
1. Brigadoon, J 105 34.5, Robert Morton , Middletown, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Dark Star, Evelyn 32 M 9.750M, roger lowlicht , branford, CT, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. MAKAI, C&C 110 36, Alex and Ted Hood , Newport, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Bamboozler, Beneteau First 40.7 39'3, Rob Hoyt , Dartmouth, MA, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. MadBlue, J 105 34.5, Mudratz Racing , Stonington, CT, USA - 5 ; 5pts

PHRF 4 - Spinnaker (PHRF - 5 Boats)
1. Spirit, J 92s 30, EC Helme , Newport, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. The Party Tree, J 80 26, Conor O'Neil , Newport, RI, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Odyssey, S&S 47.57, David Brodsky / Alfred Van Liew , Middletown, R.I., USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Bird, GulfStar 50 TM Sloop 50.9, Ed Steedman , Franklin, TN, USA - 6 ; 6pts

PHRF 1 - Non-spinnaker (PHRF - 5 Boats)
1. Wild Horses, W Class 76 76, Donald Tofias , Newport, MA, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Crackerjack, Cambria 40 41.3, Alan Krulisch , Arlington, VA, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Rendezvous II, Beneteau Oceanis 461 46.7, Michael Mason , Portsmouth, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Brizo, Beneteau First 40.7 39, Vicky wiseman , Barrington, RI, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Divide by Zero, Frers 45 45, John Lanigan , Oak Hill, VA, USA - 6 ; 6pts

PHRF 2 - Non-Spinnaker (PHRF - 6 Boats)
1. Blackwing (Friday Only), Stuart Knockabout 28, Eric Hall , BRISTOL, RI, USA - 1 ; 1pt
2. Surprise, Herreshoff S Class 27'6, Fred Roy , Newport, RI, USA - 2 ; 2pts
3. Jazz Fish, Freedom 35 35, Paul Koch , East Greenwich, RI, USA - 3 ; 3pts
4. Star Dancer, Freedom 35 35, David Pedrick , Newport, RI, USA - 4 ; 4pts
5. Lorelei, Hanse 348 34, David Johnson , Vero Beach, FL, USA - 5 ; 5pts

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