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An interview with Drew Freides on winning the 2021 Melges IC37 Nationals

by David Schmidt 27 Jul 08:00 PDT July 16-18, 2021
Pacific Yankee en route to winning the Melges IC37 National Championships © Image courtesy of Drew Freides/Yankee Clipper

It's always a very big deal when the New York Yacht Club selects a new One Design boat to compete at their signature events, such as the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, and the Mark Mills-designed IC37 is no exception. The boats are fast, fun to sail, and offer fantastic One Design racing. The NYYC purchased the first 20 boats in the series, which members can charter from the club (they need to provide their own sails), but the other build slots went to private owners.

The result is one of the most competitive 30-something-foot One Design classes afloat, with winter racing taking place on Floridian waters; the class' summer racing is largely a New England affair.

The class recently held their 2021 National Championship regatta (July 16-18) on the waters of Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, which attracted 18 well-sailed boats. After seven races, Pacific Yankee, which is co-owned and co-skippered by Drew Freides and Bill Ruh, claimed top honors by a spread of seven points.

I checked in with Freides, via email, to learn more about his team's racing programs and their win at this national-level event.

How long has your team been sailing together? And did the program start with the IC37, or did you guys sail on a different platform pro to IC37s?

We have had almost our entire team since we acquired our boat in mid 2019. Once in a while we lose a person or two to a scheduling conflict, but our core group has been together since 2019. We actually sailed both the 2020 and the 2021 Nationals with the exact same team.

Your vessel name portends a split-coast mindset. Can you please tell us about this aspect of your program?

The name simply refers to my personal background. I grew up on the East Coast (in Larchmont, NY) went to college at MIT and then immediately upon graduation I moved to the West Coast to become a yacht designer in San Diego at Nelson/Marek Yacht Design. I have lived in Southern California ever since, but find myself commuting to the East Coast to race frequently.

Logistically, what does this look like? Are we talking about two boats, one on each coast, or does the boat spend time traveling the interstate highways? If it's the latter, how tough is it to plan and juggle events?

Our boat was built at Westerly in Costa Mesa (one of the two original builders), we took delivery in San Diego, but have since kept the boat on the East Coast because that is where the remainder of the Melges IC 37 fleet is based.

There have been 35 boats built-split between the East Coast, the Midwest, ours on the West Coast, and the UK. Aside from the one trip our boat took across the U.S. from San Diego to Florida, our boat has been commuting up and down I-95 from Newport to Fort Lauderdale (the location of our Winter Series).

It makes the travel slightly more difficult for me, but most of the remainder of our crew (aside from Max Hutcheson), is located either on the East Coast, or the Mid-west.

Building on that last question, what are your favorite East Coast and West Coast events? Are there some regattas that you never miss? If so, which ones and why?

As an East Coaster at heart, I always love the NYYC's Annual Regatta. When I have more time, I also love Block Island Race Week.

In the past, a favorite was also Key West [Race Week].

When racing out here, I have always been fond of the San Diego Yachting Cup along with the St. Francis [Yacht Club's] Big Boat Series.

What do you see as the biggest keys to your great win at the IC37 Nationals?

Our keys to success are summed up in three words - People, Process and Platform.

We have, in my humble opinion, the best team in the fleet. There is not a weak member of our crew from stem to stern. We practice harder than any other team, practicing for a minimum of two days prior to every event with our coach, Ed Adams (we have racked up quite a record with Ed in various classes - three National Championships and three World Championships).

To our team, everything we do is about establishing a repeatable process. We also always make sure we have the best equipment. Thanks to our captain, Charlie Smythe, our boat is always impeccably prepared. We also always make sure we have the newest and best sails possible.

We aren't faster than any of the other teams. I think we are simply a little better at getting up to speed quicker, reacting quicker, adapting quicker to changes in conditions, and shifting gears quicker when needed.

As with all tight One Design classes, the little things turn into big deltas when you can "poke" your bow out and control your own destiny.

Has the IC37 fleet changed at all as the result of the pandemic? Say, any new owners (or charterers) in the mix this year? Also, how would you describe competition levels year-on-year?

The fleet continues to strengthen, with new additions.

We have had great One Design competitors from other fleets join us recently, such as Michael Goldfard, Laura Grondin, Bill Lynn and Peter Duncan. Doug Newhouse also bought a new boat early this year, and won the first event of the year in Rye, New York.

How would you describe the IC37 class compared to other One Design fleets that you've raced in?

To me this is the modern Farr 40. It has many of the great attributes of that class, yet the modern characteristics of light, high-performance sprit boat.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

Our team has been fortunate to have the success we've had in this competitive and highly regulated one-design class. It has been really fun watching our team grow and learn.

As [champion sailor and world-class sailmaker] Vince Brun has always told me, "it is not the results that count, it is the journey and the path along the way that you will remember and take with you forever."

This journey has been a fun and rewarding one since it began in mid-2019. I've been blessed to have such a great [boat] partner in Bill Ruh, and to have such an amazing team around us.

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