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Five stars for Inaugural Safe Harbor Race Weekend

by Barby MacGowan 18 Aug 02:23 PDT August 13-15, 2021
Jim Madden's Stark Raving Mad IX, Overall Winner and winner of ORC Class at the inaugural Safe Harbor Race Weekend © Safe Harbor / Stephen Cloutier

The inaugural Safe Harbor Race Weekend, held August 13 - 15 in Newport, R.I., is now in the history books and has made an indelible mark in the log books of 46 sailing teams from around New England and across the country who competed in it. A Superyacht class sailed on Friday and Saturday on Rhode Island Sound while another six classes for ORC, PHRF (A, B and C), and Performance Cruising (Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker) extended their racing into Sunday, sailing mostly on upper Narragansett Bay where boats could easily convene after departing each morning from the event's three host marinas: Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard, Safe Harbor New England Boatworks, and Safe Harbor Jamestown Boatyard.

"It was a good show of boats," said Jim Madden (Newport Beach, Calif.), skipper of the Carkeek 47 Stark Raving Mad IX, which clinched victory in its ORC Class and was named Overall Winner at the event, "so we never took anything for granted."

Madden explained that after finishing 1-2-1 in a decent sea breeze of 8-12 knots on Friday, Saturday was a different story. A race around Jamestown (Conanicut Island) began downwind in a five-knot southerly near Rose Island, and when teams struggled to keep spinnakers flying as they sailed north under the Pell Bridge, the Race Committee shortened course at the north end of Jamestown, only a quarter of the way into what otherwise would have been a scenic and much-anticipated 18-mile navigator's race.

"It was a short and highly challenging race," said Madden, adding that his team finished last that day. "We knew we had to be on our game (for the next day)." Saturday's setback gave them only a one-point lead over Donald Nicholson's (Weston, Mass.) J/121 Apollo going into Sunday's final two races. Well-versed in perseverance, however, the Stark Raving Mad IX team finished 2-1 in a dying 9-10 knot northerly on the final day to win, posting what translated into an impressive lead of 7.5 points over second-place finisher Entropy, a Swan 42 skippered by Patricia Young (Jamestown, R.I.). (Apollo fell to third overall after finishing 4-7 to Entropy's 3-2.)

Saturday's wind "outside" on the Superyacht course was starkly different than the barely-there breezes "inside" for the smaller boats; initially prompting a delay on the water, it eventually morphed into the traditional afternoon seabreeze for which Newport is known in the summer and allowed the fleet's spectacle of sail to be added to Newport and Jamestown's picturesque seaside offerings. More important, the brisk 12-16 knots gave the fleet of eight magnificent sailing machines the finale they were hoping for.

Winning the two-race Superyacht series was the 60 Metre (197') Perini Navi Perseus 3, which had been third overall after Friday's race. By winning on Saturday, it toppled the 56 Metre (183') Perini Navi Zenji from the lead it had claimed on Friday and further scrambled the results so that the 36 Metre (118') custom HJB Whisper, which posted a 2-3 for the series, secured a second overall. Zenji finished third overall after finishing fifth on Friday.

"The racing was quite tight and a challenge for us bigger boats," said Perseus 3 Captain Burger van der Walt, "We draw 38 feet, so we had to go wider than others in some places. We also are rated to sail without a spinnaker, but Saturday's course favored us using our reacher (sail) on the more downwind legs."

Hundreds of competitors, friends and family attended two marquee social events that brought the regatta to "the next level" in many minds. The first was Friday evening's Coastal New England Dinner presented by Wheels Up, which took place on The Point at Safe Harbor New England Boatworks and featured a panoramic view of Narragansett Bay and its two lit bridges (Pell and Mount Hope), 500 steamed lobsters, live music and specialty cocktail bars. Saturday evening's "Talk of the Town" Crew Party presented by Oyster Yachts was equally well received as attendees danced to the reggae tunes of The Ravers at Safe Harbor Newport Shipyard (in downtown Newport).

Other Winners

In PHRF A, the J/121 Incognito, with Joe Brito (Bristol, R.I.) at the helm, edged out Settler, a Tripp 43 owned by Tom Rich (Middletown, R.I.), by one point in final standings.

"Both Settler and Katahdin (a Farr 40 that finished third overall) gave us a run for our money," said Brito. After posting finish positions of 1-2-2-1 over the first two days of racing, Incognito finished third in the last day's first race and started prematurely in the final race. After restarting, the team was at the "back of the pack", finishing sixth, but it still had the mathematical advantage to win the series.

"When we received our trophy on Sunday afternoon, I made it a point to say how well run the regatta was," added Brito. "It's one of the better events we've been to all year...really stellar...and we are looking forward to next year."

In PHRF B, Mark and Cory Sertl's (Rochester, N.Y./Jamestown, R.I.) Farr 30 Das Blau Max won both races on Sunday to overtake early leader Divided Sky, which is owned by Vincent and Kristina McAteer (East Greenwich, R.I.) and finished second overall.

"Divided Sky was really fast on the first day and won all three races," said Mark Sertl. "We thought our boat should go faster, so we changed some sail settings and figured the boat out more over the next two days. We only got Das Blau Max last Spring and with Covid 19 we haven't had much chance to sail against boats that are rated close to us, so this was a good learning experience for figuring out how to get the most out of her."

Sertl said Saturday's short, downwind race played to Das Blau Max's design strengths, and victory in that race put them closer to their goal of winning; however, they were still lagging behind Divided Sky before the final races.

"The organizers did a great job, and the Race Committee did a nice job of getting racing in, even though some of the conditions were trying," added Sertl. "It was very well put together."

Hawk, the Evelyn 32 owned by Richard and Katie Barker (Newport, R.I.), led its series from day one to win PHRF C, the largest class with nine boats. "We were up against some of the best talent we've seen all year," said Richard Barker, explaining that any boat in his class could have won, and his team's saving grace was consistency in a score line that read 1-2-2-3-2-1. "In the Friday and Sunday races, boats were all over each other, and mark roundings were tight."

Two Performance Cruising Classes, one for Spinnaker and one for Non-Spinnaker, each sailed three races: a navigator's race around government marks on Friday; the shortened Around the Island Race with the rest of the PHRF fleet on Saturday; and another navigator's race on Sunday. Winning these classes, respectively, were Stephen De Voe's (Jamestown, R.I.) Swan 46 Galadriel and David Brodsky's (Newport, R.I.) 47-foot wooden sloop Odyssey.

"We had a good time," said Brodsky. "We're in an old boat, but in light air when we go downwind wing-and-wing with our main and genoa, we are just as fast as when we have a spinnaker. It worked well because we were missing our bow man. Next year we will be back to participate in the Spinnaker Class."

Said De Voe: "As the scores indicate, ours was not your cream puff class. There was a wide range of boats, from a Farr 30 (Ghost, which finished third overall) that zipped around and was hard to keep up with in anything under 10 knots of wind, to an R/P 60 (Laura, which finished second overall in a tie breaker with Ghost) that did a horizon job on us in every race, but fortunately we corrected out over them."

De Voe added that for an inaugural event he was impressed with the number of boats. "As far as regattas go - from construction to organization to execution - this was the best of the best."

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