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Ready or not, IC37 Class jumps into most competitive season yet

by New York Yacht Club 7 Jun 2022 17:41 PDT June 10-12, 2022
Annual Regatta © Paul Todd /

The 2022 summer season for the IC37 class officially starts on Friday, with Day 1 of the New York Yacht Club's 168th Annual Regatta. But the half of the fleet that sat out last weekend's training session is already behind, according to IC37 class coach Moose McClintock.

"The guys that didn't sail last weekend, they're going to be at a disadvantage not having had a couple of days of going out and sailing around," says McClintock, a former America's Cup sailor who is currently the head coach of the University of Rhode Island Sailing Team. "Getting the kite up and down, there's a lot of technique to the maneuvers. Over the course of last weekend, each team did 20 to 30 sets and douses. You lose so much the corners in these boats, having that little bit of a boathandling edge will be a big advantage."

The New York Yacht Club's 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 Annual Regatta was raced 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, two days of buoy or navigator-course racing on Saturday and Sunday and nightly social activities on the grounds of the historic Harbour Court mansion. The 168th Annual Regatta is sponsored by Hammetts Hotel, Safe Harbor Marinas and Helly Hansen.

With 21 IC37s entered in the Annual Regatta, and 23 or more for events later in the summer, this fourth season of the class is expected to be the most competitive yet. The early form guide will favor the teams that did well last summer or in the winter series run by the Lauderdale Yacht Club. But the strict one-design nature of the class—the standing rigging is fixed and the sails are identical—combined with the class coaching program and the willingness of veteran teams to share their knowledge drastically compresses the learning curve for new programs.

"With some competitive sailing experience, I think a new team can generally get up to speed relatively quickly," says Steve Liebel, who will be sailing his IC37 New Wave (Bow No. 23, above) in the Annual Regatta. "There's nothing too crazy about the boat. Everyone seems willing to always share information. It's easy to ask competitors, 'Where were you on your mast jack tension?'"

Though he sailed in the class before, Liebel is a relatively new owner, having skippered his first IC37 regatta last October, when New Wave finished fifth in the class's 2021 North American Championship. He and his crew, many of whom had experience in the class, followed that up with an overall win in the class's Winter Series, finishing second, third and first in the three events.

Though just seven boats participated, the Winter Series featured incredibly close racing, with finishes often decided by a few feet. In the overall standings for the February event, the top four teams were separated by a single point.

"It was a great opportunity to get in more practice and training," says Liebel. "And in 80 degree weather in January. What could be tougher?"

Of course, he's being coy. It was luxurious sailing off South Miami in the middle of winter. And speaking of tougher? How about just getting off the line against 20 other teams this coming weekend? There's a lot that can be learned from sailing in a small, cohesive fleet. But managing a 20-boat starting line isn't high on that list.

Liebel and his crew are taking the long view of this season. So don't expect to find New Wave taking a lot of unnecessary risks, especially in the season's first regatta.

"We want to continue to improve our teamwork, and we hope to be competitive at every event," says Liebel. "I think they'll be a dozen boats that are very competitive, which will make for a great season. You need to be smart and conservative early on. We hope to be around at the end of the summer in the series championship."

The IC37 fleet will be back out on the water on Thursday for more practice led by McClintock (at right), and he'll watch the fleet sail all weekend, offering individual tips to each boat when opportunity permits. The class coach is one of many IC37 class features designed to keep the playing field as even as possible and the costs manageable. Of the 21 boats entered this coming weekend, 13 are from the New York Yacht Club's charter fleet, which allows members to enjoy some of the finest one-design racing in the world for a reasonable fixed cost and then turn the boat back over to club staff for storage and maintenance. Conventional wisdom says that boat ownership is essential to winning in a top class. But the IC37 has disproven that maxim. At the class's North American championship last October, the winning boat and three of the top four were from the charter program.

Racing in the 168th Annual Regatta begins on Friday, June 10, with a race around Conanicut Island starting at 1100. Two days of buoy or navigator-course racing on Rhode Island Sound and in Narragansett Bay will follow on June 11 and 12.

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