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ORC finds strength in numbers for New York Yacht Club's 169th Annual Regatta

by New York Yacht Club 17 May 11:22 PDT June 9-11, 2023
New York Yacht Club's Annual Regatta © Daniel Forster Photography

Rating rules may make noise with the large custom raceboats, but it's the rank and file that drive sustained success. The 74-foot Bella Mente will likely be the most eye-catching boat competing under the ORC rating rule at the 2023 edition of the New York Yacht Club's Annual Regatta, June 9 to 11. But it's the plethora of racer-cruisers from 30 to 45 feet in length that are the real proof that ORC has established itself in the United States.

With just under a month to go until the first gun, the ORC fleet for the 169th running of North America's oldest recurring regatta stands at 33 boats and is well positioned to best last year's fleet of 39 boats. The record of 49 boats, set in 2021, isn't out of reach. A total of 88 boats are currently registered for the Annual Regatta.

"Switching rating rules, as the Club did in 2020, going to ORC from IRC, always comes with a few challenges," says Peter Cummiskey, the event chair for the Annual Regatta. "But our sailors were demanding a rating formula that better handles how different boats perform in varying wind strengths. ORC has delivered tremendous racing, especially at the smaller end of the size range."

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 169th Annual Regatta is sponsored by Hammetts Hotel and Helly Hansen.

Preliminary Scratch Sheet for 169th Annual Regatta.

Vince and Kristina McAteer's Summit 35 Divided Sky (top photo) has been one of the most active PHRF programs on Narragansett Bay for the past decade and is no stranger to the podium at the Annual Regatta.

"My wife and I have always referred to PHRF as 'perfectly happy racing family,'" says Vince McAteer (East Greenwich, R.I.). "As our kids have gotten older, and more mature, so has their appetite for steeper competition, hence the shift to ORC. Last year was a fun turning point for the program as we had many junior sailors in key positions on the boat. My then 13-year-old, Vincent, was our primary helm for half the season; and when he was off the helm, he was on the bow with other junior sailors from our yacht club. The excitement from the middle schoolers and high schoolers on the team was infectious. It certainly made the rest of us raise our game."

The Club's selection as the host for the 2024 ORC World Championship has created a spark of enthusiasm in the Northeast. The last time a rating-rule world championship was held in the United States was 23 years ago when the New York Yacht Club hosted the 2000 IMS World Championship. The New York Yacht Club was scheduled to host a combined IRC/ORC World Championship in 2020, but the Covid pandemic forced the cancellation of that event.

For the Divided Sky program, and many others, the Annual Regatta in 2023 is a key steppingstone in the preparation for the Worlds in 2024.

"We are targeting the 2024 Worlds, so racing ORC at the Annual Regatta seems like the right thing to do to be ready," says Vince McAteer. "We will try and race with the rule whenever possible leading up to next year's event. We don't know too much about how the boat performs in ORC, but we are well aware of [Summit 35 designer] Mark Mills' success in penning boats that perform well across all rating formulas."

To find proof of the Mills pedigree under ORC, McAteer need not look far. Winning the ORC 4 division in last year's Annual Regatta was Ben Chigier's Summit 40 Escape Velocity 2 (at left), also designed by Mills.

"We had a great crew and, of course, Stan Schreyer is a really great captain," says Chigier, of Manchester, Mass. "We foster good communication and work hard to enable everybody to work well together, and we got lucky. Lots of things went our way, but mostly it's the crew."

Chigier won three straight races to start last year's weekend series and hung on for a win over a trio of J/122s. Repeating the feat will only be more difficult this year as five J/122s are currently registered under ORC, in addition to a number of other competitive teams in that size range.

"We're fortunate to have many of the same crew planning to be back with us this year and hope we can do well again," says Chigier. "We are a great team, and we always have fun racing in Newport."

At this stage, Chigier says he is undecided on the 2024 ORC World Championship. He plans to race under ORC in the Annual Regatta and the ORC East Coast Championships, hosted by the New York Yacht Club in July, and reevaluate after that.

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