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Prospector Team mines for more gold with latest boat

by New York Yacht Club 8 Jun 15:41 PDT
New York Yacht Club's Annual Regatta © Onne van der Wal

Like the individualistic entrepreneurs for which it was named, the Prospector team has never been afraid to put miles under its keel in search of treasure. Since the team came together a decade ago, it has raced in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Caribbean, Pacific and Tasman seas, tackling some of the pinnacles of offshore sailing and racking up more than a few podium finishes and significant victories.

The latest iteration of this burgeoning sailing legacy, which will make its racing debut this weekend at the 169th Annual Regatta, represents a slight shift for the team. Prospector Mk III - to stick with the naming convention established on the team's website - is a smaller, more nimble boat that is more oriented toward buoy racing and shorter point-to-point races. The team also plans to stay closer to its spiritual home on Shelter Island, N.Y.

"We had a terrific time with the 'old' Prospector, which was a Mills 68 (above), doing primarily offshore events," says Paul McDowell. "We owned that boat with four partners and having hit most of our bucket list offshore events, we decided that it was time to move on. Larry [Landry, co-owner] and I decided to jump into the TP52 once we found out that the ex-Spookie, ex-Tala was available. We knew the boat well when she was owned by Steve Benjamin. Having been beaten more than a few times by TP52s over the years, we decided we might as well join them. The program will be more New England based, which means more inshore events and some short offshore."

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, in 2004, it 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, Safe Harbor Marinas, and Helly Hansen.

Preliminary Scratch Sheet for 169th Annual Regatta.

The Prospector team was established to chase the Transatlantic Race 2015 from Newport to England. The three original partners bought a Carroll Marine 60 (at left), a semi-custom offshore warhorse designed by Bruce Farr and built in the late 1990s, and sailed to a respectable third place in IRC Class 3. In late 2017, the team upgraded to a Mills 68 that was significantly faster, especially off the wind, and optimized for the current handicap rules. More success and more adventures followed.

The 68-footer is now on the market and Landry and McDowell have a new boat and a new focus. Among the events that could feature prominently in the Prospector program going forward is the 2024 ORC World Championships, which will be hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court in early fall of 2024. The TP52 class is right on the upper edge of the ORC Class A rating band and has a demonstrated track record of performing well under that rule.

"We are baby stepping it, but, yes," says McDowell. "This year we are doing both the Annual Regatta and the ORC East Coast Championships (among others) and we will see how we do and then decide on the program and events moving into 2024."

In the rarefied air in which they raced the 68-footer, the largely Corinthian crew was often competing against teams staffed predominantly by professional sailors. Success was always hard won. But those experiences should serve the team well as it looks to get the latest boat up to speed.

"While we have experience going around the buoys and did some of it on Prospector and a lot of it on Larry's Mills 41, White Witch," says McDowell, "we recognize that a TP52 is a totally new project. Accordingly, we set up a couple of long weekends of training sessions on our home waters around Shelter Island with a top-notch professional coach in May. We have a lot to learn about the boat and the maneuvers, but are pretty confident we have a team that can get the hang of it."

For the Annual Regatta, Prospector will line up against a diverse group of boats including Interlodge IV, Stark Raving Mad IX, Pterodactyl and Temptation-Oakcliff. Being the fastest boat in the fleet should give Prospector the opportunity to slip away from the pack and enjoy some clean air and clean water, a perfect scenario for a team looking to get used to a new ride. But no one on the boat is expecting anything at this regatta to come easily.

"We will almost certainly eat some humble pie along the way, but will use those inevitable lessons to our advantage," says McDowell. "Luckily for us most of our sailing team are our friends and we have all sailed together now for the better part of a decade and in some cases much longer. Our focus first and foremost is to have fun together both on the water and off. If you have fun then the results are just the icing on the cake.

"We will take this new project very seriously and will devote the resources needed to get the boat moving well on the race course all in keeping with our Corinthian focus. It's worked in the past, hopefully it can work here as well."

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