Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fun-Lovin' NYYC Annual Regatta

J/35 Leading Edge wins New York YC Around Island Race J/Crews Sweep IRC 5 Class!
(Newport, RI)- For starters, the Friday Around Jamestown Island Race was epic, crazy, unusual, frustrating depending on which boat you were racing.  Win, lose, or something in between, the first day of the 162nd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex was a day of sailing that few participants will soon forget. After nearly four hours of nip-and-tuck racing, a perfect storm of factors turned this race into one of the most interesting, unique and exciting race finishes of all time.

As has been the case for the 12 years, the 162nd edition of North America’s oldest annual regatta started with a 19-mile lap of Conanicut Island. When possible, the race committee starts the slowest boats first, allowing the fleet to sail largely in the same wind conditions and hopefully have everyone back on shore at a reasonably similar time. However, the plan was never supposed to work as precisely as it did today, with the majority of the 131-boat fleet finishing within a few minutes of one another and creating an extremely challenging situation for skippers and tacticians and the race committee, not to mention the jury which was called in to hear a number of protests.

J/35 sailing New York YC Annual RegattaRight in the middle of the maelstrom was a 32-year-old J/35 from Houston, Texas, called LEADING EDGE. To that point, the race had been a mixed bag for Tom Sutton’s team, which includes his wife, son and many close friends. They’d missed some shifts on the first beat, and fouled a boat at the first mark, leading to a penalty turn. But, they ground back when the breeze got extremely light toward the south end of Conanicut Island, and then made the right calls on the final leg, northbound through the East Passage of Narragansett Bay against a particularly tough ebb tide.

“We knew that was a graveyard [on the Newport shore] so we stayed away,” said Sutton. “Then when we were coming in [to the finish line], we were coming in so fast, and all these guys ahead of us were so slow and these were big boats, 50-footers. So we took our spinnaker down 100 yards before the finish line and we had so much momentum we just drove it on in. You couldn’t dream of a race like that. And I’ve been in the nightmares before, where we’ve been doing really well and the guys came up like that and blew us away.”

The team’s persistence and grace under pressure appears to have resulted in a win in IRC 5, and an overall IRC win for the race, which would earn Sutton one of two Rolex watches that will be presented to the top performances from the 162nd Annual Regatta!! Both watches will be presented at the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Awards Dinner in November.

“That boat I’ve owned for 20 years,” said Sutton. “But this is a people deal. A boat is an inanimate object. People bring the boat to life. And we have great people. That’s what’s so fantastic about our sport. Yeah you can spend a lot of money on your boat, but if you don’t have a great crew it doesn’t matter how much money you spend. It’s a family crew and they’ve all sailed all their lives.”

COOL! A 30+ year-old J/35 design wins against the hottest offshore racers on the planet at the pre-eminent New York YC regatta all season long for the world’s top offshore racers.  The story gets better, for fellow J sailors.

J/44 sailing NYYC Annual RegattaOn Saturday, the fleet was forced to deal with a frontal system that was rolling in from the northwest, remnants of various tropical depressions that had been rolling up the eastern shoreline.  The offshore and one-design fleets managed to squeeze in two races before the “rain front” squashed the breeze completely.

Sunday was another story altogether.  Regatta participants awoke on Sunday to find the sun shining and the breeze blowing pleasantly out of the southwest. Saturday's overcast weather and evening thunder storms were a distant memory, and it appeared as if North America's oldest regatta would end on a high note. Then, a cold front rolled through and the breeze shifted to the northwest and increased dramatically- like hugely! By the time the boats started, the wind was steadily into the low 20s with gusts approaching 30. One boat lost its rig before racing and there were plenty others who decided discretion was the better part of valor and either didn't race at all or withdrew before crossing the finish line.

In IRC 4 Class, it was complete domination by a “classic” J/44 from Houston, Texas- Chris Lewis’ KENAI blitzkrieg the fleet with a 4-1-1 to win by a country furlong.  Putting in a great performance and snagging fourth in this ultra-competitive class was Sedgwick Ward’s J/111 BRAVO with a 2-4-8.  Fifth was another top performer, Jamey Shachoy’s J/122 AUGUST WEST.

Perhaps the most extraordinary accomplishment of the entire regatta was the stupendous domination and clean sweep of three J/crews in IRC 5 Class.  Continuing their on-going battle were two fantastically sailed J/109s- Carl Olsson’s MORNING GLORY and Bill Sweetser’s RUSH.  However, giving them both serious medicine-inducing catatonic reactions was the J/35 LEADING EDGE skippered by Tom Sutton.  In the end, it was MORNING GLORY taking straight bullets to win with a mind-numbing 3 pts with Sweetser’s RUSH compiling a 4-2-3 to just edge out Sutton’s LEADING EDGE with a 3-5-2!

J/105 sailing off NewportJ/105 Fleet 14 (Southern New England) held its inaugural 2016 season counter with the NYYC Regatta.  While the J/105 fleet had a small turnout, skippers used it to try out some new crew and tune their boats for the upcoming season.  The 22 mile race around Conanicut Island (Jamestown) was highly tactical and the lead changed several times between Sean Doyle’s KESTREL and Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault’s newly-launched GOOD TRADE, with Mark Lindquist’s STERLING and Mark Masur’s TWO FEATHERS close behind. Aside from deciding how close to hug the island to avoid the adverse current, each team had a lookout for overtaking maxi-boats and classic 12 meters which, while beautiful to see, cast a large wind shadow.

Coming down West Passage from the Jamestown Bridge to Brenton Reef buoy at the southern tip of the island, GOOD TRADE managed to catch the last shift and made up the distance needed to lead with a comfortable spinnaker run to the finish- - only to run smack into 30 nearly-becalmed Gunboats, Maxi-72s, 12 meters, 8 meters, and a wide assortment of other classic yachts including Dorade, all trying to squeeze into a tiny finish line.  Nicole pulled out her famous SF City-Front wing-on-wing maneuver with the kite out to starboard and the main out to port, with starboard rights, carried the dying Southerly right through the scrum to the finish, gathering a win for GOOD TRADE in its inaugural race, followed soon thereafter by KESTREL.

J/105 Good Trade- winners at New York YC Annual RegattaSaturday saw mellow stadium racing in flat water and 8-12 kt breezes off scenic Ft. Adams, between Newport and Jamestown, and GOOD TRADE notched two more bullets.  Team Stone/Breault sealed the perfect score-line on Sunday with two more bullets on the ocean course, with large swells and 15-25 kt in the first race, followed by a sustained 29-31 kt in the final race.  GOOD TRADE actually broke its bow sprit fitting in the first race and doused the kite, sailing to the finish once again wing-on-wing, without being passed.  The crew were unable to make a repair, so they raced that way again in the second race, actually making 9+ kt downwind with a terrific VMG, staving off the hard-charging Sterling in both races.

In PHRF handicap world, we find that Steve Levy’s J/120 EAGLE from Greenwich, CT sailed a great series to notch a silver for their performance.  Likewise, Marcus Cholerton-Brown’s J/120 SUNSET CHILD managed a consistent series to take fourth overall.

The PHRF 2 Class of ten boats was destined to be a donnybrook between several top J crews.  In the end, it was Doug McKeige’s J/88 JAZZ that smoked the fleet with two bullets to win their division. Taking second was Jeff Johnstone’s J/88 ELECTRA with two seconds.  Fourth was Vincent & Kristina McAteer’s J/33 COCONUT TELEGRAPH, fifth Bill Kneller’s J/109 VENTO SOLARE, sixth Brian Kiley’s J/109 GAMBIT and seventh was EC Helme’s J/92S SPIRIT.

Notably, the winners of the enormous Rolex Cup for the two-boat IRC team with the best combined finishes in the Around-the-Island Race- was GO TEXAS TEAM, made up of the J/44 KENAI (Chris Lewis) and the J/105 LEADING EDGE (Tom Sutton).  Sailing photo credits- Sharon Green/ Ultimate  For more New York YC Annual Regatta sailing information