There are fewer and fewer sailing "race weeks" these days, some having fallen to lack of sponsorship and others having dried up due to work-place trends that allow little time for indulging in hard-core competition "just for the fun of it".
The New York Yacht Club's Race Week at Newport, however, is back with a bang this year, scheduled to begin its fourth biennial edition this weekend with over 155 boats signed up and with Rolex returning in a presenting sponsorship role that it has held since the event's inauguration in 1998.
It is the event's unique split-racing format that makes it so popular and allows sailors to customize their racing experience. The first half of the week, from Saturday, July 17, to Tuesday, July 20, is devoted to handicap racing under IMS and PHRF, with 12-Meter and Classic Yacht racing added for good measure. The second half, from Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25, is reserved for one-design racing. A distance race, open to all divisions, takes place mid-week, on Wednesday, July 21, and is scored separately. Sailors can choose to race either the front- or back-end sessions, or both, and pass or play on the Distance Race.
"Race Week at Newport takes advantage of weekend days and offers competitors an abundance of choices: handicap, one-design and distance racing, in modern or classic yachts,"
said Steven WOLFF, chairman of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) Sailing Committee. "The Race Week ambience is captured with socials under the tent at Harbour Court, which has breathtaking views of the Newport Bridge, Newport Harbor and the downtown area that is only minutes away. The experience is enjoyed by sailors from the local area, the region and all across the country."
Classic Yachts and 12-Meters to Make an Impressive Show
Race Week's formula for success also includes flexibility to integrate new ideas, events and classes. In 2000, the event doubled as the Rolex IMS Worlds, a move efficiently handled by the NYYC's expert race committee and race office. This time around, the first half of Race Week is serving as the second event in the newly established NYYC Invitational Racing Series for Vintage and Classic Yachts. The move attracted the attention of the pre-eminent yacht design firm Sparkman & Stephens (S&S), which decided to coordinate its elaborate 75th Anniversary Celebration with Race Week. The legendary S&S designed 12 Meters Columbia, Courageous, Intrepid and Freedom will join other 12 Meters in racing over the first four days and use the opening weekend as their 12-Meter Annual Regatta. Also racing over the weekend will be another group of S&S designed yachts, including the classic beauty Bolero, a 73' yawl owned by Ed KANE (Concord, Mass.). Designed in 1949 by Olin STEPHENS as "the largest modern ocean racer of its time," Bolero represented a new era of post-World War II technology. It was originally owned by John Nicolas BROWN, whose estate, Harbour Court, is now the NYYC's Newport clubhouse.
"Bolero won the Classic division at the NYYC 150th Annual Regatta in June,"
said Bolero's helmsman Chip BARBER (Charlottesville, Va.), "and won the Antigua Classic Regatta earlier this year and the Concord d'Elegance Trophy just last week for the 75th Anniversary Celebration. What will be fabulous is seeing classic yachts like the 72' Ticonderoga, the Eight Meter Angelita and the New York 30 Amorita on the same line as Bolero. The NYYC Cruising Rule works great for handicapping these boats, so we will get some keen racing out of it."
Notable names from the first half of Race Week include Hannah SWETT (New York, N.Y./Jamestown, R.I.), sailing with Chuck TOWNSEND (New York, N.Y.) on his PHRF entrant T-Squared, Ken READ (Newport, R.I), serving as tactician for Dan MEYERS (Boston, Mass.) aboard the IMS entrant Numbers, Tony REY (Newport, R.I.) and Steve BENJAMIN (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) aboard Bob TOWSE's (Stamford, Conn.) PHRF entrant Blue Yankee and Bermuda's 2004 Olympic Star representative Peter BROMBY, sailing on Blair BROWN's (Newton, Mass.) Sforzando, an IMS boat that won its class in the NYYC 150th Annual Regatta.
And More to Come
For the second half of Race Week, North American championships for the Farr 395, Henderson 30 and J/35 classes will be determined. The Farr 40 class will determine its East Coast Champion, while the J/105 class will determine its Southern New England Champion. Other one-design classes competing are the J/109, J/120 and Swan 45.
Top names from this session include Tom WHIDDEN (Essex, Conn.), sailing with John THOMSON (Port Washington, N.Y.) on his Farr 40 Solution; Terry HUTCHINSON (Annapolis, Md.) sailing with Jim RICHARDSON (Boston, Mass./Newport, R.I.) on his Farr 40 Barking Mad; Geoff EWENSON (Annapolis, Md./Newport, R.I.) on the Swan 45 Plenty; and Moose MCCLINTOCK (Portsmouth, R.I.) on Craig SPECK's (Grand Rapid, Mich.) Swan 45 Vim.
Racing will take place on Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay. Up to three racing circles for the handicap and one-design portions of the week are planned, with a total of at least seven races scheduled per circle. A Rolex timepiece will be awarded to the best overall performance in PHRF division. A timepiece also will be awarded for best overall performance during the one-design segment of the regatta.
Rolex Watch U.S.A. has been the exclusive presenting sponsor of NYYC events since 1994. Supporting sponsors of Race Week include Mount Gay Rum and Heineken USA.