The New York Yacht Club race committee sent class B and D, on a 19 mile course around the island, but class A, the larger boats, and the Swan 45s were sent on a longer, 30 nautical mile course that included an additional leg around Prudence Island. Although the sun occasionally broke through the dense fog at the northern end of the course, there were many occasions when the competitors had no idea where their opposition was, particularly at the start and the finish.
In the tightly packed Swan 45 class racing, rivals are likely to be close by, regardless of the conditions. True enough, downwind to the finish, three Swan 45s found themselves neck and neck in a frenetic battle for the winner's gun. 2004 Olympic gold medallist in the 470 Kevin BURNHAM (USA), calling tactics on Yukihiro ISHIDA's (JPN) new Swan 45 Yasha, described the day. 'It was Bellicosa, Goombay Smash and ourselves - all overlapped, after 30 miles of racing in the fog,' he said. 'We had some killer boat speed today and we thought we had the race win as we closed in on the finish. And then out comes Plenty from the fog, from the other side of the run, and they caught us. But what great racing; it doesn't get any better than that.'
Alexander ROEPERS' (USA) Plenty profited from the fog to steal victory from under its rivals' noses. 'We were in fourth, so we took a gamble,' said ROEPERS. 'Our tactician Geoff EWENSON called for an early jibe and we picked up more pressure down our side of the course, and it paid off. It was a nice surprise, a great race to win, because this race had everything. We saw every wind condition, multiple sail changes, spinnaker changes, and it was very exciting in the fog.'
By comparison, third place was a little disappointing for Goombay Smash, who - up to this point - had a string of first place finishes. Doug DOUGLASS (USA) led the Swan 45s for the first half of the race, but he admitted Yasha and Bellicosa had an extra gear of upwind speed. 'We lost our instruments, so we were sailing blind,' said DOUGLASS. 'At that point we were guessing where the marks were and that gave the advantage to Yasha.'
In Class A, Ronald O'HANLEY's (USA) Privateer finally broke Moneypenny's clean sweep dominance of the big boats. In fact Jim SWARTZ's (USA) Swan 601 could only manage fourth on corrected time, although she still has a comfortable five point cushion over Swan 68 Chippewa in the overall standings. Owner Clay DEUTSCH (USA) was buzzing. 'We had a really great day,' he said. 'The best thing about the fog is we couldn't see anything scary - it was wonderful. We had a decent start and got clear pretty quickly and once we turned the corner and headed on the long downwind leg we felt pretty good because this boat can go really fast.'
John WAYT closed in on Swan 44 Crescendo's lead in Class B, after his Swan 44 Vixen took its first victory of the week. Vixen now sits two points behind Crescendo, owned by Leon CHRISTIANAKIS and Martin JACOBSON (USA), who finished third today behind Swan 44 Xenophon, owned by Jeffrey RABUFFO (USA).
In the non-spinnaker Class D, Swan 56 Defiance, owned by Peter NOONAN (USA) was looking set for a handicap victory until the head of the boat's jib exploded. Defiance's strategist, 1988 Olympic silver medallist in the Soling Bob BILLINGHAM (USA), was upset at being forced out of the race by a gear breakdown. 'It was our smaller jib that was making us go fast,' he said. 'But when it broke, that was it, we didn't have a replacement.'
So far, the 39 teams have seen a range of wind and weather in Newport, and so it is hard to imagine what surprises could be in store for the fleet tomorrow, when they revert to windward/leeward racing.