'I expect to win the overall trophy and my chances are very good as Lolita will be in excellent shape and I have an excellent crew,' said SAVAGE, who has raced this biennial regatta five times and won the overall trophy in 2001. 'I always keep Lolita in top form. In preparation for this regatta, she has been in the boat yard for almost three weeks for a bottom job and checking all of the rigging and winches.'
Lolita will be racing in Racing Class A, home of the big boats, with Clay DEUTSCH's (USA) Swan 68 Chippewa being the largest in the regatta. Like SAVAGE, DEUTSCH is a 'work hard, play hard' kind of owner, and he acknowledged Lolita's status as the pre-event favourite. 'Lolita's crew is always competitive,' said DEUTSCH. 'We see a lot of them on the race course, and we know that whenever we manage to beat them we've done something pretty special. Frank has a good team around him, and most of the crew has sailed with him for many years. Crew stability is a vital factor for performing well.'
The unknown quantity in the big boat division is Jim SWARTZ's (USA) brand new Swan 601 Moneypenny, launched two weeks ago. Following on from the success of four Swan 601s racing around the Solent, in Great Britain, a month ago in the Rolex Swan European Regatta, Moneypenny's participation in this regatta is being followed with eager anticipation on the North American racing scene. Volvo Ocean Race veteran Dee SMITH (USA) will be calling tactics and the crew includes many America's Cup veterans such as Kimo WORTHINGTON (USA), Mike TOPPA (USA) and Mark STRUBE (USA). This gleaming new 60 footer could be the one to watch - certainly for line honors, but perhaps also for the ClubSwan award for the best performance overall.
The Swan 44 Mk II class is well represented across two divisions, with some opting to compete in the spinnaker division of Racing Class B and others stowing the spinnaker to compete in Cruising Class D, numerically the biggest fleet in Newport this week. Perhaps the closest fought class will be Racing Class C, where nine Swan 45s will battle it out in the one-design competition. As usual, the Swan fleet is peppered with world class talent, notably 2004 Olympic gold medallist in the 470 Kevin BURNHAM (USA), who is calling tactics for the Japanese Swan 45 Yasha, owned by Yukihiro ISHIDA.
Craig SPECK's (USA) Vim is arguably the favourite, as this well prepared team returns to the regatta as defending champion from 2003. SPECK is focused on doing the double, aiming to win the Swan 45 fleet as well as the overall trophy, although he acknowledges the difficulty of the task. 'We are going to come back and try to win it again,' said SPECK. 'It will be tougher this time because we will have our own class, which means we won't have other boats to work as blockers and the fleet is much closer during racing. Everyone has gotten a lot better and it is a stronger fleet.'
In total, a fleet of 39 Swan yachts have come from America, Asia and Europe to compete in the regatta, with a maximum of nine races scheduled to take place from 25-29 July. Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) and sponsored by Rolex, this is the 12th time that Swans will join together for a hotly contested series of racing on Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.