New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport Presented by Rolex
Newport, RI, USA

Stormy Conclusion for One-Design Class Racing

Stormy conditions on Narragansett Bay, Photo credit: Rolex / Dan Nerney The first half of the biennial New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex, which finished up yesterday for seven classes, has also now concluded for five more one-design classes that have been racing since Saturday. The catch, however, was that today’s first race had to be abandoned and then competition cancelled when severe thunderstorms passed over Rhode Island Sound, leaving winners to be determined by cumulative standings posted yesterday.

The circumstances left J/105 skipper Damian Emery (Shoreham, N.Y.), sailing his J/105 Eclipse in the largest class here (20 boats), very happy. He is now the 2010 J/105 East Coast Champion, a title he also won in 2008 at this regatta, coincidentally under similar circumstances when a storm aborted racing on the last day. “The difference was that then, we shredded all of our sails because we didn’t get them down fast enough,” said Emery at the early afternoon Rolex Awards Ceremony where the sky had returned to sunny blue. “This time, we could see the front coming through and we were the first to drop our sails.”

Ted Herlihy's GUT FEELING winner of the J/109 class and J/109 North Americans, Photo credit: Rolex / Dan Nerney According to Robin Wallace, the principal race officer for the White Course, where the J/105s and the Beneteau First 36.7s sailed, “It had looked as if the initial storm cell would track north of the course, but then a knuckle developed right across the sailing area, with heavy, heavy rain and winds up to 27 knots.” Since the Race Committee had forewarned everyone to keep their radios on, both fleets--which by then were approaching the first leeward mark on a twice-around course--knew to change course for home.

Eclipse’s tactician Dan Neff (Manhasset, N.Y.) explained that his team only needed an eighth or better in both races to win. “Based on our previous performance (victories in four of six races), we felt reasonably comfortable that we’d do that,” said Neff, “but the stress was still on.” Joerg Esdorn’s (Katonah, N.Y.) Kincsem, which finished second overall, “was capable of posting two bullets if we weren’t there.”

Storm brewing in the distance with J/109 PICANTE, Photo credit: Rolex / Dan Nerney In a similar situation but with less of a winning margin was Ted Herlihy (South Dartmouth, Mass.), skipper of Gut Feeling in the 13-boat J/109 Class, which was sailing for its North Americans. Second-place Caminos, owned by Don Filippelli (Amagansett, N.Y.) and skippered by Ryan Dempsey, had only four points to make up, and Herlihy was “worried about what could happen.” In fact, in the pre-start time frame, the 10-12 knot breezes dropped to almost nothing, and Gut Feeling had a hard time getting to the line. “After the first mark we weren’t looking good,” said Herlihy, “and then the thunder storms roared in.” Caminos bow woman Kristen Robinson (Annapolis, Md.) said her team accepted that Gut Feeling out-sailed them over six races, “but we really wanted to battle it out today; I wish Mother Nature would have given us just 30 more minutes....”

PUGWASH and CHRISTOPHER DRAGON sailing in the J/122 class, Photo credit: Rolex / Dan Nerney Phil Lotz (Newport, R.I.), skippering Arethusa, seemingly trounced the competition in the 15-boat NYYC Swan 42 class to become that class’s National Champion for a second consecutive year. His team posted four victories in six races to lead Glen Darden/Phillip Williamson’s (Fort Worth, Texas) Hoss by 16 points in overall scoring. Lotz, however, was philosophically proud of his third- and fourth-place finishes in races four and six, respectively. He had had to fight back for the fourth from deeper in the fleet, and about the third, he said, “We all finished within a few feet of each other, and that sums up how racing went the entire weekend.”

Emery, Herlihy and Lotz all won Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariners for their performances.

Damian Emery (J/105 Eclipse), Ted Herlihy (J/109 Gut Feeling), Philip Lotz, (Swan 42 Arethusa), and Peter Nicholson, Rolex Watch USA, Photo credit: Rolex / Dan Nerney Two more teams won their classes by never losing their early leads. Thomas Boyle’s Wings (Irvington, N.Y.) topped the seven-boat J/122 class and took the North American title home after a hotly contested battle with second-place finisher Pugwash, owned and skippered by David Murphy (Westport, Conn.), while John Hammel’s (Arlington, Mass.) Elan won in the eight-boat Beneteau First 36.7 class, winning all but one of six races.

The second half for the New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex officially starts Wednesday and serves as the Rolex US-IRC National Championship. Over all days, the event will have catered to 145 boats and 1200 sailors over seven days of competition.