It couldn’t have been any more exciting on the fifth and final day of the 2019 12 Metre World Championship hosted by Ida Lewis YC and organized by the International Twelve Metre Association’s (ITMA) Americas Fleet. With Nyala (US-12) having clinched its series early in the Vintage Division after a sweep of the previous day’s two races, it came down to one single race to determine world champions in the Grand Prix, Modern and Traditional Divisions. A 12 Metre Spirit Division also sailed, but with no World Championship at stake. Competing in total were 21 historic 12 Metres from six countries – the largest fleet ever gathered in North America.
In the eight-boat Modern Division, the stakes were high for Challenge XII (KA-10), owned and skippered by Jack LeFort of Jamestown, R.I. One day earlier, the team was disqualified after a protest hearing with Courageous (US-26), sailed by a Newport contingent led by Ralph Isham, Steve Glascock, Alexander Auersperg, Ward Marsh and Art Santry (helmsman). Dropping from first overall to second in the standings, Challenge XII was tied on points with third-place Courageous and 2 points behind Enterprise (US-27), helmed by Clay Deutsch, of Newport. Going into the final day’s race LeFort knew he had to beat Courageous and put a boat between his team and Enterprise. He did that and more, closing out Courageous at the start and going on to win the race with a buffer of three boats on Enterprise. (Enterprise and Courageous finished second and third, respectively.)
“We were obviously pretty low after getting thrown out [for tacking too close to Courageous at a mark],” said LeFort after racing. “We had to get everybody focused to keep doing what we’ve been doing.” With today’s victory, Challenge XII counted five first-place finishes in its nine-race series.
In the Grand Prix Division, where four boats from three countries competed, Denmark’s Legacy (KZ-5), helmed by Thomas Andersen with Jesper Bank serving as tactician, took the World Championship title with a one-point lead over New Zealand (KZ-3), owned by Gunther and Maggie Buerman, of Newport, Rhode Island, and co-helmed by fellow Newporter Brad Read and Lexi Gahagan, of Wilmington, Delaware. As close as it was, however, Legacy had the series pretty much wrapped on the final day. “We had to be very calm, enjoy the race and not be too hard working,” said Andersen, who counts this as his first time ever sailing a 12 Metre. “Even if we finished fourth we’d still win; we just couldn’t get disqualified or break down.”
Andersen said that Legacy, New Zealand and Kookaburra II (KA-12), owned by Patrizio Bertelli and helmed by Brazil’s Torben Grael, all seemed to be the same speed. “They were very fast, and we were lucky to beat them,” he said. “We could have easily been in third place.”
Columbia (US-16), chartered by Anthony Chiurco, of Princeton, New Jersey, and helmed by owner Kevin Hegarty, of Newport, took the World title in the Traditional Division after winning the regatta’s final race. “We only had to make sure we beat Nefertiti (US-19), but before racing we talked about whether we should cover Nefertiti or just try to win,” said Hegarty. “We voted on going for it all and getting a first-place finish. We’re pretty psyched; we made many improvements to the boat over the winter and really prepared for this championship. It paid off.”
Nefertiti, owned and helmed by Jon Sears Wullschleger, of Sarasota, Florida, finished third overall, while American Eagle (US-21), sailed by the Eagle 2019 Syndicate, of Middletown, R.I., finished second.
Even though they didn’t have to sail the final day, Italian Patrizio Bertelli’s Vintage Division entrant Nyala took to the racecourse to post its eighth victory in nine races. “We sailed a proper race, fought hard and learned something more in the bigger winds [13-16 knots] and waves,” said helmsman Mauro Pelaschier. “It was great training for next week at the New York Yacht Club’s 175th Anniversary Regatta [serving as the 12 Metre Jubilee].
In the 12 Metre Spirit Division America II (US-42), skippered by Michael Fortenbaugh of Jersey City, N.J. won by one point over America II (US-46), its stable mate from the New York Harbor Sailing Foundation, skippered by Scott Curtis of New York, NY.
An awards ceremony, held at the International Yacht Restoration School in downtown Newport, gave sailors one last chance to enjoy each other’s company. Trophies and gifts from sponsors were awarded to top finishers in each class, and the coveted Road to the Worlds Waypoints Series trophy was saved for last. The series, which culminated at the Worlds, started three years ago and included 28 regattas sailed in five countries. Based on participation and performance, Courageous accumulated 102 points to finish first, while Challenge XII took second with 99 points and Victory ’83 (K-22) followed in third with 98 points.