With 19 boats, the J/109 fleet was the biggest to compete in the 2016 New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex. By the time today’s first race started just after 1 p.m., however, only two mattered. David Rosow’s Loki (Southport, Conn.) and Donald Filippelli’s Caminos (Amagansett, N.Y.) started the day each with 23 points. With third place 14 points back and a morning delay limiting the class to just one race, the class’s North American Championship, and a Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner Date timepiece, came down to which of these boats beat the other around the track.
Rosow preached all regatta about keeping things simple. With the regatta on the line, he didn’t see any reason to stray from the approach that had gotten them this far.
“We wanted the pin end and to be near Caminos,” he said. “If the opportunity presented itself we would’ve gotten in front of them. We knew we had boat speed compared to the fleet. We had a good start in the front row. We knew it was a two-boat race, and we just had to beat them.”
While Rosow was able to get away cleanly from the pin end, Caminos found itself mired in traffic after a mid-line start, and was eventually forced to tack away. By the time the boats came together at the windward mark, Loki was second, with Caminos two spots back. With the early advantage, and a steady 6- to 10-knot breeze opening few passing lanes, the key was to simply not overthink the strategy for the remainder of the race.
“From there we just shepherded them around the course,” said Rosow, who’s owned Loki for 10 years. “Full credit to Caminos they sailed very impressively. They’re good competitors.”
For Rosow, this is his first North American championship. He’s won distance races before, but never anything on this scale in one-design competition. Adding in a Rolex watch and, no surprise, he was pretty elated.
“Pumped up,” he said. “Incredible. I have a perma grin that won’t come off for a while.”
Dan Cheresh (Saugatuck, Mich.) was no less excited about his win in the C&C 30 One-Design’s inaugural North American Championship. Cheresh has won a handful of North American titles in other boats, but this was the first time the trophy came with a wearable component. The C&C 30 One-Design winner was the recipient of the second of three Rolex timepieces awarded during Part II of Race Week at Newport.
“We put a plan together 15 months ago, starting at the NYYC Annual in 2015,” said Cheresh.”This is a great sailing venue, New York Yacht Club is a great yacht club. There’s unbelievable history here. To win the first North American championships in Newport at the NYYC, it doesn’t get any better than this. This was by far the most rewarding event I’ve ever sailed in.”
Of the classes in Race Week, Cheresh’s team started the final day with the largest lead over second place, nine points. A missed shift off the line in Race 1 quickly put the majority of that advantage in jeopardy.
“The first race was a little tough, we got off the line up toward the committee boat, tacked over to port and the guys on the inside of us just got wound up and we were in a deep, deep sixth place,” said Cheresh. “We just talked to each other and just said, ‘Stay settled, stay calm.’ We passed a couple of boats and that made us feel a lot better.”
With a first in today’s first race, Kip Meadow’s roXanne (Raleigh, N.C.) pushed itself clear of a pack of five boats contesting second place, and within reach of the lead. But off the line in Race 2, Cheresh and his team did their best to quash any hopes of a final-day comeback.
“We focused on roXanne in the pre-start maneuvers and the rest of the guys peeled away,” said Cheresh. “We did a little bit of match racing in the pre-start. We got of the line in good shape had a nice hole to leeward and we were able to get in front and extend.”
From there, Cheresh let his boat do what it had done all regatta, sail fast. “Speed,” he said with a smile, “is a great tactician.”
With the North American title in the bag, Cheresh will switch hats back to that of the class’s president and lead cheerleader. A nine-boat North Americans is a nice start, but he expects bigger things in the next 12 to 18 months.
“This is a high-profile class and a high-profile boat, and we hope we can continue to build upon this,” he said. “At Key West next year hopefully we’ll have 15 to 16 boats. The 2017 North Americans at Block Island Race Week, we’ll have 15 to 17. I think the class is continuing to grow. 2017 is a very important year in my mind for the class.”
The third Rolex went to the top-performing yacht among the 25 that competed under IRC. The winner was Stephen Murray’s Decision (New Orleans), which won IRC 2 with a 3-point cushion over Andrew and Linda Weiss’s Christopher Dragon (Mamaroneck, N.Y.).
“We have been to this event many times, but I do not think we have ever been on the podium so winning is a real treat,” said Murray. “The team has been sailing together for about a year, it is the same team that we had last summer, so we have been building upon the team’s experience over the last year. Our best day was [Day 3 when we did] Stadium Sailing so results wise that was our favorite I would have to say, but we enjoyed having the variety of courses because that let us try out different strategies and strengths.”
Decision’s regatta got off to a bumpy start. After winning the first race, the starboard lifeline broke on the approach to the first windward mark of Race 2 and dumped three crew into the water.
“The crew responded quickly, and we were able to keep racing,” said Murray. “Lots of credit goes to the guys in the water. [The guys on the boat never thought of retiring] and apparently the guys in the water felt the same way as they waved off all the support boats who were moving to grab them. Pretty proud of that.”
The sixth place was Decision’s worst finish of the regatta, but the three points they saved over a DNF proved crucial in a very tight class
“I think we had very good boat speed. Our main trimmer, David Gerber, is fantastic and fantastic at keeping me focused,” said Murray. “Our tactician, Marty Kullman, did a really great job at connecting the dots on wind shifts. We had all different variation of breezes, some light days and some heavier but our strongest tactic was connecting the breeze. Especially on the stadium day.”
IRC 1, which featured a three-boat battle between TP52s, was won by Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s Spookie (South Norwalk, Conn.), with Jim Swartz’s Vesper (Park City, Utah) in second and Richard Cohen’s Phoenix (New York, N.Y.) in third.
NYYC Rear Commodore Bill Ketcham (Greenwich, Conn.) started the regatta on fire, his J/44 Maxine winning the first four races in IRC 3. But a 10th in Race 5 put the lead back into play for Craig Albrecht’s Avalanche (Sea Cliff, N.Y.) and Larry Landry’s White Witch (Newport, R.I). After two races today the difference between the three boats’ overall scores was just half a point, with Ketcham taking the class and Avalanche winning the tiebreaker for second.
The Swan 42 class competed for its 10th National Championship at 2016 Race Week at Newport. John Hele (Newport, R.I.) has sailed in nearly all of them, but despite always being among the boats to beat, he had only won it once before. This year he added his second national title to his resume, which includes two wins in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. With just five veteran boats competing, the competition was extremely tight.
“Our plan was to average second,” he said. “We did a little better than that, but it was tough to the very end. I think the teamwork on our team was excellent, we got around the corners better and that really helps out. Just a great fun week and though the fleet was smaller, it wasn’t any less competitive.”
Other classes competing at 2016 Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex include the J/88, which was won by Douglas Newhouse’s team on Yonder (Newport, R.I.) and the M32 catamaran class, which sailed a remarkable 19 races.
What was looking like a tremendous showdown between Michael Dominguez’ Bronco (Barrington, R.I.) and Ron O’Hanley’s Escape Velocity (Salem, Mass.)–both of which started the day tied on points–ended early when an incident between the two boats forced both to retire for the day. Bronco was awarded redress for the remainder of the day’s races and won the regatta.
The ORC Club class, a new addition to Race Week at Newport, was won by Brian Cunha’s IRC 55 Irie (Newport, R.I.) with Alfred Van Liew and David Brodsky’s 52-year-old Odyssey (Middletown, R.I.) coming in second.