Now a Vet, Swartz Looks Back on a Big Year

Moneypenny's skipper prepares for his first Swan Cup.

Jim Swartz
Daniel Forster/rolex (all But Last Photo), Dan Nerney/new York Yc

A little more than a year ago, Jim Swartz's Swan 601 had just hit the water for the 2005 Rolex Swan American Regatta. It was Swartz' first regatta in a grand-prix big boat. He and the boat, named Moneypenny, were getting their feet wet together.Thanks to four tune up regattas on a Mumm 30 earlier in the year, Swartz hit the ground running, winning that event, and hasn't stopped since. In the past 12 months, Moneypenny has sailed on the Pacific Ocean at the Rolex Big Boat Series, in the Gulf of Mexico at Acura Key West Race Week and to Bermuda. Now the 60-footer is in Sardinia readying itself for a fourth body of water, the Mediterranean Sea, and another new experience, one-design competition.Five 601s are entered in the Rolex Swan Cup-the biennial world championship for the Finnish-built boats-and Swartz is eager to put a year of practice and tuning to the test. It's been a little over a year since we spoke at the Swan American Regatta in Newport. During that time you've hit seven major events in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico. Give us your thoughts on the year.It's been, from my perspective, a fantastic experience. When I got into this I didn't quite know what to expect, it was all new to me. I'd done Key West with the Mumm 30 (2005) but when we went into it [with the Swan 601] we didn't have any idea how we were going to do as an IRC boat. [Key West 2006] was the first time we'd raced any boats of comparable size. We knew about Aera, which is an IRC killer. We went into it with a lot of trepidation and came out of it feeling just great about the 601 as an IRC boat. We just missed first place by a tiebreaker and really had good racing against the Carroll Marine 60s [Numbers and Hissar]. That was an eye opening to a lot of people, that the boat is a good IRC racer if it's sailed well. Fortunately I've got a great crew that lets me do that.At Miami Race Week we had a rematch with Aera-we just had a classic rematch with them-and we won that one by a tiebreaker. It was a great series of racing.In the New York YC Annual Regatta we did well. We ended up second there, almost first. The TP 52 Bambakou edged us out. So we felt great about that. The Bermuda Race itself was mostly an intellectual and navigational exercise. It wasn't a whole lot about sailing, but the boat was comfortable. So now were here on the eve of the first ever 601 class race, going up against 4 other 601s, all of them European. We're just really excited.The 601 has a little more flexibility, in terms of interior options, than a strict one-design like the Farr 40 or Swan 45. What are you expecting from the fleet in terms of competitiveness?We think they're going to be very, very even. The 601 is still pretty strict in terms of what you can take out of the boat. The sail plans and all that stuff are identical. You've had a pretty full-on year of sailing. Did you ever think you'd overcommitted yourself? Or are you still thirsting for more?I can't wait to get more. I don't think it was too much. Perhaps this six weeks here in the Med is probably too much, but it's a one-time, first-time thing for me so why the hell not, and they've made a three-race series for 60s: here, St. Tropez, and Malta. We wanted to do that while were here, just do the whole thing. That's the big issue for me, the 601 is very European centric at this time, so how much time I want to spend over here is a question mark. I'm probably spending a little more time away from work this fall that I'd like, but I'll fix that next year.What's the schedule for the 601 series?The Swan Cup here next week, then there's another 601 race as part of the St. Tropez Regatta at the end of September, so we'll have our own class racing there. And then the Malta regatta and the Middle Sea Race, we have our one regatta there. The overall 601 champion will be a combination of those three regattas.Are you staying in Europe for the whole time?I'm coming back once. I'm here until the end of St. Tropez.Last year the Middle Sea Race was much like this year's Bermuda Race, a very light-air affair.I'm hoping I get a little more luck this time.What do you think of the distance racing?I like it. I wasn't sure what to expect. I really like the navigation and the intellectual side of it. It's quite interesting. I definitely want to do more of it.Are you hovering around Mark Rudiger in the nav station picking his brain during the race?Oh absolutely. I enjoy every second of it. Mark's not only a great student and intellect of the game, but he's such a great guy to be around. I love every second of it. I've got a technology background; I love all that stuff. If I weren't driving I'd probably want to be navigating, that's the most fun position on the boat from my perspective.I imagine you've spent some time taking in the action at the Rolex Maxi Cup?We were out [Sept. 5] in the Protector; Today [Sept. 6], as were we testing sails, we took some time off to watch the racing. That's been a lot of fun. Light wind, but enough wind to make it interesting.Those big ones don't need a lot of wind to power up.It's amazing, they're just trucking along, reaching at 12 to 15 knots.Is this casual spectating, or is there a little research going on?I'm certainly enjoying the spectacle and I'm always researching and thinking about what's next, if I stay with the 601 or do something else.Last year you said you'd committed to this program through the Swan Cup, then you'd make a decision. Have you made any progress in that regard?No. Whenever this three-race series is over I told the guys we'll decide what we're going to do. I haven't made any plans after that.What about the Mumm 30? Do you miss that at all?I miss it a lot. I do. I did some 12-Meter sailing this summer, which was great and that was totally different. I own an interest in Onawa, which is a 1928 boat. That was fun. But I miss the Mumm 30 and I'm thinking about trying to do something in a smaller boat like that. I still haven't made up my mind on whether I'm going to do the Mumm world championship [in Miami in November] or not. I sort of thought maybe I didn't want to, but now maybe I do. I don't know. I definitely enjoy the smaller boat sailing in addition to the 60-footer. It's very different, but you learn a heck of a lot from that.With the exception of Spirit of Jethou, you haven't seen any other 601s. Do you have any idea what to expect from them on the course?We've seen Spirit of Jethou, that's the only one we've seen. But we'll have two other really strong boats going against us. Leonardo Ferragamo with his Cour Di Leone and Paul Cayard. There's a Swedish boat named Artemis owned by a fellow named Torbjorn Turquist that has Russell Coutts with him and I'm sure an all-star crew. Both of those boats are going to be a real significant challenge, as well as Spirit. We were able to make some advances in the class and we've feed that back to the class. So everyone's on the same level playing field.What sort of information were you feeding back to the class?I think the big thing we did was PBO rigging, originally the boats had rod rigging. That was the big thing; we did that right away for IRC racing and everybody saw how much better the boat performaned, so the class switched to that. Some different sail measurements, different spinnaker pole lengths; just tweaking that our guys did and we felt improved it. Not all of them worked out, but a lot of them did.Any goals or expectations for this week of racing?I don't want to comment on that. I just hope I walk away happy; and have as much fun as I've been having. Sometimes you win; sometimes you don't, but as long as you have fun, that's fine.