Tradition is a vital component in the oldest active annual regatta in the United States. With the exception of a few years when the country was focused on more important goals, the New York Yacht Club has held its Annual Regatta presented by Rolex every year since the first one on the Hudson River in 1845.
This year, the 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex will take place from Friday, June 10, to Sunday, June 12, on the waters of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound. The social activities, including Saturday’s Regatta Dinner presented by Rolex, will take place at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, in Newport, R.I.
But no event lasts more than a century and a half without adapting to the changing times. And the same can be said of the competitors. The list of skippers signing up for the event includes many familiar names, but some who will be viewing the event from a different perspective.
Last year, Charles Kenahan (Swampscott, Mass.) sailed in the Annual Regatta presented by Rolex on board his Swan 42 Mahalo. He and his team had an eye on the class’s national championship later that summer, which they won. For the 162nd Annual Regatta, Kenahan has moved onto the Etchells class, which is smaller and is sailed by only three or four crew as opposed to the 10 to 11 needed for the Swan.
“It’s a big change,” he says. “Steering with a tiller on the Etchells verses the wheel on the Swan 42 takes some adjustment. There’s a lot more feel and, with a smaller crew, there is more for me to do.”
While the boat is different, the focus on a larger picture remains a constant. For Kenahan, the goal is now the 2017 Etchells Class World Championship, to be sailed on San Francisco Bay. He’ll sail New England events this summer, move the program to Miami this coming winter and then back to the Northeast for the 2017 summer before heading west for the championships in October.
In past years, Jason Carroll (New York, N.Y.) raced the Annual Regatta in the Melges 32 class, one of the most competitive keelboat classes in the world. This year, even though the Melges 32 class will return to Newport in September for its world championship, Carroll is racing his 62-foot Gunboat catamaran, Elvis. The fleets are much smaller than in the Melges 32 class, and the racing is less serious.
“The Annual Regatta presented by Rolex seemed like a great opportunity to get the Gunboats together, and for many of us we’ll be racing in our home waters,” says Carroll. “It’s less intense than most of the other racing I do, so I can bring a crew full of friends and have a great time.”
After a pause, Carroll notes that Elvis has been substantially optimized, so it’s not all fun and games. “We still have to stay sharp. Elvis has plenty of power to get an inattentive crew in trouble.”
More than 150 boats are expected to compete in the 162nd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex. The event will feature a race around Conanicut Island on Friday, June 10, and then two days of buoy racing for the IRC and one-design classes, and point-to-point racing for the multihulls and navigator classes. The 72-foot Maxi72 class will be contesting its North American Championship during the regatta.