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Light Wind Mornings a Challenge in Newport

Lead changes and tight racing continue to characterize the action in all seven one-design classes at New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex. Although the early morning conditions led the Race Committee to postpone racing for one hour, once the 102 boat fleet got out to Rhode Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, the wind had picked up to 13-15 knots. Two races were held for the Swan 45, Farr 40, Melges 32, Farr 395 and J/109 classes, while three races were held for the Beneteau 36.7 and J/105 classes.

It’s a very tight race in the Swan 45 class where Bellicosa, Bandit and Plenty – all hailing from New York City area – are in the hunt for overall victory. The strong lead that Andrew Fisher and his crew on Bandit achieved with yesterday’s three races slipped by with finishes today of 4-6 to give him 25 points, and a second place overall to Massimo Ferragamo’s Bellicosa, which has 23 points. The seven boat fleet includes Yasha, the Japanese boat owned by Yukihiro Ishida, which is currently in fourth. With three races possible tomorrow, it is anybody’s guess which boat will emerge with the win.

Despite winning the first race today, John Halbert and his all-Texas team on Vitesse could not take the lead in the J/109 class away from Ted Herlihy (S. Dartmouth, Mass.). Herlihy and his Gut Feeling sailed solidly and posted a 4-5 for a total of 41 points.

The second race for Vitesse wasn’t as successful. “Basically, we shrimped the chute and had a bad race,” said Halbert, who only started racing sailboats five years ago. “The wind was a steady 25 knots, there was lots of chop, like a washing machine and it was hard to steer. The race committee called a triangle course. The way these boats are designed, trying to fly a chute on a reach is really tough. So, we had a hard time getting the chute down, then we missed the mark and had to come back around it. I think at that point we were down to 17th, but we managed to get back to 8th. It feels pretty good.” Relentless, owned by Al Minella (Greenwich, Conn.) won the second race and is in third place overall.

On the Beneteau 36.7 course, Tom D’Albora (E. Greenwich, R.I.) kept a steady hand even though he bent the autopilot sometime during the first race and had trouble steering through the next two. It didn’t seem to matter on board his Coconut because he won the second race. “It was a pretty good day, except for a few little things,” said D’Albora. “My wife Tracy got hurt in the first race. We think it might be a torn rotator cuff, but she’s doing OK considering.” Coconut has a four point lead over Don Finkle’s Seaweed (Youngstown, N.Y.) and said that the win will come down to the last two races tomorrow. “The boats are so even, any of the boats in the top six are all very even, we’ll go out and do our best an try to stay within a couple of boats of Seaweed. To do well and win would be a gem for us in our backyard.”

Doing extremely well this week is Sled, the Farr 40 owned by Takashi Okura (Tokyo, Japan), which leads the 25-boat fleet. Most of the competitors here are tuning up for the Rolex Farr 40 World Championship in September and as is usually the case in this class, anyone has a chance of doing well. Sled’s tactician, Tony Rey, summed up the key to this multi-cultural crew’s success. “We weren’t focused on scores, but on our skills because the waves were huge and there was big breeze,” he said. “It is the little things among the crew that we are trying to improve every time we go out there. We don’t have a plan in terms of looking at anyone in the fleet, but I can tell you a couple of the Australian boats are really, really fast. They are showing us a gear in the big breeze that most of the East Coast boats don’t have.”

With a 9-4 finish today, Sled managed to hold off Massimo Mezzarona’s Nerone (Rome, Italy), currently in second place. Nerone won the first race, then finished eighth in the last race. Ichi Ban, owned by Matt Allen (Sydney, Australia) with tactician Grant Simmer on board is in third place overall. Speaking for Sled, Rey said today’s results are satisfying because he knows that tomorrow could bring anything. “These boats are harder to sail than they look. Okura-san did a great job today and I’m thrilled with each race. The boat has been going really fast these past few days. The conditions we’ve had are very taxing for the owner/drivers, but Okura-san is very smooth and makes my job easier.”

For tomorrow, Rey held true to the team’s main goal. “We’re going to try and do the little things well. We’ll try to chip away at the fleet, get nice starts and try to avoid being in the back 10 because once you’re back there, it’s hard to get out of there.”

Roger Wagner (Upper Saddle River, N.J.) continued his winning ways by posting another perfect scoreline today in the Farr 395 class with his Endurance. In second place is Tsunami, owned by Preben Ostberg, Bud Daily and John Aras (Rockville, Md.).

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This entry was posted on Saturday, July 22nd, 2006 at 8:24 am and is filed under Main Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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