For the over 700 sailors who competed this week at New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex, today’s final races were an ideal ending to a perfect regatta. A variety of boats, nationalities and sailors were represented across seven one-design classes, where North American championships were determined in the Beneteau First 36.7, Farr 40 and J/109 classes. Additionally, those three winning skippers were also awarded a Rolex Steel Submariner timepiece for their overall performance: Takashi Okura (Tokyo, Japan) in the Farr 40 class; Tom D’Albora (E. Greenwich, R.I.) in the Beneteau 36.7 class; and Jon Halbert (Dallas, Texas) in the J/109 class.
“Winning this is fabulous,” said Okura, who is a member of the Kansai Yacht Club in Osaka Bay. “It is a great team to sail with on the boat. I have been sailing with Tony Rey since 2001, and I am comfortable sailing with him. Chuck Brown trims our main sail; he was a trimmer for Stars & Stripes and he does very well.”
Although Okura’s boat Sled posted impressive finishes in nine races these past four days, achieving a win in this competitive class where every boat is training for the upcoming Rolex Farr 40 World Championship, to be hosted by the New York Yacht Club September 6-9, is quite difficult. “We started racing in the Farr 40 class at the 2000 Key West Race Week and there were 27 boats there. I was 27th every day, every race. At the bottom for the whole week! Since then we have been trying to improve every time we race. Sometimes, it can be challenging with five Japanese and five Americans on the boat. But, we have been sailing together for a very long time and we are comfortable with each other.
Also crediting his crew of many years was Tom D’Albora and the Coconut team. “Most of us have been sailing together for the past 15 years,” he said. “We had the best time this week. Clearly when you’re winning it’s great. We’re all pretty excited.”
With a third place in today’s first race, D’Albora explained that it gave him confidence to have a cushion against second-place Seaweed, owned by Don Finkle (Youngstown, N.Y.). “We had a very aggressive starting situation in the second race, but we won the start and then won every mark rounding. Everything clicked for us and it gave us a real mental edge. Also it helped not to be sailing in the ocean. We’re used to sailing in flat water, and we were only an hour and 20 minutes from our home yacht club. It’s funny I didn’t know we’d win a Rolex. We all joked around a bit about it, and when they read our names at the awards ceremony, we looked at each other. There were a lot of great boats out there and a lot of great sailors. Winning the Rolex sweetened the deal for us.”
The newly named Farr 395 North American Champion Roger Wagner (Upper Saddle River, N.J.) echoed the theme of the week: consistency. “The crew was working like a team,” he said. “The sail changes, the spinnaker jibes were all really good. Yesterday was sort of a rough day out there and our tactics were spot on and today was a shifty day and they were spot on.”
The Endurance team’s not-so-secret tactical weapon was Olympian Peter Bromby from Bermuda. “No question having Peter trimming the main sail and calling tactics helped us,” he said. “He’s a Star champion and delightful to have on board.”
In the J/109 class, a protest in the last race caused a delay in deciding the class’ inaugural North American champion. In the end it was John Halbert’s Vitesse (Dallas, Texas) that won. Vitesse’s win in the final race of the series, combined with Gut Feeling, yesterday’s leader owned by Ted Herlihy (S. Dartmouth, Mass.), being disqualified from the race added enough points to Halbert’s scoreline to give him the win and Herlihy third place. Relentless, owned by Al Minella (Greenwich, Conn.) was second.
Another inaugural championship was the Melges 32 National Championship. It was won by Jeff Ecklund (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) on Star. “It’s great being the first Melges 32 national champion,” he said. “The class is great and it’s a growing class full of really good sailors. Our whole crew is happy and relieved because we’ve been duking it out against New Wave all week and they’ve beaten us before.” New Wave, owned by Mike Carroll and Marty Kullman (Clearwater, Fla.) finished in second place.
Ecklund won both races today, even after some drama in the last race. “We were over early and had to go back and re-start, so we were in the back of the fleet,” he said. “We wanted to stay close to everyone, and sailing on the bay on flat water we were particularly fast. We worked ourselves up to the first mark in fourth, by the bottom mark we had a good lead and kept it. Then, we wound up extending by hundreds of yards on New Wave. They sailed well, very consistently. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, so it was very satisfying to beat them.”
Tom Coates left few surprised by holding onto his lead in the J/105 class. With a third and a first place finish today, he ended with 18 points over second-place Indefatigable, owned by Phil Lotz (New Canaan, Conn.) with 30 points. “It really went our way this week,” said Coates, who keeps two J/105s: one here on the East Coast and one in San Francisco. “The scores aren’t really indicative of how tough it was out there, how rough it was sailing, and how really competitive the fleet was. We had a flawless sailing week where things went our way, and when we were on the right side of the course it was because of Chris (Perkins).” Coates and his team will compete in the J/105 North American Championship in California next month.
Holding onto his lead as well for a win in the Swan 45 class was Massimo Ferragamo (New York, N.Y.) and Bellicosa who posted a 1-2 to narrowly edge out Andrew Fisher (Greenwich, Conn.) and Bandit.
Over 160 boats competed in the fifth running of New York Yacht Club Race Week presented by Rolex. The biennial event hosted 66 entries in the four-day “first half,” devoted to IRC, PHRF, Classic Yacht and 12 Meter racing.
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