Tom Sutton and Stephanie Roble were two of the more than 1,000 sailors who competed at the New York Yacht Club’s 162nd Annual Regatta Presented by Rolex.
The two race under different circumstances – Sutton, an independent registered investment advisor, is a club racer from Houston, Tx., while Roble, the 2014 US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, is a one-design ace who lives in Chicago – but their message from a varied weekend of racing is the same. As Sutton said, “You’ve got to have good people and lady luck on your side.”
Sutton’s J/35 Leading Edge won overall honors in the Around the Island Race last Friday. In doing so, Sutton won his first Rolex Stainless Steel Submariner Date watch, which he will receive at the New York Yacht Club’s annual awards banquet in November.
The race around Conanicut Island featured two restarts, the final one just a half mile from the finish line, which sat in a windless vacuum between a light southeasterly wind and a fading northerly that had propelled the fleet for three-quarters of the race. The lack of wind compressed the fleet so tightly that no fewer than 30 boats finished within two minutes of each other.
Sutton (pictured in cowboy hat) and crew, which includes his wife Diana and 15-year-old son Jakob working the bow, were able to tip-toe through the mess and find lady luck waiting for them at the finish. The crew won overall honors and IRC Class 5.
“It was a dream,” said the 64-year-old Sutton. “I’ve had many nightmares like that before, where I was doing well and then the situation went very bad. There was a lot of give and take in the race, and we were fortunate to be able to take it at the end when it counted most.”
Sutton’s Leading Edge also was a member of the two-boat team, along with Chris Lewis’ J/44 Kenaifrom Houston that won the Rolex Cup for best performance in the Around the Island Race. With Leading Edge placing first overall and Kenai 11th, the “Go Texas” team had the low score of 12 points and was 6 points ahead of the second-placed team.
“This is a people deal,” said Sutton. “A boat is an inanimate object. People bring the boat to life. That’s what’s fantastic about our sport. You can spend a lot of money on your boat, but if you don’t have great crew it doesn’t matter.”
Roble mostly agrees with Sutton, except for when luck is involved. “I think a lot of sailing success comes from a great crew,” said Roble. “I’ve been on good and bad crews. The great ones have respect for each other and are willing to put in the extra hours. That’s reflected on the water. With hard work and dedication you earn your luck along the way.”
Roble was sailing aboard an Etchells class boat skippered by Jay Cross of New York. It was the crew’s first weekend of racing together as they prepare for the Etchells World Championship later this year in England. When Roble won the Yachtswoman of the Year award she was a crew aboard the 2014 Etchells World Champion.
Roble said the crew had a disappointing first day when they placed 5th in both races, but followed it up with a 1st and 2nd on the second day to finish third overall in the class.
“On Sunday we came together as a team,” Roble said. “After Saturday we sat down and talked through some communication and boathandling things that weren’t right, and on Sunday it all seemed to flow. We had a bad start in the day’s second race, but put our heads down and worked hard and got into the top of the group at the first mark. It wasn’t luck, but hard work and focus.”
The New York Yacht Club’s 162nd Annual Regatta Presented by Rolex celebrated the 58th year of partnership between Rolex and the New York Yacht Club. Both Sutton and Roble said that when they attend a Rolex-sponsored event they know that there’ll be quality race committee work and pleasant social functions shoreside. With a mixed bag of conditions throughout the weekend—from the windless vacuum on Friday to 30 knots yesterday—the New York Yacht Club rose to the occasion and delivered a first class event.
“We’re very appreciative of everything Rolex does and I think the sailors are as well. People know that if it’s a Rolex event it’s a high-quality event,” said New York Yacht Club Vice Commodore Phil Lotz. “We like to give the racers quality, fair racing on the water and then a good time on shore and Rolex is very supportive of that. It’s symbolic with the type of branding and lifestyle they want to associate with, and it’s the same with us. It’s been a very good relationship from that point of view.”