Rolex’s involvement in yachting dates back to 1958 when it entered into partnership with the New York Yacht Club. By that time the Geneva-based watchmaker had already achieved a number of firsts, including the first waterproof wristwatch in 1926. For more than a century Rolex watches have accompanied legendary sailors and explorers around the world, such as Sir Francis Chichester, Gary Jobson and Paul Cayard.
Since forming the alliance with the New York Yacht Club Rolex has become associated with the most prestigious clubs, including the Royal Malta Yacht Club and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in Australia, and supports the most important regattas in yacht racing, such as the Rolex Middle Sea Race and Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. Competitors are drawn to Rolex regattas because they are a mark of distinction held in idyllic venues such as Costa Smeralda, on the Italian island of Sardinia, and St. Tropez, France.
“All sailors know that Rolex events are marquee events,” said Paul Zabetakis, who finished second in the Swan 42 Class at Race Week and who’s the chairman of New York Yacht Club’s Sailing Committee. “Rolex’s support attracted nearly 100 boats to this regatta and helped us conduct four racing circles. We’re very thankful for all they do for the club and the sport.”
A total of 14 class champions were crowned through the two parts of New York Yacht Club Race Week Presented by Rolex, sailed July 9-10 and July 13-16, and while all championships were hard earned four stood out as worthy of winning the highest honors of the weekend – Dan Cheresh (Saugatuck, Mich.), Joe Loughborough (Newport, R.I.), Stephen Murray (New Orleans, La.) and David Rosow (Southport, Conn.).
Loughborough won the overall performance award for the first weekend of racing that featured classic yachts and multihulls. His Luders 24 Belle was built in 1944, 14 years before the alliance between Rolex and New York Yacht Club. Loughborough found Belle in a boatyard about 25 years ago and in need of restoration. He poured heart and soul into the restoration, and was presented the Rolex Award on the eve of his 63rd birthday last Monday (July 11).
“I’m over the moon,” Loughborough said. “It’s a great honor to mix a bit of luck and skill; when the stars align, you have good preparation, get a break and things chime in. I’ve never dreamed of anything like this, it’s really incredible.”
Robust preparation rewarded Cheresh and Rosow. Cheresh won the inaugural C&C 30 One-Design North American Championship with his Extreme 2 and Rosow won the J/109 North American Championship with his Loki. Both owners credited months of preparation in their victories.
“This is incredible,” said Rosow, whose father raced a 50-footer in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Rosow said the key moment to victory occurred last winter. “Many months ago I sat down with my sailmaker and some key crewmembers and we set the goal of winning the North American Championship, so this win is the culmination of many months of planning. We felt we were faster than many boats in our class so we tried to stay out of trouble and let the boat sail itself.
Similarly, Cheresh and his crew on Extreme 2 also reaped the benefits of a plan hatched many months ago.
“I’ve won six or seven North American championships, but never a Rolex race. This feels really good,” said Cheresh. “We put a plan together 15 months ago starting at the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta in 2015. It was a lot of hard work, a lot of thought, a lot of practice and it came together this weekend. It’s very rewarding, a very rewarding experience.”
Murray and his crew on the 40-footer Decision won IRC Class 2 by 3 points and with it the overall performance award for the IRC-rated classes at Race Week.
Murray’s crew embodied the perseverance needed to succeed at race week, and in doing so they put the “waterproof” in waterproof. On the first day of racing last Wednesday, July 13, the lower lifeline holding the crew on the boat broke and three sailors fell in the water. Had they accepted outside assistance to return to the boat the crew would’ve been disqualified from the race and added points to their scoreline.
The sailors instead huddled together and waited for Murray and crew to circle back and rescue them from the water. Once aboard, the crew resumed racing and placed 6th, which saved 3 points over the score that would’ve resulted from a disqualification. Their final margin of victory over second place was 3 points.
“My crew really persevered in that race,” Murray said.
The next Rolex regattas are all scheduled for September and include events in the Mediterranean and on the U.S. West Coast. The Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup (Sept. 4-10) and Rolex Swan Cup (Sept. 11-18) are both set for Porto Cervo and the 52nd Rolex Big Boat Series (Sept. 15-18) is slated for San Francisco and the St. Francis Yacht Club.