By New York Yacht Club

Southern California sailors are not used to extended breaks in their sailing schedule, the weather being conducive to getting out on the water pretty much year-round. Of course, 2020 hasn’t been a normal year anywhere. For David Team (Newport Beach, Calif.), the owner of the TP52 Vesper, and Bill Ruh (Del Mar, Calif.) and Drew Freides (Los Angeles), co-owners of the Melges IC37 Pacific Yankee, the New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex is their first opportunity to race their boats in nine months or more.

“It’s fantastic,” said Ruh, who helmed Pacific Yankee into a tie for first after four challenging races in shifty, puffy conditions on upper Narragansett Bay. “We couldn’t be happier with all the hard work the New York Yacht Club has put in to get us out on the water. We really appreciate the race committee doing their job and the folks on shore making it happen.”

The New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex was first run in 1998, and takes place this year from September 23 to 26 out of the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, in Newport. R.I. The biennial regatta, traditionally run at the apex of the summer sailing season, has established itself as one of the premier summer race weeks in the Northeast thanks to its attractive combination of great racing conditions off Newport and the superlative shoreside hospitality at the Club’s waterfront Clubhouse overlooking Newport Harbor. Partners for the 2020 edition of Race Week at Newport include presenting sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsors Hammetts Hotel and Helly Hansen.

The Pacific Yankee team dominated the Melges IC37 Winter Series in Fort Lauderdale in late 2019 and early 2020, the last class racing before today. Today they picked up right where they left off with a pair of firsts in the first three races today. A slight bobble, a sixth, in the fourth and final race of the day allowed Chris Culver’s Blazer II team to pull level at the head of the pack, with 2019 National Champion Members Only in third, three points behind. But Ruh was more than pleased with Pacific Yankee‘s start to the regatta.

“We did well today because our crew did a terrific job changing gears, constantly working the boat, and we had fantastic tactical calls from Brad Rodi,” says Ruh. “It just all came together for us.”

With just one main and one jib for all conditions, changing gears on the Melges IC37, says Ruh, is more challenging that on a boat that might carry three or four headsails for different wind speeds.

“It takes more adept and synchronized work from the crew,” he says. “That’s where all the years we’ve spent sailing together is helpful. It’s a matter of having the main and jib trimmers adjusting to the runner tension and working in unison to change the profile of the sails to meet what we’re trying to achieve in boat speed or angle.”

David Team’s crew on the TP52 Vesper found themselves in a slightly similar situation when the breeze exceeded their expectations for the day.

“We had more breeze than we expected when we left the dock this morning,” says Team. “We only brought out our light-air sails. The second race in breeze was a little bit of a struggle with the lighter jib, but we persevered. We had some interesting starts in races 2 and 3, but were able to stay focused and sailing hard, and enjoy trading tacks with everybody, especially Victor Wild’s Pac52 Fox. All the boats seemed very well sailed.”

Team and his crew won the first and third races of the day and finished second in the middle contest. But Wild’s crew is just two points behind after three races. And you never want to count out Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente, especially if the racing transitions from inside the bay to offshore later in the week. Fauth and team sit in third, seven points out of first.

For the Vesper crew, however, the results were second to the opportunity to go racing again. Team shipped his boat east from Southern California early in 2020 to prepare for the ORC/IRC World Championships, which were scheduled for this week. That event was canceled in the spring, and Team didn’t sail his boat until a practice session on Narragansett Bay in late August.

“The first year we raced her was 2018, against the Pac52 class in Southern California,” says Team. “Then the next year we raced under ORR in Southern Cal and decided to bring her east for the New York Yacht Club series of events and the ORC/IRC worlds. So we’ve been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to come back and sail here. It’s been a challenging year, and it’s hard not to be happy with our performance today. We also have to give a shout out to the race committee for their work today, especially in such challenging conditions.”

The third class, ORC 2, featured some of the closest racing of the day. Tom Sutton’s Leading Edge won the second race by a single second over Cory Sertl’s Das Blau Max. In the third race, it was New York Yacht Club Rear Commodore Paul Zabetakis’ Swan 42 Impetuous taking the win by five second over Leading Edge. With a win in the first race, as well, Leading Edge is living up to its name in the overall standings, two points ahead of Impetuous and seven points ahead of Das Blau Max. With three days of racing remaining, however, no lead is safe in this class where five of eight boats finished a race in the top 3 on Day 1.

Partnership Announced With Hammetts Hotel

The New York Yacht Club’s newest regatta partner is one of the newest hotels in town. Hammetts Hotel, built at the intersection of America’s Cup Avenue and Thames Street in downtown Newport, officially opened its doors earlier this summer and will serve as the official hotel partner for Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex and the 166th Annual Regatta, North America’s oldest annual sailing event, which is scheduled for October 2 to 4.

“We are always on the lookout for like-minded brands to partner with to support our ambitious sailing schedule,” says William P. Ketcham, Commodore of the New York Yacht Club. “We initially planned to bring Hammetts Hotel on board for the ORC/IRC World Championship. With that event canceled, we are very pleased they were willing to pivot to Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex and the Annual Regatta. We’re hopeful this is the start of an enduring partnership between two of the most recognizable properties on Newport Harbor.”

The new 84-room Hammetts Hotel is located in the heart of downtown Newport. The spirit of the hotel is a nod to Newport’s historic mercantile wharves in a modern context. Guest rooms draw from Newport’s seafaring heritage with a fresh color palette of grays, crisp whites, unfinished woods, and pops of reds and navy. Amenities of Hammetts Hotel include a 9,000-square-foot deck overlooking Newport Marina, along with spacious, flexible gathering spaces. Giusto, a full-service waterfront restaurant with an expansive patio, is now open for lunch and dinner.

“It is a great honor to be the New York Yacht Club’s newest regatta partner,” said Colin Kane, founding partner of Peregrine Group and managing partner of Hammetts Wharf LLC. “We look forward to welcoming participants and spectators to Hammetts Hotel, their new home in Newport. Our doors are open to all for Race Week and the year ahead.”

Racing in Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex is taking place on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound through Saturday, September 26.

Photos: ROLEX/Daniel Forster

NYYC Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex
Day 1 Results (Click here for full results)
Place, Yacht Name, Type, Owner/Skipper, Hometown, Results, Total PointsORC 1 (ORC – 6 Boats)
1. Vesper, TP52, David Team , Newport Beach, CA, USA – 1 -2 -1 ; 4
2. FOX, Botin 52, Victor Wild , San Diego, CA, USA – 2 -1 -3 ; 6
3. Bella Mente, Maxi 72, Hap Fauth , Naples, FL, USA – 3 -6 -2 ; 11

ORC 2 (ORC – 8 Boats)
1. Leading Edge, J 109, William Sutton , Houston, TX, USA – 1 -1 -2 ; 4
2. Impetuous, Swan 42, Paul Zabetakis , Jamestown, RI, USA – 2 -3 -1 ; 6
3. Das Blau Max, Farr 30, Cory Sertl , Jamestown, RI, USA – 4 -2 -5 ; 11

Melges IC37 (One Design – 12 Boats)
1. Pacific Yankee, Drew Freides / Bill Ruh , Los Angeles, CA, USA – 4 -1 -1 -6 ; 12
2. Blazer II, Christopher Culver , Newport, RI, USA – 1 -6 -3 -2 ; 12
3. Members Only, Kinney / Cross / Swett , Jamestown, RI, USA – 7 -5 -2 -1 ; 15