By New York Yacht Club
Newport, R.I. — Harvey Jones had a specific goal when he built the 55-foot Outlier, a cold-molded wooden yacht designed by Marcelino Botin and built by Brooklin Boat Yard in Brooklin, Maine. He wanted all of the intangibles that come with a boat built primarily with natural raw materials—and he also wanted something more.
“I built the boat to drive innovation in wooden boats,” said Jones. “There are companies that spend their time maintaining wooden boats, which is great, but if you don’t have innovation in wooden boat building, you’ll lose the art over time.”
With a win in the PHRF 1 division of the 168th edition of the New York Yacht Club’s 168th Annual Regatta, Jones and his Outlier team showed that the wood is still good for raceboat hulls, even when matched against the carbon fiber and fiberglass found in many modern raceboats.
“We are very proud of our performance,” said Jones. “This was the first real regatta we’ve done this year, so there was some learning going on. We came in today thinking, ‘It’s a great regatta and we’re going to do okay.’ But we had no idea we were going to win the regatta. We were lucky enough to pull out two bullets today.”
The New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta was first sailed on the Hudson River on July 16 and 18, 1846. A similar competition the previous year was called a Trial of Speed. With a few exceptions for world wars and other global crises, the event has been held every year since. For the majority of its existence, the Annual Regatta was raced on waters close to New York City. Since 1988, however, the event has been sailed out of the Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, R.I., and has settled into the current three-day format, which includes a race around Conanicut Island on Friday, two days of buoy or navigator-course racing on Saturday and Sunday and nightly social activities on the grounds of the historic Harbour Court mansion. The 168th Annual Regatta is sponsored by Hammetts Hotel, Safe Harbor Marinas and Helly Hansen.
Click here for the Weekend Regatta Results
Click here for Friday’s Around the Island Results
Outlier looks like a classic yacht from the waterline up, but hides a 9-foot bulb keel underneath. She was built for Spirit of Tradition racing, but after a few years of success in SOT and classic divisions, Jones was eager to raise the bar. He entered PHRF at the Annual Regatta and found himself in a division with a 55-foot Jason Kerr design, a Tripp 65, a custom 60-foot Reichel/Pugh design and a modified Farr 40.
“Chuck Allen, our tactician, called great starts, and we had the racecourse kind of mapped out,” says Jones. “We had pretty specific places we wanted to go on the course to take advantage of currents and wind conditions. Those decisions don’t always work out, but they worked out really well today.”
Chris Lewis had the same sentiment regarding his win in the 20-boat IC37 division, the regatta’s largest.
“I’ve been leading going into the last day for two other IC37 events,” said Lewis. “This is the first time we’ve actually pulled it off.”
After a very strong start on Saturday, Lewis and his mostly Texas-based crew on Qubit (at left, Bow No. 17) had their worst finish of the regatta, a sixth, in Sunday’s first race. With 1984 Olympic silver medalist Terry McLaughin and the Defiant crew lurking in second, one point behind, the opening regatta of the IC37 season was effectively a dead heat with two races remaining.
Despite the pressure, Lewis and his crew stuck true to their game plan, sailing clean and working together.
“We just really tried to get clean starts, not to do the high-risk starts at the boat or the pin end, which often get super crowded, especially in this fleet,” said Lewis. “The IC37 is all about teamwork, it’s a team effort. So I’m the skipper, but I don’t want all the accolades. It’s also about the trimmers and the tactician and the bowgirl, the whole team working together. The IC37s go fast when you execute on the choreography.”
The Annual Regatta’s other big one-design class this year was the Shields. The boat has been a fixture in Newport for more than a half century. But this is only the third time the class has participated in the Annual Regatta. In 2020, when COVID forced the Annual Regatta to be held in October, the class pulled in 14 boats. This year saw a similar number and the same winner, John Burnham and Reed Baer on Grace.
“It was a day of shifts, shifts in the wind, shifts in velocity, shifts in the current,” said Burham (Sail No. 107, at right). “While we there were plenty of fast boats in our fleet, our team sorted out the shifts and changed gears better.”
The local Shields fleet often puts 30 boats or more on the line for its Wednesday-night summer series. But strong weekday fleets don’t always transition easily to longer weekend regattas. Burnham is hopeful that participating in the Annual Regatta will become a regular component of the fleet’s season schedule.
“I should mention how much the class appreciates the chance to race in this regatta,” said Burnham. “We want to build the Annual Regatta fleet not just of locals, but of visitors from other fleets in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. It was great to have three boats sailing from Beverly Yacht Club in Marion this year.”
At the opposite end of the technology spectrum from the 60-year-old Shields were the three Maxi72s that swept the podium in the six-boat ORC A division, the Annual Regatta’s fastest fleet. First place ultimately came down to a two-boat battle between Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente and Jim Swartz’ Vesper in today’s final race. While both teams are looking at a full season of events both in Newport and in Europe, it’s hard to put the reins on the competitive fire when two teams of 20 professional sailors, most with America’s Cup experience, meet with a regatta on the line.
“We’ve got to look after the boats,” said Sanderson, who serves as the sailing master for Bella Mente. “But it was all on in the pre-start. We were polite enough to each other, but we pushed hard, so it was really fun.”
The Bella Menta team earned the advantage off the starting line. The presence of a third Maxi72, Proteus, did occasionally complicate the race. But Sanderson and his team, including tacitican Terry Hutchinson, were able to hold the advantage over Vesper all the way to the finish line, winning the pivotal race by about 90 seconds on corrected time. After a disappointing spring performance at Les Voiles de St. Barths—when Vesper won five of six races—this regatta was a strong step in the right direction.
“We’re just trying to ramp up towards the Maxi Worlds at the end of the summer, so we’ve just got to make sure that we learn each time and really be really honest about what’s going well and what’s going badly,” said Sanderson. “It’s been really nice here because we know what it takes to do well and we were able to do it. But don’t get me wrong, we’re a long way from being where we want to be with the boat and with our performance.”
All three Maxi72s will continue the long path to the worlds at Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex in July.
The 169th edition of the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta in tentatively scheduled for June 9 to 11, 2023. The 2023 sailing calendar will be confirmed in the fall.
Photos: Daniel Forster Photography