New York Yacht Club Harbor Court, Newport, Rhode IslandAround the Island Race

Newport, R.I. — It might be easier to find the end of the internet than to exhaust all the possibilities for new experiences in sailing. While some people prefer to lock into one lane in the sport, others find that regularly switching things up brings the most enjoyment. Two veteran skippers employing the latter strategy will be among the nearly 100 entries competing in the 12th biennial Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex, which starts on Wednesday.

“I wanted to go from an ambitious ocean racing program with the big boat to something a little more local and family friendly for the next couple of years,” says Andrew Berdon (Hartsdale, N.Y.), who owned and raced a Marten 49 called Summer Storm for much of the past decade, focusing primarily on distance races including Newport Bermuda, Marblehead to Halifax and the RORC Caribbean 600. “Ocean racing, long-distance racing is the sweet spot I wanted to focus on. I won’t say I got my fill, but I got great exposure. Now I’m looking do something a little different. And that doesn’t involve the same logistical challenges.”

The answer came in the form of a well-loved J/111. Berdon bought the boat last year and had it refitted over the winter. The new Summer Storm will make its New York Yacht Club debut this Wednesday.

The New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex was first run in 1998, and takes place this year from July 13 to 16 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 2022 edition of Race Week at Newport include presenting sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsors Hammetts HotelSafe Harbor Marinas and Helly Hansen.

Berdon will race the new Summer Storm (at left) in ORC D, a class that features a strong collection of 10 boats ranging from 35 to 43 feet in length. While the other three ORC classes feature primarily boats purpose-built for racing—and a heavy dose of professional talent—ORC D is a predominantly racer-cruisers and amateur sailors. Still the competition will be tight with a lot of eyes focused on John Brim’s new Italia 11.98, which started its season with a win in the 168th Annual Regatta.

Berdon has been racing sailboats for more than five decades, which is plenty of time to understand there’s little value in bold predictions. That experience has also sculpted a more philosophical look at success.

“I’m always thinking about how I’m going to evolve in the sport, and one of the things I really like to do just change and manage change, pick a project and make sure to execute that project to the top of its potential,” says Berdon. “I want to have a clean boat that has good sails. I have a great crew I’ve been sailing with for years, good friends and excellent sailors. That’s my idea of a good time. If I end up with a good result, I will be very, very pleased. If I end up with a middling result, I’ll figure out what I did wrong, because it won’t be the fault of my crew.”

Another sailor embracing a new challenge this year is Glenn Darden, who will skipper the IC37 HHB in Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex. This event will double as the class’s National Championship for 2022.

“George Francisco and I are teaming up,” says Darden (Fort Worth, Texas). “He’s a friend from Texas, a really good Etchells sailor. We both have been waiting to do this. This is our first taste at putting an IC37 program together. It’s lot of fun. The fleet is stacked, and the teams have been putting in the time, which is critical when you have nine or 10 people on the crew.”

On the surface, Darden’s move to the IC37 class seems a less significant shift. One-design racing shares a lot of commonalities, regardless of the class. And Darden is a very experienced one-design sailor with a history of success across a variety of classes, including victories in the last two J/22 Midwinter Championships.

The crew size is what makes this project a different challenge for Darden and Francisco. Moving from a small keelboat, with a crew of 3 or 4, to the IC37, which is typically sailed with 9 to 10 people, is a challenging leap. 

“There’s a lot more jobs, including the spinnaker retrieval system, which adds another big element to the crew work,” says Darden. “Once you perfect the spinnaker takedown, the retrieval line is a fabulous tool. We haven’t quite perfected it.”

The Darden/Francisco crew (at right) took their first whacks at the IC37 fleet during the 168th edition of the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta in June, and came away with a respectable ninth place, out of 20. The team’s finishes included two thirds and a fifth along with a 17th and a 14th. 

“One of the main keys in any one-design fleet is getting off the starting line well,” says Darden. “We got off the line well in three races and had three really good races and we started poorly in three and had three poor results. It’s tough when all the boats go about the same speed. It puts a premium on consistency and the best technique.”

With a regatta, and some practice, under their belt, the HHB team is will be looking for some upward motion on the results table this week. It won’t get any easier, however, with the fleet expanded to 24 boats for Race Week, and every team putting in time on the water in preparation of the class’s biggest regatta this summer. Regardless of the numbers on the scorecard, however, Darden is a big fan of the process of improvement in a new class and appreciative of the unique opportunity provided by the IC37 class.

“I think it’s a fabulous plan,” he says of the Club’s IC37 charter fleet. “I congratulate the Club for putting that together, it’s a big step. The class is very competitive, but it’s also very challenging and very current in the sailboat evolution. I love the way the club has designed the crew-weight regulation. We sail with three pretty big guys on the boat, so we need to get lighter sailors, so that helps with adding females into the mix. It’s great having more women on board our boat and in the class in general.”

Racing in the 2022 Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex started at 1100 on Wednesday, July 13, and runs through Saturday, July 16.

Photos: ROLEX/Daniel Forster, Courtesy of Alex Snyder, Daniel Forster 

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