NEWPORT, R.I. (July 27, 2008) -- Diabolical winds made for plenty of exciting stories back at the New York Yacht Club after its sixth biennial Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex concluded today. The four-day competition had started much the same wet, windy way on opening day, but fortunately sunshine followed for two days with fair winds to dry things out. Today, the race committee managed a race in each of four classes (NYYC Club Swan 42, Melges 32, J/109 and J/105) that were competing on Rhode Island Sound but had to abandon a second race when a storm swept through, wreaking havoc with 48-50 knot winds. All told, 120 boats were competing. Another six classes (IRC 1 and 2, PHRF 1 and 2, J/122 and Beneteau First 36.7) had taken off on a middle-distance race around Conanicut Island and felt top winds of a more reasonable 28 knots.
"You know it's windy when everything is going sideways -- the wind, the rain, the boat," said Damian Emery (Shoreham, N.Y.), who won the J/105 East Coast Championship with his overall victory here and was already the class's Southern Circuit champion. His J/105 Eclipse started out with two victories in the six-race series, but "fell back" the second day when Briane Keane's Savasana emerged as the boat for it to beat. "Today we were definitely sailing against each other," said Emery, who finished second to Keane's fifth. He added that Eclipse was hit by the storm on the second downwind leg of the second race, but fortunately the spinnaker had been doused early and only the boat's roller furling jib was destroyed.
In the J/109 class, which is sailing its North American Championship, victory went to Ted Herlihy (South Dartmouth, Mass.) aboard Gut Feeling. Yesterday, he had been tied on points with Donald Filippelli (Amagansett, N.Y.) on Caminos. "We were staying in the vicinity of Caminos and Gossip (Steve Kenny & Greg Ames, Wainscott, NY), which was in third yesterday. We didn't have to win but we were hoping to beat Caminos. It worked out just the way we hoped." Gut Feeling finished second to Gossip's first, while Caminos finished sixth today.
Herlihy recounted the start of the fifth leg of the second race, when the race committee cancelled while the wind was blowing 38 knots. His crew scrambled to get the sails down and that's when gusts topped out at 48 knots. "Before they cancelled, we had been wondering how we were ever going to round the mark and go back to weather," said Herlihy, who came close to winning the North Americans two years ago. "We thought we'd do well but this feels great," he said about his overall victory.
All Andrew Weiss (Rye, N.Y.) had to do today to win the J/122 East Coast Championship was finish fourth or better on Christopher Dragon. He finished third, two places behind his closest competitor in overall scoring: David Askew's (Annapolis, Md.) Flying Jenny. Only two points separated their final scores, which reflected a protest last night won by Flying Jenny against Christopher Dragon. "We made it closer than we needed to," said Christopher Dragon's navigator Larry Fox, "but we did it."
Coming around the island at about the same time in PHRF Class 1, overall winner Tom Rich (Middletown, R.I.) had a much easier time of it. "The winds reached 27 knots when we were on the back side of the island. It wasn't as bad as what happened outside on the Sound," said Rich, who turned in another victory today to go with his seven previous victories in as many races. Rich also won Race Week at Newport in 2006, and also with straight bullets. "I can say we've beat the New England Patriots' record -- we're now 19 and 0 at Race Week."
In IRC 1, Robert and Farley Towse's (Stamford, Conn.) Blue Yankee made an attempt to replace Roger Sturgeon's (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) Rosebud/Team DYT at the top of the scoreboard but was unsuccessful in its bid, finishing third to Rosebud's first in the around-the-island race. "We improved on our game tremendously here," said Sturgeon, "because of the competition, and specifically because of Blue Yankee. It went down to the last race; we felt the pressure the whole time."
Mark Watson (San Antonio, Texas/Newport, R.I.) is now the NYYC Club Swan 42 class U.S. National Champion after he finished fourth today in Tiburon. "We sailed against a bunch of great sailors and friends and managed to win," said Watson, noting that consistency was the key to success in this, the largest class at the regatta with 20 entrants.
Jeff Ecklund (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), sailing Star, became the new Melges 32 National Champion, a title which he adds to his 2006 title, after finishing fifth today. Pieter Taselaar's (Scarsdale, N.Y.) Bliksem rose from fifth to second overall after winning today's race, leaving early leader David Hoyt (Stowe, Vt.) aboard Goat to settle for fourth behind third-place finishers Michael Carroll/Martin Kullman (St. Petersburg, Fla.) aboard New Wave.
After trading places at the top of the leaderboard with William Purdy's (New York, N.Y.) Whirlwind, John Hammel's Elan (Arlington, Mass.) made the decision final today that he was the class's Northeast champion. He finished second in today's race, while Purdy, who finished seventh, fell to third overall, allowing Tom Peelen's (S. Dartmouth, Mass.) Quokka to move into second place.
In PHRF 2, Ben Hall's (Tiverton, R.I.) Evelyn 32 Bluto finished second, to win overall, while in IRC Class 2, Blair Brown's (Newton, Mass.) Taylor 45 Sforzando finished second to win.
Sforzando's peformance was deemed the best among all IRC participants, which earned him a Rolex timepiece. As well, Rolex timepieces went to the J/109 North American champion, the Melges 32 National Champion and the Swan 42 National Champion.