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Sail Scene – Mid-Atlantic

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Whichever way the wind blows at Race Week

Diabolical winds made for plenty of exciting stories back at the dock after the New York Yacht Club’s sixth biennial Race Week at Newport concluded July 27.

The four-day competition had started much the same with wet, windy conditions on opening day, but sunshine and fair winds followed for two days to dry things out. On the final day, 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-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,” says Damian Emery of Shoreham, N.Y., who won the J/105 East Coast Championship with his overall victory 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 to beat.

In the J/109 class, which was awarding the North American Championship, victory went to Ted Herlihy of South Dartmouth, Mass., aboard Gut Feeling.

All Andrew Weiss of Rye, N.Y., had to do on the final day to win the J/122 East Coast Championship was finish fourth or better against Christopher Dragon. He finished third, two places behind his closest competitor in overall scoring, which was David Askew’s Flying Jenny from Annapolis, Md.

Going around the island in PHRF Class 1, overall winner Tom Rich of 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,” says Rich, who turned in another victory on the final day to go with his seven previous victories in as many races. Rich also won Race Week at Newport in 2006, also with straight bullets.

In IRC 1, Robert and Farley Towse’s Blue Yankee of Stamford, Conn., made an attempt to replace Roger Sturgeon’s Rosebud/Team DYT of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at the top of the scoreboard, but was unsuccessful in its bid, finishing third to Rosebud’s first in the around-the-island race.

Mark Watson of San Antonio and Newport, R.I., is now the NYYC Club Swan 42 class U.S. national champion after his Tiburon finished fourth on the final day in one of the largest classes at the regatta with 20 entrants.

Jeff Ecklund of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., sailing Star, became the new Melges 32 national champion, a title that he adds to his 2006 title, after finishing fifth on the final day in his 22-boat fleet.

After trading places at the top of the leaderboard with William Purdy’s Whirlwind of New York, John Hammel’s Elan from Arlington, Mass., became the class’s Northeast champion. He finished second in the final race, while Purdy, who finished seventh, fell to third overall, allowing Tom Peelen’s Quokka from South Dartmouth, Mass., to move into second place.

In PHRF 2, Ben Hall’s Evelyn 32 Bluto from Tiverton, R.I., finished second, to win overall, while in IRC Class 2, Blair Brown’s Taylor 45 Sforzando from Newton, Mass., finished second to win.

First ‘Lobster Run’ deemed a success story

The first running of The Corinthians Stonington to Boothbay Harbor Race, already affectionately known as “The Lobster Run,” was won in July by a yacht whose navigation instruments had been knocked out by a lightning strike, and used a hand-held GPS to navigate to first-to-finish and class victories.

Ben Blake’s 53-foot J/160 Atlantic also won a trophy for being the boat with the most family members as crew (six out of nine).

The fleet of yachts had been hit hard by attrition — only five hours after the 14 starters were racing, they were hit by two squalls as a cold front passed. The damage: Ray Peterson’s Swan 46, Cygne, retired with its mainsail blown out in gusts of more than 45 knots; Peter Ross’s Ohlsen 37, Tynage, retired after experiencing 50-knot winds; and Corinthians Master Bob Ebin’s Jon Meri 43, Noord Hinder, was slowed by a ripped mainsail that had to be double-reefed to the finish. (The weather made sure the racers experienced every condition: two boats, Bob Fleno’s Thai Hot, and Tom Lane’s Rally Point, were becalmed and forced to turn on their engines just to make the post-race party.)

After a tactical battle around the two notorious Nantucket Shoals buoys between Atlantic, who had chosen to sail south of Block Island, and the two other contenders, who had rounded Block to the north — Jim Feeney’s 72-foot yawl Kathleen, and Walter Kress’ Outbound 46, Syzygy, the fleet stretched out on a reach towards Maine. That’s where Atlantic excelled, finishing at about 6 p.m. July 29, taking line honors and winning PHRF Division B. Kathleen won the ORR Division A. Syzygy crossed the finish line third, taking Division C and overall PHRF honors.

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