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Sail scene - New England

Mass. sailor dominates Etchells in Miami

There’s nothing more exciting than to have a major sailing regatta come down to the last race of the last day. That proved the case in multiple classes at Acura Miami Race Week, held in mid-March.

Just ask Eamon Conneely, owner of the Irish TP 52, Patches. Conneely and crew captured the inaugural Rolex TP52 Global Championship in dramatic fashion, placing second in the 10th and final race to overtake Pegasus 52.

Pegasus, skippered by Philippe Kahn of Waikiki, Hawaii, entered the day leading by three quarters of a point, and wound up 1-1?4 points behind after finishing one place behind Patches in both races on the final day.

The IRC 1 class was closer as the Swan 601 Moneypenny nipped the Ker 55 Aera by a tiebreaker after both boats totaled 13 points. Owner Jim Swartz and his team aboard the recently launched Moneypenny broke the deadlock by winning the last race.

Things were tense on the Farr 40 dock as a result of a protest involving on-water winner Heartbreaker. Skipper Robert Hughes vaulted from third to first on the last day, edging weeklong leader Norwegian Steam by a point. However, the Italian entry Nerone protested Heartbreaker for tacking too close in Race 10, and that led to an uneasy two-hour period of waiting for the outcome.

Hughes, who owns an employee benefits company in Grand Rapids, Mich., was ecstatic when word came the protest had been dismissed. “To win a biggie like this is incredible. I’ll be walking on the tips of my toes for a week,” said Hughes, who took home the Acura Trophy as overall Boat of the Week and the Baxter Trophy as top performing Farr 40.

Five other classes were decided by two points or fewer with all but one coming down to the last race. Skipper Rick Wesslund and El Ocaso led PHRF 2 from start to finish, but almost suffered disaster at the end. The San Francisco-based J/120 was winning Race 10 when a lifeline broke and dumped two crewmembers overboard.

There figures to be more Melges 32s in Miami come 2007 after a strong debut showing this week. Brothers Brian and John Porter got the gun in half the races in leading Full Throttle to a one-point victory over Rick Orchard and Grins. “It was great racing all week. The boats are a blast and very evenly matched,” said John Porter, who steered while getting tactical calls from his brother.

One of the more impressive victories came in J/105 as skipper Worth Harris steered Rum at Six to first or second in nine of 10 starts. “It was all in the crew work. We go around the corners fast,” said Harris, a beer distributor from Beaufort, N.C.

There was terrific action on the Biscayne Bay course, which featured the regatta’s two largest classes. Italian skipper Riccardo Simoneschi gave a command performance in the 25-boat Melges 24 class while Massachusetts sailmaker Jud Smith was equally dominant in the 28-entry Etchells class.

Smith, who was sailing with his 17- and 16-year-old daughters, finished first or second in five of the initial seven starts, and was able to sit out the final race and still win by 11 points. “Racing was a lot closer than the results would indicate. This was a strong fleet and the competition was very good,” said Smith, a legendary figure in the venerable class.

Other boats posting the top combined scores at Acura Key West 2006 and Acura Miami Race Week were Groovederci, the TP52 Stay Calm (Stuart Robinson, Royal Thames, UK), Farr 40 Mascalzone Latino (Vincenzo Onorato, Napoli, Italy), J/105 Gumption 3 (Kevin Grainger, Rye, NY), Swan 45 Goombay Smash (William Douglass, Newport, RI).


New York Race Week expands format

The biennial New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport will be host to the North American championships for four one-design classes — Beneteau First 36.7, J/44, J/109, and Farr 395 — and National championships for two one-design classes — Farr 40 and Melges 32.

Set to take place July 14-23, the popular regatta is known for its split format, with the first half of the week devoted to handicap racing under IRC, PHRF, NYYC CR and Classics, as well as the 12 Meters, and the second half dedicated to one-design racing. A distance race around ConanicutIsland, which draws competitors from all divisions, takes place midweek and is scored separately.

“We’ve added to the one-design portion of the event, expanding from three to four days,” said Steven Wolff of Fairfield, Conn., chair of NYYC’s Sailing Committee. “And this is the first time the week will host IRC racing. Race Week at Newport takes advantage of two weekends and the days in between, offering competitors an abundance of choices: handicap, one-design and distance, in modern or classic yachts.”

Racing will take place on Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay with up to three racing circles for the handicap and one-design portions of the week. A minimum of 11 races is planned per division. Shore-side activities will be hosted at Harbour Court, the clubhouse on Newport Harbor with unrivalled views of the city front and the Newport Bridge.

“With this fifth running of Race Week, we have expanded both the racing schedule and social activities for all three phases of the regatta,” said Wolff. “Sailors can enjoy daily awards, cocktails and food each evening under the tent and the nightlife of downtown, which is just minutes away.”

Other one-design classes competing are the J/105, J/120 and Swan 45. For information visit or contact the New York Yacht Club Sailing Office, (401) 845-9633.


Charleston Race Week is set to go global

One of the country’s fastest-growing sailing competitions, Charleston Race Week, will include entrants from outside North America for the first time this year.

Joe Woods and his crew from Torquay, England, will travel to South Carolina to compete aboard a Melges 32 at the event, April 6-9. Three other teams will travel from Canada for the regatta.

“We’re gratified to know that word is spreading about the wonderful hospitality Charleston offers, and the high caliber of competition that underscores this unique event,” said Brad Van Liew, event director and the executive director of the South Carolina Maritime Heritage Foundation, the organization managing the regatta.

Rapid growth is becoming a hallmark of this early April regatta. Just three years ago the event attracted fewer than 90 boats. In 2004 94 boats competed; in 2005 that number surged to 143. For 2006 more than 150 entrants are expected. Among those boats will be entries from as far afield as Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, New Hampshire, California, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Recent efforts to increase participation include the addition of free dockage for early registrants, free trailer storage for out-of-town boats and affordable registration fees.

Charleston Race Week presented by Seabrook Island is open to all keel sailboats from 22 to 60 feet. The event begins April 6 and runs through April 9 at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. For information visit or call the South Carolina Maritime Heritage Foundation (843) 722-1030.