July 19, 2012: NEWPORT, RI - A predicted 1 p.m. squall never materialized, leaving 34 boats to rip around Conanicut Island after a noon start yesterday in the New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex.
The optional 19-mile Around the Island Race officially kicked off the biennial regatta’s second half and was scored separately so as not to effect the cumulative scoring that will begin tomorrow for 96 boats entered in the event’s final four days of racing (Thursday, July 19-Sunday, July 22). Sunshine was a bonus, along with decent 8-10 knot breezes that strengthened to 15 knots by the time the largest boat in the fleet, George David’s (Hartford, Conn.) Rambler finished off Fort Adams State Park, near where it had started only a bit over two hours before. Ten or so minutes behind Rambler was NYYC Commodore Bob Towse’s (Stamford, Conn.) Reichel Pugh 66 Blue Yankee, but Blue Yankee and Rambler both succumbed to their handicap ratings to finish fourth and sixth, respectively, in IRC Class 1 while Jim Swartz’s TP52 Vesper claimed victory.
"The start was the most challenging part of the day because the pin-end of the line was favored by seven boat lengths so you had to be aggressive from the start," said Gavin Brady (Annapolis, Md.), the America’s Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and Olympic veteran serving as tactician aboard Vesper. "We've done about seven or eight Around the Island races here, and every time we do it there are added elements. This time, the tide was on the change, so everyone was trying to find out when and where the tide was changing. This is the ultimate windward-leeward course, and I think it is one of the coolest short coastal races you can do anywhere in the world.”
"Jim Swartz's VESPER took 1st place in Around the Island Race" - photo credit Rolex / Daniel Forster
Conanicut Island—nine miles long by one-mile wide—is located a mile west of Newport in Narragansett Bay. It’s only town, Jamestown, is both a summer destination and a year-round community with a population of about 6,000.
Striking a dramatic visual on the north side of Conanicut today was the towering—and therefore obviously empty—656-foot tanker Auriga Leader as it powered from Quonset Point through the IRC I class, blasting its horns five times as a “danger” signal to sailors. Avoiding the path of the fast-moving Singapore ship was a priority for the crews, which suddenly looked like tub toys in its shadow. And certainly no one squandered time googling Auriga Leader to learn that it is the first ship in the world to be partially propelled by solar power, and it’s actually a car carrier used to ship Toyotas—up to 6,200 of them at a time—from Japan to the U.S.A.
“Coming into the finish, the fleet had to decide which side of the ship they would go on,” said Brady. “The timing couldn't have been worse."
In PHRF 2, Kevin Grainger’s (Rye, N.Y.) J/105 Gumption 3 won. "Conditions turned out to be much better than we anticipated," said Grainger (Rye, N.Y.) who has owned Gumption 3 since May of 2000 and travels up and down the East Coast to race against other J/105s. "We mostly do one-design racing, so without question, one of the great things about the Around the Island Race here is that we get to see a lot of the boats that we don't have the ability to sail with normally."
The race also provided great preparation for when Grainger and his team will engage in competition with 12 other J/105s in that one-design class’s racing, which is scheduled just for the weekend. "We're looking forward to it; this is a really competitive fleet," he said.
Other winners today were Craig Albrecht’s (Sea Cliff, N.Y.) Farr 395 Avalanche in IRC 3; Larry Landry’s King 40 White Witch in IRC 2; and Swift Delotto’s (Newport, R.I.) 12 Metre American Eagle in PHRF 1.
Racing will resume tomorrow for IRC, Swan 42, J/109, Melges 32, Beneteau 36.7, and J/111 classes, which PHRF classes will join the J/105s for weekend-only racing.
For complete results, daily video and blog for the 2012 New York Yacht Club Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex, visit www.nyyc.org