A new boat and a new rating rule, and the strangest summer in recent memory would have most people ready to press the eject button and look ahead to 2021. But Mark Sertl sees opportunity, both for his Farr 30 Das Blau Max and sailing in general, as he looks toward next week’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex, hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court in Newport, R.I. Mark and his wife Cory, the current president of US Sailing, will be racing the successful Bruce Farr one-design in the ORC division.

“What I like about ORC is the Club is adopting triple-number scoring, where you basically have a light-, medium-, and heavy-air rating, and you have a slightly different rating whether the course is windward-leeward or coastal,” says Mark Sertl. “I’m willing to take my chances with ORC. I don’t have much experience with it, but intuitively, it makes sense compared to giving a boat a single rating for all conditions, as some rules do.”

The New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex was first run in 1998, and takes place this year from September 23 to 26 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 shore-side hospitality at the Club’s waterfront Clubhouse overlooking Newport Harbor. Partners for the 2020 edition of Race Week at Newport include presenting sponsor Rolex and regatta sponsors Hammetts Hotel and Helly Hansen.

The Sertls bought their Farr 30 last spring with an eye toward the 2020 ORC/IRC World Championships, which were originally scheduled for late September at the New York Yacht Club before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event. It wasn’t the perfect boat for that championship—perhaps a little quick for its size—but there was a more important factor in the decision.

“Having sailed the Melges IC37 last year with the kids [son, Nick, and daughter Katja],” says Mark Sertl, “I figured If I bought a racer/cruiser, they wouldn’t want to sail with us.”

With all the major summer events canceled or postponed, the Sertls focused on smaller, local events, mostly around government marks. Planned modifications were shelved, and they embraced more elemental challenges like learning the intricacies of the boat’s asymmetric spinnaker arrangement, which was added once the Farr 30 class stopped holding one-design regattas a few years ago.

“All of our history has been with symmetric-spinnaker boats, between the kids and Cory and I,” says Mark Sertl. “That’s where we have a lot of learning going on. We still have the symmetrical set up on the boat, so we can switch back and forth. It’s interesting how that works in reality versus what the polars say. That’s where we’ve been experimenting.”

Das Blau Max is one of just three boats less than 40 feet in length competing in the ORC class, which has boats at large as 72 feet, though the ORC group will most likely be split into two classes. As a smaller, lighter boat, Das Blau Max is likely to be slower upwind than the competition, and faster downwind.

“The hardest part [of being a smaller boat] is the start,” he says. “There’s lots of different strategies, but what we always come back to is we just want to get the best start we can and take it from there. Every time we try to be cute and try to predict how other boats are going to act or react, it usually works out worse than if we just do our best and deal with it later.”

Racing in Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex will take place on Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound, starting on Wednesday, September 23, and running through Saturday, September 26.