With a five-point lead, and the IC37 National Championship and a Rolex Submariner timepiece on the line, Steve Liebel and the crew of New Wave went into the final race planning for a safe start. It didn’t turn out that way as New Wave found itself owning the pin end of the line, typically a start that is on the Gordon Gekko end of the risk-reward ratio.
“That’s where we ended up,” says Liebel. “We weren’t planning on it, but the pin end ended up being open. We were hoping we could get out. [After the start] we tacked to cross, and I bet there were probably five or six boats that we were crossing by five to 10 feet. If we couldn’t get across any one of those, that last race would have ended a little differently.”
Instead, however, Liebel and his team successfully crossed the fleet and won the final race and the National Championship, which was part of the 13th edition of Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex.
“This is a huge win, we’re very, very proud of this,” says Liebel. “I’m very happy for the team. Any national championship is a nice one to have, heck yeah.”
The New York Yacht Club’s Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex was first run in 1998, and takes place this year from July 13 to 16 out of the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court, in Newport. R.I. The biennial regatta, 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 the attractive combination of great racing conditions off Newport and the superlative shoreside hospitality at the Club’s waterfront Clubhouse overlooking Newport Harbor.
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While New Wave opened and closed the 11-race series with race wins, it was the furthest thing from a wire-to-wire win. It wasn’t until the first race on the final day, the ninth of the series, that the Florida-based team moved into the overall lead.
“All the teams had at least one or two bad races,” says Liebel. “It’s just minimizing the bad races. Just sail clean and sail smart and put together as many top-fives as you can while avoiding the 15s and 20s.”
Liebel and his crew were remarkable in that way, recording all top-10 finishes, with one exception, a 20th in the seventh race.
“The team did a great job,” he says. “As the week went on, we got better and better and faster and faster and really felt comfortable.”
Another team that was riding a learning curve during the regatta was John Bacon’s crew on The Edge, which won ORC C. Bacon just recently bought the 44-foot boat and sailed it for the first time a few days before the regatta started.
“The boat was designed by Harry Dunning, and it was built not far from where I live in Sydney, Australia,” says Bacon, who hails from Sydney and the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club. “We heard that it had come on the market [In Newport where it had been based with the previous owner], and we rang a few people that thought it might be a good boat to get into. I largely bought it sight unseen, but I know Harry because we’ve been sailing MC38s for the last 10 years. Harry convinced me that the boat had a heap of potential.”
A new name, and a splashy paint job, were the only significant changes. But Bacon took no chances with the crew, bringing together an all-star team that included longtime sailing friends from Australia and one of the best purveyors of local knowledge in Narragansett Bay, Ken Read.
“I can’t believe we were able to get this boat up and winning,” says Bacon. “The crew really came together. We’ve got some pretty good sailors here, and I just come off two weeks in Norway doing the 5.5 Metre Worlds. So, I’ve been doing a fair bit of sailing. I’m so blessed to be sailing with a great bunch of people. Everyone was into it, everybody really wanted to make this boat go.”
Bacon and his team started the regatta with a second and a third before running off four consecutive wins to take control of the stacked six-boat class.
“We thought we did OK on handicap in the first two races,” says Bacon. “But it felt like we were struggling in the light conditions offshore. It was really lumpy, and that’s my weakest part of sailing, light and sloppy conditions. It was the third race when we went, ‘Ahh, we’re starting to get this, it’s all coming together.’ Then we had a cracker of a race on Day 2, when we came back inshore.”
Light and lumpy is also not a preferred condition for Robin Team’s J/122 Teamwork. Sailing in ORC D, which was on paper the most competitive handicap division in the regatta, Teamwork started with a fourth. But given the boat’s preference for heavier breeze, Team saw that as an auspicious sign.
“The first race was really light air, probably 6 to 7 knots, and we ended up finishing fourth in that race, which was a little bit of a surprise,” says Team of Lexington, N.C. “We came back in the next two races and took bullets. It kind of set the stage for the whole week.”
Teamwork would win two more races over the next three days, but with such a strong fleet, the lead was never secure. In the end, however, Teamwork won not only ORC D, by seven points over Impetuous, skippered by New York Yacht Club Commodore Paul Zabetakis, but also claimed the ORC overall crown. That title, as with the IC37 National Championship, came with a custom engraved Rolex Steel and Yellow Gold Submariner Timepiece.
“Every boat in every class is really well sailed and to walk away and do well in your class and win the overall title is not only a testament to your crew, but there’s a little bit of luck involved as well,” says Team. “We talked about it coming in today, there really were not any mistakes on the racecourse at all, by anyone. Some of our crosses were by a matter of inches. Every start was very competitive, and it was just fabulous sailing.”
Other winners at Race Week in Newport presented by Rolex included Bella Mente, which won all eight races in ORC A and Dorade and Tink, which similar unbroken strings of firsts in the Classics and PHRF 1 divisions, respectively. Doug Clark recovered from a 13th in the opening race to win the 16-boat VX One Class by 8 points. Victor Wild’s Fox won ORC B, Columbia won the 12 Metre division and Pugilist took victory in PHRF 1. In the foiling Persico 69F class, which brought some youthful energy and speed to Race Week, it was the Okalys Youth Project from Switzerland taking first place.
The next edition of Race Week at Newport will take place July 17 to 20, 2024.
|Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex
New York Yacht Club Harbour Court
July 13 to 16, 2022
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