Sailing is full of passionate participants who enjoy nothing more than sharing their love for the sport. For crew-hungry big-boat owners, it’s generally a win-win situation. The average 40-foot raceboat requires a crew of 10 to 12 people for each regatta and a deep bench of willing substitutes. Sometimes, however, a crewmember aspires to bigger things and the next thing you know, the smiling face you invited to trim jib last summer is tacking on you this summer.
Such a situation may just transpire this weekend as Impetuous, skippered by New York Yacht Club Vice Commodore Paul Zabetakis (Jamestown, R.I.), and Lagertha, skippered by Kurt Kalberer (New York, N.Y.), battle each other, and eight other boats, for top honors in ORC 3 at the 167th edition of the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, which starts tomorrow with the traditional opening race around Conanicut Island.
“I had the pleasure of crewing one summer for Commodore Zabetakis onboard Impetuous and fell in love with the boat,” says Kalberer (above, at the helm of Lagertha, née Quintessence, during the 166th Annual Regatta). “Since 2018, I’ve raced ORC locally, competed in the Swan 42 one-design class in the Med and spent some time this winter cruising in the Caribbean. I’ve sailed the 42 under ORC at Palma Vela in Mallorca and found the boat very competitive against many top European programs.”
The Annual Regatta was first sailed on the Hudson River on July 16 and 18, 1846. A similar competition the previous year was called a Trial of Speed. With a few exceptions for world wars and other global crises, the event has been held every year since. For the majority of its existence, the New York Yacht Club held its Annual Regatta on waters close to New York City. Since 1988, however, the event has been sailed out of the Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, R.I., and has settled into the current three-day format, which includes a race around Conanicut Island on Friday and two days of buoy racing or navigator-course racing on Saturday and Sunday.
The second act of the Swan 42, as a top ORC competitor, is one of the more intriguing storylines of the Annual Regatta. The boat was created in 2006 as the New York Yacht Club’s eighth one-design class and as the platform for the biennial Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, the premiere global competition for Corinthian sailors. After more than a decade of strong one-design competition, and five editions of the Invitational Cup, the class dwindled in the United States.
“The Swan 42 is a great ORC yacht,” says Zabetakis, one of the founders of the class and the lone remaining original owner in the United States. “This is evidenced by the fact that most sold boats went to Europe where they were converted and successfully raced under the ORC handicap rule. On our first few outings, we have done quite well under ORC.”
At the 2021 ORC European Championships, sailed last month in Capri, Italy, the Swan 42 continued its years-long domination, finishing first, second, third and fifth in Class B.
On this side of the Atlantic, where the rule is just gaining traction, Zabetakis and his Impetuous team took ORC division victories in the 2020 Race Week at Newport presented by Rolex and the 166th Annual Regatta, both of which were sailed in early fall of 2020 due to COVID.
Repeating this year is likely to be more of a challenge. In addition to Kalberer and Lagertha, there are three other Swan 42s joining the fray: Patricia Young’s Entropy (Jamestown, R.I.), David Fass’ Zammermoos (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) and Henry Brauer and Steve Madeira’s Tio Loco (Northeast Harbor, Maine).
Having five nearly identical boats—some have undergone minor medications to improve performance under ORC—in a handicap class does greatly increase the chance that two Swan 42s will find themselves fighting over the same piece of water, or for inside position around a mark. But Kalberer believes that, ultimately, this fleet within ORC C will improve each Swan 42’s chance of winning the class.
“Having five 42s together in ORC will be an advantage,” he says. “It should allow us to test and tweak our boatspeed against each other, and sail as close to our rating as possible.”
And have fun doing it, which, depending on whom you ask, may be more important.
“I just really enjoy sailing on the Swan 42,” says Zabetakis, preparing for his 15th year racing the boat. “It’s a platform that permits me to still sail with friends with whom I’ve sailed on and off for 30 years. I can take several of my core Newport team and mingle good sailors who had been regular crew, but because of distance and family obligations are no longer available for regular sailing. We can get together once a year, have fun, sail aggressively and, most years, do quite well.”
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