2013-06-13 / News

Regatta includes race around island

By Ken Shane

Jim Bishop’s Gold Digger, shown above during a Newport to Bermuda race, will compete in the New York Yacht Club Regatta this weekend on Narragansett Bay. 
photo by don miller Jim Bishop’s Gold Digger, shown above during a Newport to Bermuda race, will compete in the New York Yacht Club Regatta this weekend on Narragansett Bay. photo by don miller It is going to be a busy summer on Narragansett Bay.

We’ve already seen the Atlantic Cup, followed by the Leukemia Cup. Now the granddaddy of American regattas is set to take place this weekend.

The 159th edition of the New York Yacht Club Regatta will fill the local waters with boats beginning Friday.

The NYYC was founded in 1844 and a year later the club had its first home in Hoboken, N.J. Just one year later, in 1846, the inaugural regatta was started. It has been going on ever since, interrupted over the years only by war.

“It has become a signature event of the yacht club and the first major event of the year,” said former NYYC Commodore Charles Townsend.

A lineup of about 150 boats is expected to take part in the regatta. The boats will be split into several classes including IRC, Classic, 12 Metre, PHRF and One-Design. The regatta begins with the Around the Island Race Friday, which takes competitors around Conanicut Island. Saturday and Sunday are spent racing around the buoys in Narragansett Bay with occasional forays into the ocean.

As might be expected, a number of Jamestown residents are NYYC members. Several of them will participate in the regatta this weekend. Among them will be Dr. Paul Zabetakis, who in addition to being a member of the club since 1990, is the chairman of the club’s sailing committee. Zabetakis plans to be on the starting line Friday with his Swan 42 Impetuous, along with about 10 other Swan 42s.

“It’s a really big event,” Zabetakis said. “We’ve got good registration.”

He said the Swan 42s will have their own start for both Friday’s event and the weekend racing.

Zabetakis sailed in his first NYYC Regatta in the late 1980s. At the time he was sailing a Frers 33.

“What’s special is about the regatta is that it’s really the kickoff for the season,” he said. “It’s really the first big regatta in the area. The teams are all coming back after a long winter.”

Zabetakis said that the Around the Island Race on Friday is a good opportunity to get the teams working together after not sailing all winter. Traditionally the Friday race is less intense than the weekend buoy racing. It includes all points of sail, which makes for good boat handling practice. There is a separate trophy for the Around the Island Race.

“Then you roll into your windward leeward on Saturday and Sunday, so it’s a good tune-up for the rest of the season,” he said. “It’s a really nice event. It’s a historical event.”

The NYYC Regatta is often described as a Corinthian event, which indicates the participation of amateur sailors. That is not to say there are not paid professional sailors scattered throughout the crews, just that there are no paid teams along the lines of the America’s Cup, for example.

One skipper who will face off against Zabetakis is Terry McLaughlin, who is far from a beginning. The Canadian Olympic silver medalist and former America’s Cup skipper will be at the helm of the Swan 42 Daring, owned by Newport John Hele.

“Newport is a great place to sail and offers a very impressive nautical town steeped in tradition,” said McLaughlin. “As well, the New York Yacht Club always does a bang-up job on and off the water. The event has a long history and a lot of competitive classes, so it attracts a wide range of boats and people.”

Another Jamestown entrant will be Dr. Robert Salk on his J-109 Picante. Salk has been a member of the NYYC for about 10 years. He has participated in the regatta for nearly that long. He is also a member of the Conanicut Island Yacht Club and Jamestown Yacht Club.

“The NYYC always produces an excellent race committee,” Salk said. “The opportunity to race with a superb race committee always makes it more fun. The competition is not just Rhode Islanders, but regional. So the competition is really much higher than we normally see. The quality we see on Tuesday night is unbelievable for Tuesday nights, but the NYYC Regatta is one step further.”

Salk said the Friday race is pretty casual and makes for a good time, while the buoys racing on Saturday and Sunday is more technical. According to Salk, another challenge is when race organizers try to get the boats out to Brenton Reef. That means they have to contend with waves in addition to wind.

At least one Jamestown family will celebrate Father’s Day together out on the water.

“I plan on sailing the NYYC Regatta this weekend with my father,” said two-time All-American sailor Natalie Salk. “I don’t think he knows it yet, but it’s Father’s Day and his birthday, so I think I have to.”

She laughed, “My gift to him is my time.”

Award ceremonies will take place Friday for the Around the Island Race. The regatta dinner follows on Saturday night, along with daily prize giving on Saturday and Sunday. The overall class winners will be given their awards at the annual NYYC dinner in New York this fall.

Other Jamestown boats that will on the starting line this weekend are Entropy, a Tripp 41 owned by Patricia Young; Gold Digger, a J-44 owned by James Bishop; Four Suns, a Swan 41 owned by Charles Beal; and Mischief, a Herreshoff S Class owned by Walter Bopp.

“Newport is the authentic sailing scene for Corinthian level racing, and we are looking forward to being back on the East Coast,” said Jose Diego-Arozamena, skipper of Maximizer, who has spent the last summers in the Mediterranean.

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