Published: Tuesday, 13 June 2017

With two firsts and a second in testing offshore conditions, Harald Bruning and his team on the C&C30 Topas separated from a competitive nine-boat fleet and won overall class honours in the 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, sponsored by Porsche and AIG and supported by Helly Hansen. Bruning's win also earned him a Rolex Submariner Timepiece for the best overall performance in the Annual Regatta's two-day series.

Topas Wins 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta Presented By Rolex

(Photos: Daniel Forster / Rolex - Topas)

What's perhaps most impressive is that, until a week ago, Bruning had never sailed a C&C30. "We are surprised to win this award," said Bruning from Kiel, Germany, after receiving his timepiece. "We flew over last Sunday. We wanted to see how the C&C30 class is going. I think it is a fantastic boat."

For the final day racing, the race committee sent the C&C30 fleet to one of the two offshore circles. The breeze came in early and built to 15 to 20 knots with sizeable waves.

"I think it was boat handling and also our tactician, David Chapman, made some good calls," said Bruning, when asked how he separated from the pack, which included Dan Cheresh, the reigning North American champion. "The right decision at the right moment and that's it. The Topas crew, we won the Farr 30 World Championship twice and I have a very experienced crew sailing for years together. That's the point. That's the key point."

On June 8 evening, when Andrew Weiss saw the class breaks for the IRC fleet at the 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, he didn't put a lot of stock in his team's chances. His boat Christopher Dragon, a 43-foot Jason Ker design was grouped in IRC 2 with a handful of 50-something raceboats. While each boat would owe Christopher Dragon time based on their relative handicaps, being the smallest and slowest boat in a fleet is never an easy situation.

Topas Wins 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta Presented By Rolex 1

"I thought we had no chance of winning," said Weiss from Mamaroneck, N.Y. "We thought we were going get sat on and hammered all weekend. When we got to Stadium Sailing [on Saturday] we thought [the short courses] would be even worse."

However, on Saturday, on the compact Stadium Sailing course just off Fort Adams State Park, the Christopher Dragon crew recorded a 2-1-1 to take a lead going into the final day, the second and final day of the Annual Regatta presented by Rolex buoy-racing series. 

As with the C&C30 fleet, the race committee moved the IRC 2 fleet offshore. With the wind picking up into the high teens, Weiss knew he and his team would have a difficult time holding off bigger, heavier boats, in particular Art Santry's Temptation Oakcliff, which has traditionally excelled in breeze. The first two races held true to form, with Santry's team beating Weiss' crew in both races and closing to within a half point in the overall standings.

"They go phenomenally well upwind," said Weiss of Temptation Oakcliff. "We had a meeting with the crew before the final race and said, ‘This is it, we've got to beat them.' Our thoughts were, we had to be aggressive at the start, sail in the same water as them and hope we beat them on time."

Topas Wins 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta Presented By Rolex 3

Weiss was able to block Santry and his crew from the starting at the gun, and gain the early lead. While Temptation Oakcliff's heavy-air speed and longer waterline allowed it to pass Christopher Dragon, Weiss and his team were able to stay close enough to win the race once the handicaps were applied. 

Weiss said: "It felt very good, everybody did a great job. These were really tough conditions to beat bigger boats."

For Chris Lewis from Houston, Texas, and his team on the J/44 Kenai, the issue wasn't coming into the event with low expectations, it was not having anything on which to base expectations. While Lewis has owned his boat for 21 years, he'd never raced against other J/44s utilising the class one-design sails until this weekend.

Lewis said: "We normally race with a sprit and asymmetric spinnakers. We've been doing distance races in that format. We spent three days converting the boat to the one-design format to compete in this regatta and the J/44 North American Championship at Block Island Race Week. We had really no idea how we would perform. We've never lined up against these guys."

The early returns were promising, with Kenai notching a first and two seconds on Saturday. But that still left Lewis and his team a point in arrears of NYYC Vice Commodore Bill Ketcham. On the final day, Kenai was the class of the fleet with a second and two firsts and a three-point overall win.

Lweis added: "We sailed very consistently and my tactician Mike McGagh made some good calls on the racecourse. We were pretty much always able to match the other boats' speed. We had a very good battle with Bill Ketcham and Maxine and the outcome was decided in the last two races. We're based in Texas, and so we're the dark horse of the J44 fleet. But I guess the dark horse did well this weekend." 

Other one design results included New York Yacht Club Rear Commodore Chris Culver's Blazer taking the Swan 42 class over John Hele's Daring by virtue of a tiebreaker. William Booth's Flapper, skippered by Lars Guck, won the 6m division while Andrew McClatchy's Swallow won four of six races en route to a two-point win in the S Class. After 12 races, just five points separated first from fourth in the M32 catamaran class, with Pieter Taselaar's Bliksem taking the win.

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In IRC 1, Steve and Heidi Benjamin's Spookie did it's best to atone for a two-second loss in Friday's Around the Island Race by winning all six races in IRC 1. In IRC 3, it was Robin Team's family-based crew from North Carolina, sailing Teamwork, that came away with a hard-earned win.

The 12m Divisions were won by Gunther Buerman's New Zealand (Grand Prix), Ralph Isham and Alexander Auersperg's Courageous (Modern) and, courtesy of a tiebreaker, Jon Wullschleger's Nefertiti (Traditional). 

In the Classics 1, Ronald Palm's Erica came out on top. Classics 2 was won by Joseph Huber's Ruweida 5 while John Taft and Tom Glassie's Fortune to the Classics Non-Spinnaker division.

Tonto, skippered by Fred Darlington, won both races on the final day to claim top honours in PHRF 2, while Vincent and Kristina McAteer's Divided Sky won PHRF 1. Bill Clavin's Duck Soup won three of four races and the overall title in PHRF Non-Spinnaker. Laurent Givry's Jeroboam won the ORC division.