It’s Old News as New Wave Claims
IC37 National Championship, Again
For the second straight year, Steve Liebel’s New Wave is the IC37 National Champion. Liebel and his veteran team were nearly unstoppable over the course of five races, winning three and not placing worse than fourth in the competitive 16-boat fleet. The final margin of victory over second place was an astounding 16 points. While heavy winds and the threat of lightning storms cancelled the third day of the regatta, there was little doubt what team was the class of the field this weekend.
“There was a lot going well,” says tactician Marcus Eagan, a new recruit to the New Wave crew. “The team’s been together forever and I jumped in and just kind of hit if off like that. Steve’s a great driver and the team executed really well.”
The 2023 IC37 National Championship was hosted by the New York Yacht Club in Newport, R.I., concurrently with the ORC East Coast Championship. While the IC37 class, the premiere big-boat one-design class in North America, focused on buoy racing, the ORC competition featured a mix of buoy racing and point-to-point races, giving the 20 competitors from 31 to 74 feet in length a hint of what’s to come next fall when the Club hosts the 2024 ORC World Championship. The 2023 New York Yacht Club Regatta Season is sponsored by Helly Hansen, Hammetts Hotel and Safe Harbor Marinas.
As the defending champion, New Wave (above and at right) was one of the favorites coming in to the fifth edition of the class’s national championship. The addition of Marcus Eagan who has had success in the IC37 and many other classes, only made the team stronger, at least on paper. Great individual sailors don’t always combine to make great teams. But Eagan and main trimmer Marty Kullman found a quick rapport during the Annual Regatta in June, dividing up the key areas of responsibility and allowing Liebel to focus on doing what he does best, starting well and sailing fast.
“I don’t get involved with [boatspeed],” says Eagan. “We had Marty on the main, who talks to Steve all the time and he’s in charge of the boatspeed and making the boat go well. I’m just telling them where to go. Those guys, regarding the speed and everything, they have it figured out. I stay out of their way. The team’s been together for a long time, they’ve done it very well. They won the nationals last year. They’ve executed at a very high level. And I’m just here trying to not make mistakes.”
The results indicate that Eagan delivered on that plan. New Wave opened the regatta with a win and a second on Day 1, then built on its lead with two firsts and a fourth in some very light and lumpy conditions on Day 2.
“The focus was to always get off the line, do well off the line, get the boatspeed up and do very minimal maneuvers,” says Eagan. “We had one race where we didn’t do very well, but we were able to get a clear lane and get out. We just kept it simple, very conservative, with good starts.”
Behind New Wave was a jumble of boats that more accurately captures the competitiveness of the fleet. Second through fourth was separated by just four points. Chris Lewis and his Qubitteam (at right) opened the regatta with three straight sevenths, before closing with first and a third to take second. John Lovell skippered the Southern Yacht Club team to third, a good omen for their impending defense of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup in September. In fourth was Peter McClennen’s Gamecock team, which will represent the New York Yacht Club at the Invitational Cup. Rounding out the top five was Doug Newhouse’s Yonder.
Switching gears between buoy racing and distance racing can seem like a straightforward process. But one mark rounding in Saturday’s 5-hour distance race for the ORC classes showed just why there’s no substitute for experience.
Toward the end of the race—the course was 38 miles for the faster boats and 26 miles for the slower boats—all 20 boats were required to go from a run to a tight reach to a broad reach. The middle leg was particularly challenging for some teams, which struggled to determine whether it was possible to carry a spinnaker on the reaching leg and, for those that made late call to switch to a flatter headsail, execute the necessary sail change. Seconds, if not minutes, were left on the table.
“We were talking about it. ‘Do we go to the Code 0, let’s get it ready, let’s get it up there in case we need it.’” says New York Yacht Club Commodore Paul M. Zabetakis, M.D., who skippered his Swan 42 Impetuous (at left) to a win in ORC C. “It takes 3 or 4 minutes to get the Code 0 ready. Every leg we were talking about the next leg, what we needed to do, what sail selection would be ideal and then getting ready for it. The thing I really enjoy about my crew. We’ve been racing for so long now, I don’t really need to tell them anything. Everybody does their job, they know what to do, and there’s good conversation. It’s a very cohesive group.”
Zabetakis will now turn his focus toward the ORC World Championship next September and October. It will be the first time in nearly a quarter century that sailing’s offshore world titles are decided on American waters. The last time was in 2000 when the New York Yacht Club hosted the IMS World Championship.
“The last big event I did was the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup in 2015, and this is going to be similar to that,” says Zabetakis. “I’ve already said I’ve got to start doing some workouts to get in better shape for the offshore races.”
Other winners in ORC included Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente in ORC A, Austin and Gwen Fragomen’s Interlodge IV in ORC B, and John Brim’s Rima98 in ORC D.
For the Club, the East Coast Championship served as a preview of the full carnival that will come to Newport toward the end of the 2024 sailing season.
“The ORC World Championships is a unique event, especially compared to the one-design world champinoships the Club has regularly hosted over the past two decades,” says Matt Gallagher, who served as the event chair for the East Coast Championship and will fill the same role for the worlds. “Having Zoran Grubisa, chief measurer for ORC, and other ORC officials on site this weekend allowed us to get a jump start on our planning, as did all the work put in by the race committee to create the offshore courses for this regatta. It will all serve to build the foundation for a smooth and successful event in 2024.”
The 2024 ORC World Championship is scheduled to run from September 27 to October 5, 2024. Between 60 and 80 entries are expected, with world titles being handed out in three classes.