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Impetuous takes bittersweet win in 11th Swan 42 National Championship

by Stuart Streuli, NYYC on 16 Jul 12-15 July 2017
Swan 42 U.S. Nationals at the New York Yacht Club © Stuart Streuli / NYYC

If everything had gone to plan, Paul Zabetakis and his Impetuous team would be celebrating their first Swan 42 National Championship and the opportunity to represent the host club in the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup in September. While the former is something Zabetakis has chased for more than a decade, not earning the latter gives his win in the 11th Swan 42 National Championship a bittersweet quality.

As it has been every year since the class was founded in 2007, the Swan 42 National Championships was hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court. Also run at the same time were the IRC East Coast Championships and the inaugural New York Yacht Club Multihull Regatta.

In 2015, Zabetakis' Impetuous team finished second in the fourth Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup. The past two seasons have been focused on moving to the top step of the podium. But just days before the start of the National Championship, which also served as the second half of the qualification series for the Club's berth in the Invitational Cup, a family medical issue cropped up forcing Zabetakis to miss the first three days of the event. Tactician Bob Slattery served as the team's helmsman in his absence. But since Slattery isn't a member of the New York Yacht Club, Zabetakis was forced to withdraw his team from the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup selection series.

"We tried to figure out some way of still collecting points [toward the selection series]," said Zabetakis, "but there wasn't anything we could do. So we decided to change our focus. I wanted the team to have good time and enjoy their last big event of the year."

In a full range of conditions and in atypically inclement weather, the Impetuous team shown brightly, winning four of seven races and never finishing worse than fourth in a tightly-knit 10-boat fleet.

"It was very shifty all week, and it was very tough," said Slattery. "[Substitute tactician] John Mollicone found us clear lanes every time off the start, and we didn't have to do many tacks on the first leg. If you're doing four tacks or more, you're not going to be first at the windward mark. We were able to get off the line and get ahead pretty quickly."

Slattery has sailed in the Swan 42 class for many years, but he'd never helmed the boat in a race until the first race of the championships.

"It was totally different," he said. "I'm used to looking around the course, telling everybody what to do and asking the driver to concentrate on the boatspeed. I'd never really helmed the 42 before except for in between races. I was a little bit concerned that we might be off the pace. The crew was very good, which makes it easier."

Building a cohesive crew is one of the often overlooked challenges of sailing large keelboats. Zabetakis takes no small amount of pride in the team he has developed, and their performance this past week in winds that at times topped 20 knots.

"To me, it's always been about finding the right chemistry," says Zabetakis. "The culture and personality is the main thing because the skill sets can be learned. Once you get a core group, it starts to decide on the next person to come on board. I've been fortunate the last couple of years to put together a really good group."

William Edward's crew from the Royal Thames Yacht Club finished second, with the Southern Yacht Club team led by helmsman Marcus Egan in third. Both of those teams will be competing at the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup in September.

Sparkling crew work was also a key to victory for Patti Young's Entropy team which won the seven-boat IRC3 division. After a disappointing performance in the 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex in June, Young, husband/helmsman Paul Hamilton, and the crew committed to a rigorous practice schedule over the past month.

"We didn't think we showed our best at the Annual Regatta, and we had something to prove," says Young. "We were dedicated in practice and went over everything we could do better and how to minimize our errors."

Young also credited some changes she and Hamilton made to the boat over the winter, including a longer bowsprit and bigger spinnakers.

"It has made a significant difference in our performance," she said. "We had a very narrow range downwind before and now it's more forgiving. We don't have to be perfect all the time. We can sail lower and faster."

The net result was three race wins and a four-point advantage over Jim Bishop's Gold Digger, which took second in the overall standings. Quentin Thomas' Pendragon was third.

In IRC2, Art Santry's Temptation/Oakcliff team was virtually unbeatable, winning six of seven races. In the one race the team didn't win, the margin of victory was just 11 seconds.

Santry's been racing his Ker 50 for the better part of a decade and his team's familiarity with the boat is a big part of their success.

"The boat's in great shape," he says. "After 6 years of sailing this thing, it's finally turn key. It's fun. We like a little more breeze that we had this week, and a little more lump and bump. But we had great crew work, no mistakes whatsoever all week. I also thought the committee did a heck of a job getting races off because the weather conditions were not easy."

Paul Jeka's After Midnight was second in IRC2.

IRC1 was a match race between two TP52s, Tony Langley's Gladiator and Steve and Heidi Benjamin's Spookie. Langley won the first two races and held on for a one-point overall win.

The inaugural New York Yacht Club Multihull Regatta attracted eight catamarans between 53 and 66 feet long. While ostensibly built for performance cruising, these powerful cats enjoyed the chance to stretch their collective legs on some navigator-style courses utilizing government marks. The battle for first was between Greg Slyngstad's 53-foot Fujin and Jason Carroll's 62-foot Elvis, with the latter coming out on top. Steve Cucchiaro's Flow was third.

Overall Results:

IRC East Coast Championships - IRC 1 (IRC - 2 Boats)
1. Gladiator, TP52, Tony Langley, Retford, Nottinghamshire, GBR - 1 -1 -2 -1 -1 -2 -2; 10pts
2. SPOOKIE, TP52, Steve & Heidi Benjamin, South Norwalk, CT, USA - 2 -2 -1 -2 -2 -1 -1; 11pts

IRC East Coast Championships - IRC 2 (IRC - 4 Boats)
1. Temptation-Oakcliff, Ker 50, Arthur Santry, Oyster Bay, NY, USA - 1 -1 -1 -2 -1 -1 -1; 8pts
2. After Midnight, CTM41, Paul Jeka, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, USA - 3 -2 -3 -1 -3 -2 -2; 16pts
3. Pterodactyl, R/P 45, Scott Weisman, White Plains, NY, USA - 2 -4 -4 -4 -2 -3 -4; 23pts

IRC East Coast Championships - IRC 3 (IRC - 7 Boats)
1. Entropy, Tripp 41, Patricia Young, Jamestown, RI, USA - 4 -1 -3 -4 -1 -1; 14pts
2. Gold Digger, J 44, James D. Bishop, New York, NY, USA - 1 -4 -2 -2 -5 -4; 18pts
3. Pendragon, X-41, Quentin Thomas, Portsmouth, RI, USA - 3 -2 -5 -3 -3 -2; 18pts

Swan 42 National Championships (One Design - 10 Boats)
1. Impetuous, Paul Zabetakis, Stuart, FL, USA - 1 -2 -1 -1 -4 -1 -3; 13pts
2. Mutiny, William Edwards, Wimbledon, London, GBR - 6 -1 -3 -7 -3 -3 -2; 25pts
3. Southern, Southern Yacht Club, Mandeville, LA, USA - 4 -8 -5 -2 -5 -2 -1; 27pts

NYYC Multihull Regatta (8 Boats)
1. Elvis, Gunboat 62, Jason Carroll, New York, NY, USA - 2 -1 -2 -1; 6pts
2. Fujin, Bieker 53, Greg Slyngstad, Sammamish, WA, USA - 1 -3 -4 -2; 10pts
3. Flow, Gunboat 60, Stephen Cucchiaro, Boston, MA, USA - 6 -2 -1 -3 -5; 12pts

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