Bacardi Newport Sailing Week started a New Tradition

Bacardi Newport Sailing Week presented by EFG Bank
Cory Silken
Bacardi Newport Sailing Week 2011 now presented by EFG Bank

An iconic brand has taken its decades-long affiliation with the sport of sailing to a new level with the start of a new tradition: BACARDI Newport Sailing Week presented by EFG Bank. For this inaugural event staged from Sail Newport, Rhode Island’s public sailing center, four one-design fleets – Star, Audi Melges 20, Viper 640 and J/80 – got in three days of racing (June 24-26) under PRO Anderson Reggio who received resounding applause at the awards presentation.

'It was fantastic. It exceeded what we expected,' said Eddie Cutillas of BACARDI U.S.A. 'I think it’s a great first step and I look forward to a long future here.' Cutillas explained that the shore side activities – which included an exhibit of nautical photographer Cory Silken’s work along with nightly social events – are just as important as what happens on the race course: 'They [the sailors] work hard and it’s a long day on the water. I love to have something fun for them to come back to and enjoy after having been on the water all day.'

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The only detail the event organizers could not dictate was the weather, which was chilly and grey for the first day of racing before settling into a partly sunny pattern that brought typical Newport sailing conditions of light, shifty breeze. Racing north of the Newport Pell Bridge on one shared course meant the sailors also had to contend with current which one described as 'tough because there was more pressure where there was adverse current.'

In the 10-strong Star class, Snipe World Champion Tomas Hornos (Marblehead, Mass.) started off the series with two second place finishes, which he followed with five bullets for a total of seven points to take the regatta title. Second overall was Jack Jennings (Niles, Ill.) with 14 points, followed by William Swigart (Hong Kong) with 23.

Paul Reilly (Chicago, Ill.), who finished third overall at the 2011 BACARDI Miami Sailing Week presented by EFG Bank this past March, topped the 12-boat Audi Melges 20 fleet after two first-place finishes in the six-race series. Rob Wilber (Stony Creek, Conn.) was tied with Reilly on 16 points, but lost on the tie-breaker to finish second overall, while 2010 Audi Melges 20 National Champion Michael Kiss (Holland, Mich.) took third overall with 18 points after a rough final race.

Finishing one point out of third was a sailor making his debut in the Audi Melges 20, Travis Weisleder (Richmond, Va.), who placed fourth overall with 19 points. Not a bad showing for someone who had been on a Melges 20 only one time previously (as crew), and who had just assembled the boat at the dock, having taken delivery the day before racing began in Newport. Asked why he had jumped into the class at Bacardi Newport Sailing Week, Weisleder talked up the boat, the class structure, and the competition, along with a great schedule of events.

With 27 entries, the Viper 640 was the largest fleet in the regatta which is also serving as both the Atlantic Coast Championship and the second leg of the class’ Pan American Championship. And from the perspective of the class president it had been a great regatta. 'Lots of fun, as to be expected from Bacardi,' said Dan Tucker (Marblehead, Mass.). Tucker’s best finish for the series was in the final race and he was 'reasonably happy' that the breeze, and the crew work, came together better on the final day. Of the event, however, he had no doubts: 'I think this is going to become a regatta to come to next year, and hopefully for years to come.'

Winning the Viper 640 was Pieter Taselaar (Scarsdale, N.Y.), who especially enjoyed the conditions on the final day. The Audi Melges 32 World Champion explained that Bacardi Newport Sailing Week was only his third event in the Viper 640 which he had just purchased over the winter. 'I am still doing the Melges 32, but the next event is in two weeks in Garda [Italy] and we do a lot of cross training in the Viper which handles very similarly to the 32 in terms of the gybing angles and the tacking angles. Getting the boat up to speed, keeping it in the groove. It has a very similar feel, I find. It’s a fun boat.'

Having fun clearly was reflected on the scoreboard, and with four first-place finishes in seven races, Taselaar won the event with eight points. Second overall was Daan Goedkoop (Marblehead, Mass.) with 26 points, followed by Chuck Allen (Wickford, R.I.) with 28.

In the J/80 class, Newport sailor Andy Burton closed the series with a 2-2 after winning the first five races, for a net score of seven points to take the regatta title. Chris Bulger (Brookline, Mass.) was second with 11 points followed by Tim Pitts (Plymouth, Mass.) with 19.

By all accounts, the inaugural Bacardi Newport Sailing Week event Presented by EFG Bank, with Verizon Wireless as a preferred sponsor, hit it out of the ballpark with their first effort.

For more information, visit Newport Sailing Week.