Gladiator Outduels Spookie for Around the Island Honors

Gladiator Outduels Spookie for Around the Island Honors

NEWPORT, R.I. — On the water, the father-and-son team of Tony and Bernard Langley sailing Gladiator (above, left) suffered the narrowest of defeats to Steve and Heidi Benjamin's Spookie (above, right) on Day 1 of the 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, and sponsored by Porsche and AIG. The two yachts raced neck and neck for 19 miles around Conanicut Island and were separated by just three seconds at the finish line, with Spookie crossing just ahead of Gladiator.

But when the handicaps were applied--while both boats are the same length and style of raceboat, there are slight differences and hence a tiny disparity in their respective ratings--the results were reversed with the Langleys winning by two seconds and claiming the Rolex timepiece awarded to the top overall finisher under IRC.

"We're very happy with the result; it's our first time here," said the elder Langley, who called tactics while his son drove. "As a tactician, you're only as good as your last gig. We had a win at Charleston Race Week earlier this year, and I didn't get my butt fired. [Bernard] really wants to drive the boat and if I don't call tactics there's no place on the boat for me. It was a great deal of fun. We had a blinding start and it was so close. [At the end] we were just hanging on by our fingernails. You just have to ignore the other boat. You just have to sail your boat."

The race started--at 1100 hours with the slowest classes going first--in the remnants of an offshore breeze, with many of the teams setting spinnakers as they sailed south from the starting line off Newport toward the first turning mark at Beavertail Point on the south end of Conanicut Island. But the downwind run was short lived as each fleet had to negotiate a tricky convergence zone between the incoming southerly seabreeze and the fading gradient flow. The zone was particularly hazardous for the five speedsters in IRC1, which started last.

"We decided to start next to Spookie and stay to windward of [Prospector and Warrior, the two biggest boats in the race]," says Gladiator strategist Tony Rey, a Newport-based professional sailor who assisted Tony Langley, who called tactics for the regatta while his son drove. "Bernard nailed the timing. The computer read 0.1 boatlengths behind the line at the gun. That got us a bit of a launch and got us in front. We knew the convergence zone was coming. We kept the boat ahead and turned a half-boatlength lead in a 10-boatlength lead pretty quick. And suddenly we had a race for the next 14 miles."

Utilizing its full complement of specialty sails, Spookie slowly ate away at the lead as the boats proceeded in clockwise direction around the island. Gladiator is set up exclusively for one-design windward-leeward racing in the 52 Super Series and was at a distinct disadvantage on many points of sail. Spookie was finally able to overtake Gladiator moments just before the finish, but wasn't able to gain the five seconds needed to also take the lead after the handicaps were applied. As if that margin wasn't enough to get the heart beating, the difference on corrected time between Spookie in second and Prospector in third was just four seconds.


While the battle for IRC overall was the most watched, there was plenty of other storylines to follow for the Around the Island Race. In her first race in Newport in more than 30 years, the 12-Metre Defender took the early lead off the line and took first place in the Modern Division of the 12 Metre class. Dennis Williams, who normally sails Victory '83, recently finished a restoration of Defender and showed that it was worth the effort today. Kip Curran's Laura won the Grand Prix Division and American Eagle won the Traditional Division.

Other one-design class winners included John Hele's Swan 42 Daring, Harold Bruning's C&C30 Topas, Jim Bishop's J/44 Gold Digger (at left), and the Pieter Taselaar's M32 catamaran Bliksem.

In the 24-boat PHRF fleet, Donald Santa's J/105 Santa's Reign, Dear won both PHRF 2 and overall honors. Daniel Levangie's Windwalker took top honors in PHRF1 while Bill Clavin's Duck Soup won the PHRF Non-Spinnaker Division. In ORC, Jeroboam, skippered by Laurent Givry, took top honors.

Among the classics it was Tim Rutter's Marilee, Peter McClennan's Gamecock and John Taft and Tom Glassie's Fortune taking top honors. Matt Brook's Lucie was first in the six-boat 6 Metre class.

Racing in the 163rd Annual Regatta presented by Rolex will continue with Sunday with the IRC, ORC and one-design fleets doing buoy racing and the PHRF fleets sailing around government marks.

Click here for full results.