ClubSwan 50 American Debut Highlights 163rd Annual Regatta
NEWPORT, R.I. — It's become yet another tradition for an event that already has them in spades. On Friday, June 9, as it has for nearly 30 years, the 163rd New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex will kick off the Newport sailing season and serve as a debutante ball of sorts for one or more of the sport's newest boats.
This year, the focus will be on the latest offering from the esteemed Finnish boatyard, Nautor's Swan. The ClubSwan 50 is the most performance-oriented production yacht ever built by Swan, a company that has based its reputation on performance, but never at the expense of style or durability. From the reverse bow to the wide and flat transom to the twin rudders, there is no doubt that the ClubSwan 50 is made to race.
Chartered for the Annual Regatta by New York Yacht Club member Jim Madden, the boat is owned by Nautor's Swan CEO Leonardo Ferragamo, also a member of the Club. Madden is a veteran Swan owner, having spent many days over the past few years sailing a Swan 42 and a Swan 601, both named Stark Raving Mad.
"I haven't yet had the pleasure to even set foot on the new 50," says Madden, of Newport Beach, Calif. "I've seen mock-ups, photos and videos and have been very impressed. She's a striking boat. We've put together our regular crew, and we have the same three objectives for all regattas: be safe, have fun and do well. For the third, it will be interesting to see how we can do under IRC."
While one-design racing is usually the ultimate goal for any production raceboat, the initial proving ground is often racing under handicap. The ClubSwan 50, which is the first Swan designed by Juan Kouyoumdjian, a member of the New York Yacht Club, has sold well in Europe with nearly two dozen orders confirmed. But as this is the first boat in the United States, it's first test will come under IRC.
There it will face proven competition as the Annual Regatta presented by Rolex always draws in many of the top IRC boats in the Northeast. This year the entry list includes, among many others, the Mills 68 Prospector, which is fresh off a successful southern tour, a trio of TP52s, and racer/cruisers in the 35-foot range.
"Quality handicap racing depends on grouping boats that are somewhat similar in size and performance characteristics," says Annual Regatta event chair David Bush-Brown. "That's one of the many things the Annual Regatta presented by Rolex does very well, draw enough handicap boats to ensure that each division is comprised of relatively analogous yachts and each boat has a reasonable opportunity to win no matter the conditions."
With the IRC boats enjoying both Friday's lap of Conanicut Island and buoy racing, on Saturday and Sunday, the Annual Regatta presented by Rolex is usually a true test of a design's merit. While the results of one regatta are not likely to make or break a new design, a successful performance in the ClubSwan 50's North American debut would help get the latest offering from Finland off to a flying start here.
Photo credits: Nautor's Swan/Studio Borlenghi (2), Stuart Streuli/NYYC