Metrefest Newport 2017: A Success by Any Measure

Metre boat sailors from four corners of the United States and Canada enjoyed a spectacular weekend of racing at MetreFest Newport 2017. By all accounts, the inaugural regatta for International Rule sailing yachts, held from June 9 through 11 in conjunction with New York Yacht Club’s 163rd Annual Regatta, with support from Ida Lewis Yacht Club and Sail Newport, was a huge success. Jamie Hilton, MetreFest Newport 2017 chairman said: “The idea of bringing Metre boat sailors of all different stripes together at one event proved to be more fun than we had even hoped. Sailors and skippers from all three classes on hand were very enthused at the event and were universally clamoring as to when and where the next MetreFest will be!” From the sprightly single-handed 2.4mRs at just over 13 feet long to the majestic 12mRs ranging from 64 to 70 feet in length raced by crews of 17 sailors, these former and present-day Olympic and America’s Cup development classes held center stage.

In the largest fleet of the regatta, with 17 entries on the starting line, Dee Smith, US-7, dominated the 2.4mR class, chalking up a perfect regatta. Not only did Smith win every race, he led at every single mark rounding. Ben Hall, US-77, placed second overall with 13 points, and Theodore Green, US-175, finished third overall with 15 points. In the Around Rose Island Race, Theodore Green, US-175, finished second, with Charles Rosenfield, US-142, in third. Upon accepting his Around the Island prize at the MetreFest Regatta Dinner on June 9, Dee Smith suggested staging a 2.4mR World Championship in tandem with the 2019 12mR World Championship in Newport; his idea was met with resounding cheers from the approximately 300 gathered guests and sailors.

Results in the 6mR Class were more mixed. Matt Brook’s Lucie, US-55, won the Around the Island Race on June 9, followed by Thomas Rodes’ Discovery, US-109, in second, and William Booth’s Flapper, N-71, in third. Still, it was Booth’s Flapper, N-71, who won the weekend regatta with a total of only six points.

The fabled 12mR Class showed up in force at MetreFest Newport 2017. Nine 12mRs, representing three divisions of formula designs spanning 28 years of America’s Cup–inspired yacht development, shared a starting line—a very rare occurrence. Dennis Williams’ freshly restored Defender, US-33, returned to the racecourse after 23 years to win the Modern division in the Around the Island Race, held June 9. Also finishing first Around the Island were Kip Curren’s Laura, KZ-5, in the Grand Prix division, and Eagle 2019 Syndicate’s Traditional entry: American Eagle, US-21.

MetreFest had the distinction of being the first North American regatta of the International 12 Metre Association’s Road to the Worlds Waypoint Series, a three-year international 12mR competition that will culminate with the 2019 12mR World Championship in Newport, Rhode Island.

“The idea behind the MetreFest was to bring sailors from as many International Rule classes as possible together for a weekend of sailing, socializing, and storytelling,” said longtime Metre boat sailor Jamie Hilton. “Shared ‘war stories’ are always a big topic of interest under any regatta tent, but at MetreFest they were of America’s Cup and Olympic proportions!”

The historic gathering at MetreFest included past and present champions from each of their respective classes. Four of the ten 12mR entries were America’s Cup winners: Weatherly, US-17 (1962); Intrepid, US-22 (1967 and 1970); Courageous, US-26 (1974 and 1977); and Freedom, US-30 (1980). Also competing were American Eagle, US-21, made famous by Ted Turner as a winning ocean-racer; and Ted Hood’s innovative Nefertiti, US-19. Two of the three infamous Kiwi “plastic fantastics”—New Zealand, KZ-3, and Laura, KZ-5—rounded out the 12mR fleet. Additionally, there was great buzz about the return-to-racing debut of 2016 12mR North American Champion Dennis Williams’ newly restored Defender US-33.

A very competitive 6mR fleet was comprised primarily of classic designs, including SYCE, US-14 (1922); Madcap, US-21 (1924); Clytie II, US-33 (1927); Lucie, US-55 (1931); Flapper, N-17 (1939); and Newport’s own Cherokee, US-53 (2009/1930). Discovery, USA-109 (1978) represented modern-era Sixes