At least three teams will be flying the Stars and Stripes next week at the World Match Racing Tour Newport, off the US yachting capital’s historic Fort Adams and more could join them following the final qualifier event taking place over 26-28 May.
A former Olympic Yngling and Match Racing World Champion, Sally Barkow will be stealing the headlines in Newport as skipper of what is at present the sole all-female crew. And she’s likely to do well: At the last World Match Racing Tour event two weeks ago in Copenhagen, she finished sixth of 20 teams, claiming major scalps along the way.
But favourite for the Newport title is Taylor Canfield and his US One team. The US Virgin Islands skipper dominated the 2015 M32 Scandinavian Series. He goes into Newport having won the last tour event in Copenhagen a fortnight ago. In fact, so far Canfield’s only small hiccup in the one design M32 catamaran occurred at the first WMRT event of 2016 in Fremantle, Western Australia when he finished seventh.
“We actually sailed quite well in Fremantle,” Canfield maintains. “Out of the 20 teams we had the lowest score in the fleet racing, but then I made a couple of bad starts in the match racing… that happens.”
This season there are two World Match Racing Tour events in the US. In April Canfield won the Congressional Cup in Long Beach, for a record third consecutive year. He would like to have both 2016 US WMRT trophies on his mantlepiece.
Canfield is also looking forward to showcasing the WMRT in the US with its new format: Aboard ultra-high performance M32 catamarans, on flexible windward-leeward courses with reaching starts and finishes, and the first cull of teams coming after two days of fleet racing.
“It’s great to have two WMRT events in the US this year. Finally, all of our fans and supporters will be able to experience our racing first hand. In Newport we will have the people behind us and many family and friends will be there to witness the spectacle of the World Match Racing Tour. This new WMRT format is fast and high adrenaline – the M32s racing off Fort Adams will be a spectacle people shouldn’t miss!”
While Canfield starts the World Match Racing Tour Newport with everything to lose, Chris Poole and his Riptide Racing Team have everything to gain. They are perhaps closest to being a ‘local’ team: All but one are New Englanders – they come from every state, apart from Rhode Island.
While Canfield started young and now, aged 27, is top dog in the M32 cat world, Poole, just two years younger, is a few rungs down the ladder. He only raced an M32 for the first time this spring, when he got use of Charlie Enright’s boat in Bermuda. Yet after just four days of training, they were okay come race day, says Poole: “We were up and down – we had one race win and some deep finishes, but we worked out our strengths and on day two we played to those: We started well and were very consistent.”
Ultimately Canfield won on 15 points with GAC Pindar skipper Ian Williams a point behind and Poole on 17. “After five days of catamaran sailing in my entire life – that was pretty amazing,” Poole observes.
So how competitive will Poole be in Newport? “I’ve got the same guys with me that I’ve had at all the M32 events – so that’s going for us. We might surprise a few people. The downside is that we haven’t had as much time in the M32 in these events as everyone else.”
Like Canfield, Poole says the Newport event will be a ‘must-see’. “I think it is going to be one of the best events we’ve seen on the Tour. Fort Adams has so much shore line – it is the perfect stadium for the M32s. Plus it’ll be flat water, without the waves of Fremantle and conditions should be good with a nice sea breeze.”
An additional eight teams will fight for the remaining three of the 20 berths available at the WMRT Newport this week. Among them are four more US teams. Mark Mendelblatt is the most accomplished having represented the US at the Olympic Games in both the Laser and the Star and been afterguard in the America’s Cup and on numerous big boat campaigns.
Further local match racing talent comes in the form of William Gammell, while also entering the fray are two of the original Rhode Island M32 owners and their teams: Malcolm Gefter and Michael Dominguez whose respective Lift Off and Bronco crews have the advantage of having had the longest tenure in the M32 class.
Organised in association with Sail Newport, the World Match Racing Tour Newport runs from Memorial Day, May 30th, until June 4th out of Fort Adams State Park. The race course is located off downtown Newport, between Fort Adams and Goat Island.
For spectators there will be free admission to watch the racing. Ashore there will be family-friendly entertainment including food and beverages, live music and a beer garden. For more info: wmrt.com!