Some of the world's top sailors including Dennis Conner are heading for Newport this weekend to compete in NY YC Race Week

The Newport summer regatta, this weekend, marks the start of New York Yacht Club Race Week presented by Rolex. Race Week at Newport takes places as a four-day handicap racing regatta (13-16 July) and then switches to accommodate three racing days (19-21 July) for 10 one-design classes. Splitting the two sessions is a distance race (17 July) open to all boats entered in either or both halves of the regatta. At the close of registration, 66 boats had entered the regatta’s first half and 84 had entered the one-design segment. Fifty-three boats will compete in the distance race.

“Several of the best boats in our class have come back to Newport after the Bermuda Race and are participating in Race Week,” said J/44 Class Executive Director Tom Castiglione (Sea Cliff, NY), who explained that the event’s second half will serve as his class’s 2002 North Americans. “If there were only one race week in summer you could get to, you’d want to make it this one. It’s who runs it, where it’s run and the way it’s run that makes it one of the best events.”

The biennial regatta was a novelty just five short years ago when it was inaugurated, but now it shines as a jewel in Rolex’s highly polished line of

sponsored sailing events. The host of the regatta is the New York Yacht Club, and the regatta will be centered at its Harbour Court facility. After racing, competitors can enjoy the ambience of the picturesque club house, which boasts Newport Harbour as its backdrop.

“Last time at this event, it blew 12-16 knots everyday,” said Castiglione. “Our first, second and third place positions all came down to being determined on the last day. It’s the guaranteed Newport sea breeze that makes it a lot of fun.”

In its second half, Race Week also will serve as the 1D35 East Coast Regional Championship, Mumm 30 North American Championship, and the J/35 New England Championship. Remaining one-design classes sailing in Race Week are Farr 40, Farr 395, J/80, J/105, J/120 and Melges 24.

For Race Week’s first half, Dennis Conner will be among the many big boat champions competing. He will take to the waters on his 13-year-old Reichel Pugh 50 Stars & Stripes, the namesake of his America’s Cup boat that represents the New York Yacht Club.

“I’m coming back for two days of personal vacation and to sail with my close friends on the boat,” said Conner, who will steer on Sunday and Monday while Tom Whidden, a fellow NYYC syndicate member, takes the helm on Saturday. Referring to his many years of America’s Cup competition in Newport, he added with a laugh, “I’ve done a little sailing here before. It’s one of the greatest places in the world.” Tom Rich of Portsmouth will finish out the racing on Tuesday before taking the boat on the distance race.

Daily prizes will be awarded, with Rolex timepieces awarded to yachts with the best performances among IMS, PHRF and One-Design entrants.