"Once more around the island" was the call at the end of last week by the New York Yacht Club Race Committee for the final race in the Swan American Regatta

“Once more around the island” was the call at the end of last week by the New York Yacht Club Race Committee for the final race in the Swan American Regatta.

The 23-mile race was the last challenge for the 32-boat fleet and decided the week’s winners in the Big and Small Boat classes. The regatta’s overall winner, Lolita, owned by Frank Savage, had sewn up the seven-race series a day earlier. Lolita also won its Big Boat division for the week, along with Galadriel, a Swan 46 owned by John Santa, which won the Small Boat division.

“The win feels really good,” said a jubilant Savage. “We are a group of good friends who have been sailing together for a long time, and to share this with them is special.” The Lolita team counted just one third-place finish in their final tally, made up of first- and second-place finishes.

Spectacular 12 to 20-knot breezes combined with flat seas made for high-quality racing around Conanicut Island, with picking the shifts a premium. Heading off the start line to a special mark laid directly upwind 1.5 miles away, Odyssey, the Swan 55 owned by David Brodsky (Newport, R.I.), sailed a conservative mid-line course and accelerated in clear air ahead of the pack.

The rest of the fleet was divided as to the favoured side of the first leg and split to the right- and left-hand sides. Redoubtable, the Swan 56 owned by Nader Habashi (Huntersville, N.C.) and Perseverance, the Swan 56 owned by Tom Puett (Atlanta, Ga.) chose the left side of the course and led to the mark, while the rest of the Big Boat class went to the right side. That tactic paid off for Sotto Voce, which rounded ahead of Lolita. The two leaders took off to the southern end of the island, some seven miles away.

The next group of boats arrived at the mark in a building breeze and provided spectators with an exciting show. Chippewa, the Swan 60 owned by Clay Deutsche (Sewickley, Pa.), Neva, the Swan 56 owned by Rob Watson (New York, N.Y.), Noonmark VI, the Swan 56 owned by Geoffrey Mulcahy (U.K.) and Nova, the Swan 56 owned by Mark DiStefano (New York, N.Y.) converged at the same time and seemed to weave themselves around the mark, fighting for the best position. Despite harrowing boathandling and split-second tactical decisions, the group set off for the next mark.

The first two boats to round in the Small Boat class were Syrocco, the Swan 51 owned by Sam Fortenbaugh and Fierce Pride, the Swan 44 owned by Van Holston (Oxford, Md.). They led their half of the fleet to the Newport Bridge, approximately 10 miles south.

After passing under the Newport Bridge, fleet leader Sotto Voce arrived at the southernmost mark for the course off of Beavertail Point and rounded five minutes ahead of Lolita and Chippewa. Sotto Voce never gave up its lead, completing the pass around the northern end of the island, turning south to sail back under the Newport Bridge to the finish line, 12 minutes ahead of the fleet.

In the Small Boat Class, Odyssey took line honours and finished seventh overall in class to Galadriel. John Santa’s Swan 46 finished the day fifth on corrected time and combined that with a string of first- and second-place finishes to top the Small Boat Class.

At a ceremony this evening at the New York Yacht Club, overlooking world-famous Newport Harbour, Commodore Charles Dana (Newport, R.I.) presented the Swan American Challenge Trophy to Frank Savage and his crew.

The next Swan American Regatta will be held in 2003. The Swan Cup will be held next year in Porto Cervo, Italy.

Top six overall:

1. LOLITA, Swan 56, Frank Savage, Stamford, Conn., USA

2. SOTTO VOCE, Swan 60, Arien Van Vemde, The Netherlands,

3. REDOUTABLE, Swan 56, Nader Habashi, Huntersville, N.C., USA

4. NEVA, Swan 56, Robert Watson, New York, N.Y., USA 29.75

5. NOONMARK VI, Swan 56, Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy, Swanwick, U.K

6. NOVA, Swan 56, Mark DiStefano, New York, N.Y., USA