By Stuart Steuli, New York Yacht Club Director of Communications
Photos by Stuart Streuli and Julia Boron, NYYC
Successfully managing the extraordinarily shifty and variable winds that dominated the IC37 North American Championship required a crew that was both mentally and physically agile. This was particularly true for the final two races of the regatta, with thirteen Corinthian teams sailing inside Narragansett Bay in a very shifty and very puffy westerly. No lead was safe and no deficit too great to overcome.
Steve Liebel’s New Wave team (Tampa, FL) went into the final race of the regatta, hosted by the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court in Newport, RI the weekend of October 6 – 8, with a three-point lead over the Members Only syndicate led by Hannah Swett and Ben Kinney.
“The last race, Members Only started right next to us, and they were over early,” said Liebel. “[After restarting], they hammered the right corner, and at one point we thought they were going to clear us by 200 yards. We thought, ‘Oh my god, they just won this race.’ And we were in sixth.”
Had those positions held, the championship would’ve gone to Swett and Kinney. While Members Only team did come back enough to beat New Wave in that race, it was just by one place—seventh to eighth—and New Wave was able to claim the North American title. The win in the 2023 summer finale also wrapped up the IC37 season championship for Liebel, for the second consecutive year.
The IC37 North American Championship was the final event of the summer 2023 IC37 calendar, with racing on Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay. The IC37 class was created by the New York Yacht Club to promote one-design competition for amateur sailors. The high-performance 37-footer was designed by Mark Mills, with strict class rules ensuring the most level playing field in big-boat sailing. This third North American Championship was sponsored by Helly Hansen, Peters & May, Safe Harbor Marinas and Hammetts Hotel.
Though quick thinking and nimble bodies were crucial to success on the regatta’s final day, building a winning program like New Wave is lot more akin to getting a freight train rumbling. It takes time and dedication. “It was very challenging today,” said Liebel. “There are a lot of great teams. I have a great crew, and we’ve been very fortunate to have almost the same crew through all five events.”
Main trimmer Marty Kullman, the lone professional sailor on New Wave (while primarily an amateur class, each IC37 can sail with one pro), echoed the importance of consistency. He noted that the origins of the program go back more than twenty years to a Henderson 30, also named New Wave, owned by Mike Carroll.
“The amount of time we’ve sailed together over the past thirty years is why we can get on a boat and pull it together,” said Kullman. “Every time you introduce a new person to the team, it’s different. It’s changing [the crew dynamic]. Everything gets better and better the more you sail together, and that’s really where the New Wave team has its strengths.”
The regatta got off to a rough start for the New Wave team with a fifth and two sixths on the first day. Kullman thought they might’ve lost their chance at the championship as the team was nine out of first and seven out of second. But Liebel wasn’t bothered. “We couldn’t piece it together [on Day 1],” he reflected. “But again, we have great crew, and no one was concerned.”
On Saturday, New Wave won two of three races, finished third in the other and vaulted into a tie for the lead, setting up a Sunday showdown with Members Only, who would finish second in the regatta and Peter Wagner’s Skeleton Key, which finished third. John Hele’s Vigilant and Peter McClennen’s Gamecock, the defending North American champion, finished fourth and fifth respectively.
The IC37 North American Championship closes the busiest regatta season in history for the New York Yacht Club. The 2024 calendar, which will include the TP52 and ORC World Championships, will be released later this fall. ■