A small seaside village, Newport, R.I., has made a habit of finding itself at the center of key moments in sailing history. That trend may well continue in late June as the New York Yacht Club at Harbour Court, in Newport, R.I., hosts the 2014 Etchells World Championship from June 21 to 28.

With a registered fleet of 95 boats, sailed by many of the world’s top professional and amateur sailors, the class’s 46th world championship will be one of the biggest and most competitive in its celebrated history.

“I think the venue and the New York Yacht Club itself are a big part of the draw,” says Etchells Class Chairman Gary Gilbert, of Oakton, Va. “Timing is also on our side. It’s not an Olympic year and the America’s Cup is reorganizing. A lot of the notables from those arenas are finding their way into the class because it’s an extraordinarily competitive class.”

Long Island Sound yacht designer and builder Skip Etchells created the 31-foot keelboat in 1965 hoping to win selection as the new Olympic keelboat. The design dominated the racing in the selection trials, but lost in the onshore voting. Nonetheless the Etchells developed a strong following in the Northeastern United States and word spread across the country and around the world.

Nearly 50 years after the first boat touched water, the class is as strong as ever. For the past two decades, the Etchells has been known as the boat that many professional sailors choose to race when not being paid to sail something else.

Jeff Madrigali is a two-time Olympian, 1996 Olympic bronze medalist and former world champion in the Soling, the boat that won the aforementioned Olympic selection trials. But he has been sailing the Etchells since the early 1980s, both as the skipper of his own boat and as a crew for other skippers.

“It’s a great boat to sail,” says Madrigali, “and it’s got a high level of competition.”

The number of entries in recent class world championships has varied from 41 last year to a high of 100 in 1998. While Etchells sailors are used to large fleets, sailing in anything close to 100 boats presents some unique challenges.

“There a lot of risk versus reward analysis involved,” Madrigali says. “Starting becomes more paramount, and not only getting a good start but also being to sail to the favored side of the course on the first leg. Doing well in this event might be just as much about not doing bad in any one race as it is about doing well [in each race].”

Up to nine races are scheduled, all but one of which will count toward a team’s final score. Registration and measurement for the regatta will start on Saturday, June 21, with the racing taking place on Rhode Island Sound, Tuesday, June 24, through Saturday, June 28.

Event website: Etchells Class Association website:

Photo caption: Bruce Golison and his team, aboard Midlife Crisis, compete in the Etchells class during the 159th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta presented by Rolex, June 14 to 16, 2013. Photo credit: Rolex/Daniel Forster

Source: Stuart Streuli, NYYC

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