For two-time Etchells World Champion Bill Hardesty (USA) it was hard to imagine a better start to the regatta. Hardesty and his team placed second in both races and lead the regatta overall, with Ante Razmilovic's Swedish Blue team (GBR) in second and defending world champion Marvin Beckmann (USA) in third. In his first visit to Newport in more than 30 years, John Bertrand (AUS), the America's Cup-winning skipper ofAustralia II, lies fourth.
It wasn't however easy for anyone. To spread out the fleet, principle race officer Tom Duggan stretched the legs to between 2 and 3 nautical miles, with each race taking between 90 and 120 minutes so it was a long day on the water with the bulk of the fleet not returning the dock until after 18:00.
"We were physically grinding it out all day," said Taylor Canfield, who serves as tactician for Hardesty. "Finishing up with a five-leg course just made it that much more grueling. Our downwind speed was great, we gained a couple of boats every run. Then we were able to catch one or two boats on the upwind."
The experience and poise of the former World Champions, Hardesty (2008 and 2011), Beckmann (2013 and Bertrand (2010), showed. With 95 boats on the starting line and both starts run under the black flag, it was a day to limit risk and avoid large mistakes. Sailors will often say before events such as this that you can't win the regatta on the first day, but you certainly can lose it.
"The goal today was to get two single-digit finishes," said Steve Hunt, Beckmann's tactician. "We did and so we're happy."
Those teams that were not so fortunate today can take some comfort in knowing that, should the regatta schedule play out as planned, they will be able to discard their worst finish from their scoreline. But those teams with one or more disappointing finishes on Day 1 are now operating with little margin for error.