Thursday, June 27, 2013

J/120 ALIBI Stars in Marion-Bermuda Race

J/120 offshore cruiser racer sailboat- winning Bermuda Race off St David's Lighthouse (Marion, MA)- This year's 645nm race from Marion to Bermuda was anything but typical.  Starting with good breeze with many boats anticipating a record run, the wind ultimately shut-down with some of the leading teams nearly in sight of Bermuda's famous St David's Light finish line.  Persevering through the challenging conditions was the experienced blue-water team aboard the J/120 ALIBI skippered by Gardner Grant from Westport, CT, a recent winner in the Block Island Race and now Marion-Bermuda Race class and overall champion!

Early wind in the Bermuda ocean races often dangles race records like a time carrot in front of the bows of the big boats. But the record is very elusive. When the top of the course has pressure and speed, the system that is producing the wind is already moving out into the North Atlantic.

As high pressure expands from the West and to the South of the original windy area, a proverbial "parking lot" grows right in the middle of the last 100 miles of the course.  Most racers call this area the "Happy Valley", happy because that's how you describe skippers and navigators who've gone delirious!

The 'handicap' leaders for most of the race were the smaller boats that kept the old, reaching breeze longer and made their time on the other larger boats in their class. Towards the end of the race, the winds shifted into the southerly quadrants with 5-12 kt breezes moving the fleet along nicely.  For most of the fleet, the low pressure system built from Monday into Tuesday as the low moved off the mid-Atlantic coast and squeezed the high back to the southeast.  One of the prime beneficiaries of this front was the ultimate winner, the J/120 ALIBI.

Also participating in this year's event were two well-known media and TV personalities- Geraldo Rivera who's now on FOX NEWS and also Dan Egan, ski/ sports extreme adventurer from Boston.  While Geraldo sailed his own boat quite respectably, Dan joined with friends on the J/122 AUGUST WEST sailed by Jamey Shachoy from Marion, MA. They managed to have fun and take a sixth in class and beating Geraldo!  Sweet!

J/122 August West shredding spinnaker at start of Marion to Bermuda RaceEven better, Dan wrote about his account on the sports blog.  Titled "Ski Bum at Sea", Dan loves to write about action sports and adventures.  He thrives on action and has been at the forefront of the extreme sports scene since the mid 1980s. As a pro athlete, Egan pioneered extreme skiing and the extreme sports industry. He led adventure trips around the world from the Alps to the Arctic. His company ( runs camps and clinics across North America, Europe and South America. Dan's is not only a writer, but a world-renowned extreme skiing pioneer and an award-winning and Emmy nominated media producer. Here is some of Dan's commentary on the race:

"Joseph Campbell famously once said, 'The best things in life can not be described, the second best thing in life are the things we attempt to describe and the third best things in life are the ones we talk about.'

One thing is for sure: sailing the open ocean at night can’t be described, and in the spirit of Joseph Campbell, I will not attempt to do so here.

But what I can tell you is that Marion, Mattapoisett and Padanaram, Massachusetts are towns where sailing reigns. Located in those towns are some of the most respected boat yards, boat wrights, and sailors in the world.

The annual Marion to Bermuda Race is a rite of passage in this part of New England, and the scene at the dock with generations of families ranging in age from four months to 80 plus years old, wishing us luck is equally hard to describe.

On the boat I sailed on, ages ranged from 18 year-olds to seasoned sailors, many of whom had done this race as many as 13 times. The largest boat in the race, Shindig, had a father-son team on board. Mark Riley and his son kept a blog with that is very moving and both the father and son are sailing the boat back later this week.

I sailed on the boat August West. We had an amazing start, only to blow out the spinnaker three miles into the race. We eventually sewed it back and referred to it as Frankenkite, but by then the leaders were too far out in front to catch. This photo was taken by Hew Russell of our kite ripping away from the boat.

Racing these sailboats is a mix of mental endurance and physical grind, with three-hour watches at night and four hour watches during the day. The hardest part of sailing in general is staying focused on making the boat go fast and in a 650 mile race like this, that often can be a tall order. We had eight crew members to motivate each other, and the winner of the race (on the boat Alibi) was a double-handed entry. I can only imagine that their challenges during sail changes and rough seas were greater than ours."  Read more about Dan's adventures here on (   Sailing photo credits- Spectrum Images   For more Marion to Bermuda Race sailing information