(Newport, RI) – The start of this year’s 49th Bermuda Race was a harbinger of things to come, all not good. With a forecasted moderate northerly slowly dying and a seabreeze developing between the first and last boats to start, the crews on most boats must’ve had a foreshadowing of what it was going to be like to sail the new “longest Bermuda Race ever”- nearly five days for most of the fleet!
Organized by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, the fleet of 165 boats from twenty-one states (Maine to California) must’ve pondered how could they cross 635nm of Atlantic Ocean, suffering the inevitable “bouncy ride” called the Gulf Stream, and live through several offshore “parking lots” (no wind zones) before crossing the line 5 days later for most boats! The fleet certainly earned well-deserved celebratory “dark & stormies” to aid in the salubrious story-telling after the race. As the largest brand in the fleet, the 33 J/Teams (20% of the fleet) had more than their fair share of war-stories to tell at the RBYC outdoor bar & patio.
The St David’s Lighthouse Division, the biggest division in the event, saw many determined (and patient) J/Teams post strong finishes across the board.
In Class 2, Fred Allardyce’s J/40 MISTY took sixth in class and John Gorski & Andy Schell’s J/37c SLEIJRIDE took ninth. Both boats took over 118 hours to finish, that’s 4.9 days at 4.9 kts to complete the 635nm course! In Class 3, the J/42 FINESSE sailed by Newton Merrill took 5th also in 118 hours of drifting swiftly towards “the onion patch”.
Class 4 could be seen as the “J/120 division”. Top J/120 was Dmitry Kondratyev’s RORC team aboard the chartered SUNSET CHILD, taking 3rd in class; they spent 112 hours completing the course and that was because they wisely took a more easterly route than most of the fleet and at times were forecasted to be in the top five in IRC/ORR overall! Second J/120 and 5th in class was Rick Oricchio’s ROCKET SCIENCE. Third J/120 was Ken Comerford & Sons MONEYPENNY, taking 6th in class and, notably, after the first 36 hours of the race was forecasted in the top three overall for IRC/ ORR. Fourth J/120 was Richard Born’s WINDBORN and fifth was Jim Praley’s SHINNECOCK.
Class 5 was the one-design J/44 division. While Jim Bishop’s GOLD DIGGER led the 44s for about half the race, the last “park-up” saw them lose out to fellow 44 owner HL DeVore on HONAHLEE. In the last third of the race, HONAHLEE also took a more easterly routing and snuck by their fleet, finishing in about 110 hrs, beating all other 44s by 4 hours. Second was GOLD DIGGER followed by Len Sitar’s VAMP in third, Chris Lewis’s KENAI in fourth and Norm Schulman’s CHARLIE V in fifth.
In the super-competitive “fast 40s” division, Class 6, the J/122s and the J/133 had a huge battle against a number of extremely experienced Bermuda/ offshore veterans. Throughout the race, the lead amongst the J/122s ORION, AUGUST WEST and RED SKY shifted back and forth constantly. After the third day, it appeared that AUGUST WEST had established a safe easterly position on their competitors and established a lead not only for the J/122s, but also their class. However, a scenario that also played out in man other classes, those boats that went even further east did even better, in this cased is was the Bermuda boat NASTY MEDICINE. At the finish, Paul Milo’s ORION took over the lead amongst J/122s right at the end of the race, taking 2nd in class. Third in class and 2nd amongst the 122s was Jamey Shachoy’s AUGUST WEST, a largely Buzzards Bay/ Marion, MA-based team. Fifth in class was Dale & Mike McIvor’s J/133 MATADOR.
Perhaps the “wild child” in the J/fleet was Jonathan Bamberger’s J/145 SPITFIRE from Toronto, Ontario. After leading Class 7 for over 48 hours, and for at least 24 hours forecasted to be in the top three overall in IRC/ ORR, the SPITFIRE team may have downloaded a GRIB file with a “bug” and suddenly took a southwesterly course about 45-55 degrees off rhumbline and away from the breeze that kept re-filling in from the east. Nevertheless, after dropping to the bottom of their class, they persevered and worked there way back into contention and took a 5th in class.
In the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, the Bermuda J/125 CROSSFIRE, sailed by Brian Hiller from the St George’s Dinghy Club, took 5th in class behind all the mini-maxi’s and TP52 and beating out a Carkeek 47, a R/P 55 and an Andrews 70.
The Cruiser Division saw some amazing performances by J/Teams. Taking third in Class 11 was Brad Willauer’s J/46 BREEZING UP and in Class 12, Howie Hodgson’s J/160 TRUE (with beautiful new paint job) took the class win by over three hours on handicap time!
Finally, the Double-Handed Division always seems to produce some remarkable achievements for just two persons on a boat with the aid of automatic self-steering systems. Often sailing boat-for-boat or faster than equivalent fully-crewed yachts, the double-handed J/Teams placed well in both divisions. In Class 13, Jason Richter’s J/35 PALADIN made an incredible comeback after trailing their class and fleet for most of the first 48 hours. As the fleet went into its third “park-up”, the PALADIN team took a more easterly routing and made enormous gains on everyone, ultimately taking 2nd in their class.
In Double-handed Class 14, it was a clean sweep for the J/teams, taking the podium and 4 of the top 5 spots! Leading all double-handers for most of the race was Scott Miller’s J/122 RESOLUTE from Maine (the 2013 winner overall of the Bermuda One-Two Race). Only in the last “parking-up” going into Bermuda at the 60nm point did they lose that position to the two J/120s that had been chasing them the entire race. In the end, Gardner Grant’s J/120 ALIBI from Cedar Point YC took 1st in class followed by Hewitt Gaynor’s J/120 MIREILLE. Third was Miller’s J/122 RESOLUTE and taking 5th was Mike Piper’s J/111 EAGLES DARE. For more Newport Bermuda Race sailing information