We raced to Bermuda on a very well prepared 40 foot J-120, â€œAlibiâ€ from Westport, CT which is owned by Gary Grant. After delivering the boat to Newport we had a little time to take in the sights, and competitors were treated to a â€œDark & Stormyâ€ party hosted by the Bermuda Department of Tourism at International Yacht Restoration School, Newport the night before the race.
On the way out to the start Friday afternoonÂ we saw the J-Boat Endeavor riding at anchor, 12 meters Columbia, Northern Light, Intrepid, Heritage, Courageous and Freedom. Completing the scene, up ahead in the distance I could see the latest generation IACC yachts Oracle and Alinghi warming up for the UBS Cup races scheduled to begin after we were on our way to Bermuda.
157 yachts set sail that Friday, June 18 from Newport, setting out from Rhode Island Sound under spinnakers in light northerly winds that provided a stern test for navigators and tacticians for the first 18 hours of the 630-mile classic. The core of the fleet was made up of 102 IMS rated cruiser racers, and there were also 27 yachts competing in a separate non-spinnaker class and 12 two-man yachts sailing in the double-handed class.
Capturing line honors in the new â€œBig Boat Demonstration Divisionâ€ was Hasso Plattner’s MaxZ86 Morning Glory, which crossed the finish line off St. David’s Lighthouse Sunday at 14:58:31 EDT for an elapsed time of 48hr 28 min 31sec. Roy Disney, sailing his MaxZ86 Pyewacket, finished five hours and 15 minutes later to take second place. Windquest, a MaxZ86 sailed by Dick and Doug DeVos, of Ada, MI, was third.
Plattner’s new maxZ86 Morning Glory has pushed ocean racing into a new era. The radical Reichel/Pugh design, with its patented canting ballast, twin foil underwater keel and rudder configuration (CBTF) reached the St. David’s Lighthouse finish at the end of the 635 mile Newport Bermuda Race, having sliced a massive 5 hours off the existing race record.
Roger Sturgeon from Hyannis, MA and his Rosebud crew led a new group of Trans Pac 52s into Bermuda by 2 hours to post the best corrected time within the entire IMS Racing Division to win the Gibb’s hill Lighthouse Trophy. Richard Breeden’s Bright Star, from Greenwich CT, the second Trans Pac 52 took second overall in the Racing Division.
Our race on the J 120 was more typical of the bulk of the competitors sailing racer / cruisers than those of the Max Z 86 and TP 52 classes; we completed the course in 110 hours with some challenging conditions including two periods of absolutely no wind what so ever when we actually took the mainsail down in attempt to get the chute to fill. On Saturday night we did experience some great heavy air reaching however. The max wind speed we saw was a puff of 33 as a front went through, and great fun it was with the spinnaker up, that is until the halyard broke with a very loud â€œBANGâ€!
Long offshore passages can offer some magic moments, the this was no exception. Approaching the Gulf Stream at night a pod of dolphins swam and frolicked along side for hours with their dorsal and tail fins creating contrails of light as they stirred up the phosphorus in the seawater. Shooting stars every night too, lotâ€™s of them too.
TheÂ sport really has advanced in the last few years, especially as it relates to technology that has filtered down from the Maxi and Volvo Race boats to the much more numerous racer cruiser classes. Our â€œAlibiâ€ owner Gary Grant had a complete set of B & G instruments feeding three 20/20 displays on the mast plus a number of other displays about the cockpit. The information gathered by the B & Gâ€™s is also fed into an IBM laptop running Deckman for Windows, one of the best tactical routing software programs on the market. Deckman seemed to be an especially useful program for helping to navigate our entry point to the Gulfstream, itâ€™s meander and eddies along the rumbline. Using a lightweight, hand-held Wi-Fi enabled Panasonic Toughbook display; we could see exactly what was on the PC out in the cockpit at night.
Our arrival in Bermuda Tuesday morning was fantastic. We finished just before daybreak off St. Georges on the N.W. tip of the island. The sun was just starting to come up as we furled the sails, coiled sheets and quickly cleaned the boat up. Motoring down around the outside of the island but inside the shoals to the entrance of Hamilton Harbor I was struck by how beautiful Bermuda is. Someone produced a large bottle of cheap white wine that we shared as we motored towards Hamilton Harbor.
Morning arrival of a bunch of boats and sailors at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club had a fun and festive nature to it, due in part to the fact that the bar was open very early. We immediately availed ourselves with breakfast of bacon and eggs, showers and lotâ€™s of chit chat on the patio with other sailors about what their races were like.
Bermuda is a naturally beautiful island, populated by friendly people and expertly administered by the government, unlike so many islands in the Caribbean. On WednesdayÂ we took advantage of the excellent public transport out to Horseshoe Beach on the East side of the island and saw for our own eyes Bermudaâ€™s famous pink sand.
Thursday came too soon and it was time to fly for us, and by doing so we missed the big blow out Goslingâ€™s Rum party at RBYC that evening. Probably just as well too, I subsequently heard reports of wild things happening to the crew that night, but Iâ€™m sure they all had good â€œAlibisâ€ the next day!
On to the UK for the Around Ireland Race on a new DK 46.