Crunch Time for Newport Bermuda Owners and Crew
By John Rousmaniere
The 48th Newport Bermuda Race is less than two-weeks away. This is crunch time for last minute preparations by owners and crew for this 635-mile classic challenge of sailor against the wind and sea. By late afternoon June 15th some 2000 sailors will be hunkering down on 168 racing yachts getting ready for their first night at sea, anticipating the currents and fickle seas in the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Winners and losers will be made in the hours to come; but one thing is for certain, Newport Bermuda 2012 will be an adventure for all.
This Newport Bermuda Race entry summary by race historian John Rousmaniere is meant to provide a guideline for this year’s race and provide background to help everyone understand the tradition and heritage of racing to Bermuda.
Bermuda Race Entries Summary as of June 1.
As of June 1, there are 167 entries for the 48th Bermuda Race sailed since the race was founded in 1906.
St. David’s Lighthouse Division, 96
Cruiser Division, 30
Double-Handed Division, 18
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division, 16
Open Division, 6
Spirit of Tradition, 1
This is a typical fleet with the usual mix of sizes: 21 boats are smaller than 40 feet LOA (length overall), four are 90’ LOA (length overall, from stern to bow) or larger, and the average length is 48’ LOA.
This is a seasoned fleet with many returning boats and crews, including more than 70 boats that raced in 2010. In addition there are a number of first-timers, with 49 boats sailing their first Newport Bermuda. Carina (2010 St. David’s Lighthouse winner) holds the record for most Newport Bermuda Races at 19. Six other entries have raced in 10 or more Newport Bermuda Races.
The smallest entry is Christopher A. Palabrica’s 33’ LOA sloop Sailor Bandido (Carmel, Indiana), sailing in the Double-Handed Division (boats sailed by two sailors, one may be professional).
The largest boat entered is Spirit of Bermuda, 118’LOA, entered by her Captain, Scott Jackson (Hamilton, Bermuda), in the new Spirit of Tradition Class. Spirit of Bermuda is a six-year-old sail-training vessel owned by the Bermuda Sloop Foundation based on schooners built in Bermuda by blacks and whites between 1810 and 1840.
The second largest boat entered is Indio, a 100’ LOA Wally 100 entered by Mark Fliegner (Monaco), in the Open Division (for larger, specialized boats sailed by professionals). The third largest entry is Med Spirit, 92’LOA, entered by Michael D’Amelio (Boston, Mass.) in the Open Division.
The fourth largest entry is George David’s (Hartford, Ct.) 90’ LOA Rambler, in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division (for professional sailors). She replaces the 100’ LOA Rambler 100 that David sailed in 2011 when she capsized during the Rolex Fastnet Race in England, fortunately without loss of life. (The 100’Rambler was first on elapsed time in both the 2008 and 2010 races when the boat was named Speedboat.)
This is the usual broad-based fleet. The crew representatives who filed the entries hail from 18 states of the United States and six countries, including Bermuda, Canada, Germany, Ireland, and Monaco.
U.S. service academy representation totals eight boats with entries from the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and the Maritime College of the State University of New York.
Winners and Prizes
This classic ocean race has five divisions, most of which have two or more classes. The boats race for more than 100 prizes that will be awarded at the traditional ceremony at Bermuda’s elegant Government House on June 23. Division and class winners and other top finishers win perpetual trophies (some of them historic) and keepers. The Offshore Racing Rule (ORR) is the primary rating rule. In addition there are prizes for boats rated under the IRC rule.
The top three prizes are named for lights guiding vessels around Bermuda’s reefs and into port. They are the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy, the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophy, and the North Rock Beacon Trophy.
The St. David’s Lighthouse Division. No single boat ‘wins’ the Newport Bermuda Race, but the winner of the St. David’s Lighthouse Division is generally regarded as the top boat because that division, for amateur crews, is the largest and carries on the founder's aim to get amateurs sailing offshore in cruising-racing boats.
St. David’s Lighthouse winners of the last three races are returning: Defending winner Rives Potts’ 48’ LOA sloop Carina (Westbrook, Conn.) was also overall winner in 1970, making her one of only four boats that have won two or more Newport Bermuda Races. Carina also holds the record for most Newport Bermuda Races with 19. Since the last race she has sailed around the world, making more than 30,000 miles, in order to race in two other great races – the Rolex Fastnet Race in England, and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race in Australia.
Also returning is another multi-race winner – Peter S. Rebovich Sr.’s 40’ LOA sloop Sinn Fein (Metuchen, N.J.), St. David’s Lighthouse winner in 2006 and 2008. She was 7th overall in 2010. A sistership, Thunderbird, won the 1966 race.
There were eight classes in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division in 2010, and seven of the winners of those classes will be back this year (in the eighth class, the 3rd place boat will be back). This says a lot about loyalty to the “Thrash to the Onion Patch.”
The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division is for boats with professional crews (and amateurs who want to sail against them). Second place in this division in 2010, Snow Lion (Larry Huntington, New York, N.Y.) will sail again. She did well last time even though her mainsail ripped at the start and took many hours to repair. Huntington won the 1990 Bermuda Race in another boat, Denali.
The North Rock Beacon Trophy is awarded to the corrected time winner from the combined St. David’s Lighthouse and Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Divisions as scored under the IRC Rule. Carina also won in 2010.
The Cruiser Division’s top prize is the Carleton Mitchell Finisterre Trophy, named in honor of the skipper and boat that won a record three straight Newport Bermuda Races in 1956, 1958, and 1960. The second largest division, it requires amateur crews, permits automatic steering and power winches, and imposes restrictions on the sail inventory.
The Double-Handed Division is for crews of two sailors (one of whom may be a professional). The top three finishers in 2010 will be back in 2012, led by winner Jason A. Richter’s Paladin (Setauket, N.Y.).
First to Finish
In the 2006 race, Hap Fauth (Minneapolis, Minn.) was first to finish in his sloop Bella Mente. This year he’s back in a new 72-foot Bella Mente. Speedboat, first to finish in 2008 and 2010, is not back (see Rambler entry under “Smallest/Largest”).
Two Classic Yachts
The spotlight this year will be on two of the most famous and beloved boats in the history of ocean racing, both wooden yawls over 70 years old and designed by the famous yacht design firm, Sparkman & Stephens. Both will sail in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division.
The 52’ yawl Dorade, owned by Matt Brooks (San Francisco, Cal.) was built in 1929 and raced in the 1930 Newport Bermuda Race (the 10th race) finishing 5th overall.
The 68’ yawl Black Watch, commanded by Joseph C. Robillard (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) was built in 1938 (74 years old). Her first Bermuda Race was in 1938, when she was 4th.