Sunday Afternoon Bermuda Race update
By John Rousmaniere
As of 1800 Sunday, six boats had finished the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race, each of them breaking an elapsed time course record. In addition, more has been learned about two boats that withdrew from the race.
The six boats that crossed the finish line by 1800 Sunday are Rambler, Bella Mente, Shockwave, and Team Tiburon (all in Class 10), followed by Med Spirit (Class 16) and Kodiak (Class 8). Class 10 is in the races Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division for professionally-crewed boats, Class 8 is in the St. Davids Lighthouse Division for boats with amateur crews, and Class 16 is for boats with canting keels or water ballast. Shockwave and Kodiak are the provisional corrected time leaders in the Gibbs Hill Division and St. Davids Division, respectively, and Med Spirit is the provisional corrected time leader in the Open Division.
First to finish Rambler is a 90-foot Reichel/Pugh sloop owned by George David (Hartford, Conn.). She averaged 16.06 knots down the 635-mile course in a time of 39 hours, 39 minutes, 18 seconds, and broke two close records. She clipped 9 hours off the course record set in 2004 for Open Division boats by Morning Glory (which averaged 13.06 knots), and 14 hours off the record for Lighthouse Division boats set by Roy Disneys Pyewacket in 2003 (averaging 11.8 knots).
Sailors who came ashore after their boats docked at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club on Sunday morning had vivid descriptions of high-speed, rough, wet conditions on the long, fast reach in the fresh northeast wind that prevailed from start to finish. Scott King, who sailed in Team Tiburon, reported that after starting under spinnaker, once the boat cleared the Narragansett Bay entrance buoys the crew set a double-headsail rig forward of the mast, with a topsail over a jib. They then took in and shook out reefs in the mainsail as the conditions warranted, with one or two sailors always with their hands on the mainsheet. They covered 385 miles in the first 24 hours in the race, averaging almost 17 knots. She felt slow when the speed dropped to 11, King said. Ive been in boats where 11 knots was not even part of the plan. Team Tiburon sailed Wizard a 74-foot sloop designed by Reichel/Pugh that was chartered by Mark E. Watson III, of Bermuda and sailed by a crew of 20 that included many U.S. Merchant Marine midshipmen.
King said the water was always rough, with some waves 8 feet or higher and water constantly on deck and pushing sailors around. The Gulf Stream crossing was not as wild as he expected, he said, but it was spectacularly beautiful. Just before we entered the Stream we saw a long streak of phosphorescence in the water, as though a full moon was out and shining right down on it. Dolphins were torpedoing through all this, right in front of us.
As they neared the Bermuda archipelago on Sunday morning, the Team Tiburon crew sailed into a series of rain squalls with stronger winds that pushed the boat to over 20 knots as she crossed the finish line off St. Davids Head. These squalls gusted to 50 knots. The weather system that created them later cleared the island and moved in a northeast direction.
As the boats were finishing on Sunday, more was learned of the causes of withdrawals from the race by two boats. In a report sent to the Bermuda Race media office, Donnybrooks navigator, Kurt Lowman, said that after the start the crew discovered a serious leak in the forward park of the hull though a hole left by a broken bolt in the boats daggerboard slot. When other bolts were found to be loose, owner James P. Muldoon (Washington, D.C.) decided to return to Newport. Additionally, according to a report filed with the U.S. Sailing Associations Safety at Sea Committee, Cannonball, owned by Charles A. Robertson (Guilford, Conn.), was 40 miles from the starting line when the spinnaker halyard block aloft broke and the halyard cut into the boats carbon fibre mast for 30 feet. The boat returned to Newport under power.
Another boat, Oakcliff Racing, that withdrew, in her case due to a broken rudder, is now in Greenport, N.Y. The fourth withdrawal, Kiva, is in Newport.