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Race number 16 for sailor McCurdy

The Newport Bermuda Race is something that every offshore sailor worth his or her salt dreams of taking on. Sheila McCurdy has taken on 15 of them and is set for attempt 16 in 2012.

McCurdy, from Middletown, Rhode Island, is the immediate past Commodore of the Cruising Club of America (CCA), co-organiser of the race with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC). She has sailed nine of her Bermuda Races on Selkie.

Her first three Newport Bermuda Races 1986, 1988 and 1990 were as navigator for her dad, James A. (Jim) McCurdy, chief designer at McCurdy & Rhodes, Naval Architects. In 1985 he designed the 38ft 6’ins Selkie for his family. Sheila has sailed six other Newport Bermuda Races as Selkie’s skipper and navigator, as well as four races in other boats including a stint as advisor aboard a US Naval Academy entry.

The only recent races McCurdy missed were in 2004, when she sailed transatlantic with a crew of Navy midshipmen, and in 2010, when as Commodore of the CCA, she and RBYC Commodore Peter Shrubb had to stay ashore, prepared to address emergencies.

Unable to stay away from Bermuda, she sailed Selkie to Bermuda in 2011 for the CCA cruise in the waters of the archipelago.

Her best Bermuda Races were in 1994 and 2008. In both races Selkie finished second in Class and second in the St. David’s Lighthouse (amateur) Division. In 1994, CCA Commodore Kaighn Smith’s Swan 38 Gaylark snatched the Lighthouse Trophy out of her grasp, winning by a mere 15-minute margin after 635 rhumb line miles of hard ocean racing.

After 15 races, with two as bridesmaids, Sheila has high hopes for 2012 and her 10th race on Selkie.

She said: “I keep doing the Newport Bermuda Race because I love the rhythm of sailing at sea for days.” Sheila said in a recent interview. “I love the fun of being with friends and family, pushing hard to get top performance from the boat.”

A true seafarer, Sheila added: “I love the complexity of developing a strategy and tactics based on the boat, the crew, the weather, the Gulf Stream and the boats in our class.

“I love seeing old and new friends in Newport and Bermuda. I love the elegance of the prize giving ceremony at Government House and the bugler at the ‘Sunset and Colours’ routine. I love the relaxed sail home and introducing the ocean to coastal sailors.” When asked what was special to her about this particular ocean race, one that has been such an important part of her life, she replied: “The Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club have kept Newport Bermuda Race as a race designed mostly for very good amateurs, one that is organised by experienced volunteers who have had a connection to the race over the decades. The race has history and tradition at its core.’

“It is a race that generally rewards good all-around sea boats more than the boats specialised for around-the-buoys.”

McCurdy added: “It is a family race for me. Between dad, my brothers Jim and Ian, my husband Dave, and me, we probably have sailed 50 races. Dad was the race chairman in 1982 and CCA Commodore from 1986 to 1987. The race is a family habit or maybe you could better describe it as a chronic condition.’

John Rousmaniere, Newport Bermuda Race Historian and a top offshore sailor in his own right, was a watch captain on Selkie in 2008.

He has also sailed with Sheila to the Azores. Rousmaniere has high praise for McCurdy: “She was the person in charge, no doubt about it, and quiet about it.

“She’s exceptionally well prepared and knowledgeable, a talented racing sailor with a very good feel for a boat, a terrific leader, and also extremely experienced with well over 100,000 miles behind her. I’d sail anywhere with her on a moment’s notice.”

With those 100,000 miles of salt water in her wake, McCurdy is highly experienced and knowledgeable. She is one of five authorised moderators for US Sailing certified Safety at Sea seminars.

She served on the panel for US Sailing’s inquiry into a fatal accident in the 2011 Chicago Yacht Club’s race to Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan.

At the March 17-18 Cruising Club of America Safety at Sea Seminar in Newport Rhode Island on March 17-18, Sheila will make the presentation on the crucial topic of damage control. This seminar has an imaginative new curriculum option, a new schedule, and a new seminar attendance rule, plus special hotel room rates for attendees.

The 2012 Newport Bermuda Race starts on Friday afternoon June 15 just off of Castle Hill in Newport, Rhode Island. Applications for entry into this invitational adventure are being taken under on the race website. The classic 635-mile race offers racing in five divisions The St. David’s Lighthouse (amateur) Division, The Cruiser (amateur) Division, the Double Handed Division, the Gibbs Hill (professional) Division and the Open (professional) division. There is great competition for all levels of commitment and experience.

About 40 of the two Lighthouse Division entries are expected to sail the Onion Patch series, a tough triathlon of offshore racing.

Boats compete in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta in Newport, then race to Bermuda, and finally sail in the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta. Information is online here.

(Article taken from Sail World.com)

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Published March 02, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 02, 2012 at 8:07 am)

Race number 16 for sailor McCurdy

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