Simmons fired up for Marion Bermuda Race bow
By Colin Thompson in Marion, Massachusetts
Elijah Simmons is pumped up for his maiden Marion Bermuda Race.
The 22-year-old sailor is among a well-drilled and diverse crew of 32 that will sail the 645-mile ocean race aboard the triple masted sloop Spirit of Bermuda.
“I’m very excited to put my past sailing experience to use and see how people operate over a couple of days rather than just a couple of hours in short races or regattas,” said Simmons. “I’m really looking forward to sailing the race on Spirit because she’s very comfortable, very fast and it’s not very strenuous to work the winches. You don’t have to work too hard to get the sails in and out and Spirit’s speed and comfortable handling really makes her stand out from most other tall ships.”
Simmons is keeping his fingers crossed that the weather Gods toss up favourable conditions for the Atlantic crossing.
“Heavy wind is good for us because we’ll go nice and fast and Spirit also does well in big swells and stuff like that,” he said. “We should be faster than most of the boats out here in the heavy wind because they are going to have to reduce sails and stuff like that while we should still be able to go straight through at full sail.
“It would be good to get in before Monday and that’s a goal for most of us. If you set your standards high then it should be a fast race.”
Spirit of Bermuda is the sole entry in the new Classic Yacht Division following the withdrawal of the 94-foot Fife Ketch, Belle Aventure.
“I guess we’re just going to have to race against the clock now,” Simmons said. “It’s definitely fun to have a rival because then you can push yourself to be faster.”
Spirit of Bermuda has been chartered for the race by local business executive Preston Hutchings and Texan Patrick McGee who have assembled a seasoned crew that includes Oliver Sarkozy — brother of former French President Nicolas. The ship’s full-time captain, Karen McDonald, is also among the crew.
“It’s a very professional crew that also has high performance sailors so it’s going to be kind of cool to see how everyone can put their input in,” added Simmons.
As a youngster Simmons made a name for himself domestically and internationally in the Optimist dinghy. He is a past IODA North American, Bermuda champion and multiple age group winner at the US Nationals.
Simmons enjoys blue water sailing but admits the transition from inshore racing wasn’t as straight forward as he makes it seem.
“It was kind of hard to transition from racing to just going out and sailing because I’m always thinking fastest and racing mode type sailing,” he said. “But once you make the adjustment regular sailing is very relaxing.”
Flying the Island’s banner along with Spirit of Bermuda in this year’s Marion Bermuda Race is the Hinckley Bermuda 40 MK III, Alice Kay, that is the sole entry in the Founders Division.
All yachts in the race can be tracked via the Yellow Brick tracker programme available on the official Marion Bermuda Race website (www.marionbermuda.com).
Since its inception in 1977, the Marion Bermuda Race has evolved into a premier ocean race that appeals to a broad range of cruising and racing enthusiasts.