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Hubbard sets sail on tide of emotion

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Bermuda Oyster, which Paul Hubbard may race for the last time

The start of the 51st Newport Bermuda Race today promises to be emotional for Paul Hubbard.

The experienced local sailor is making what could be his final appearance in the biennial 635-nautical mile classic on board his Oyster 435 yacht, Bermuda Oyster.

“I started in 1985 and have done probably between 13, 14 or maybe even 15 of these races,” Hubbard said. “But I’m nearly 75 and the boat is 25 years old so I think this may be my last race.

“It’s fun to get away from the office to the do the race and very different from day-to-day life. But I’m retiring next year and it is an expensive thing to do. It’s so much organisation that goes into the race and it’s very expensive.”

Hubbard is competing in the St David’s Lighthouse Division along with a crew that includes Neil Redburn, the former Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club commodore.

“I have a very good crew on-board, four Bermudians and three non-Bermudians, and we are racing in the racing division even though my boat weighs 17 tonnes,” Hubbard said. “We are not exactly a fast boat but you never know.

“We are all organised but it looks like it’s going to be a slow race.”

Bermuda Oyster is one of two local entries competing in the race, the other being Dr Stephen Sherwin’s Corby 41.5, Nasty Medicine, that is also competing in the St David’s Lighthouse Division.

“Nasty Medicine is a really fast boat,” Hubbard said.

“They have a big crew and go for speed but it’s not a comfortable boat. We have a bit more comfort on our boat. We have TV on-board if the DVD works.”

This year’s Newport Bermuda Race will be contested by 1,500 sailors on board 171 boats divided among seven divisions.

The Multi-Hull Division and the allowance of yachts with vertical-lift foils in the Open Division are among the new features to the 113-year-old race this year. The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse division is also now allowing canting-keel and water-ballast boats that were previously placed in the Open Division.

There is no overall winner, although the winning boat in the St David’s Lighthouse Division featuring amateur sailors is regarded as the race’s top boat.

The race starts at Narragansett Bay in Newport, Rhode Island, at 2pm Bermuda time.

The 100-foot super-maxi Comanche, now owned by Australian Jim Cooney and renamed LDV Comanche, was the first yacht to finish the 2016 Newport Bermuda Race in a record time of 34hr 42min 53sec.

Grand finale? this may be Paul Hubbard’s last race