Log In

Reset Password

Newport Bermuda Race braces for testing start

First Prev 1 2 Next Last
Need for speed: Argo, a MOD 70 trimaran, is one of two multihulls with record-setting potential (Photograph by Sharon Green/Ultimate Sailing)

A fleet of 187 sailing yachts is set to take on the challenge of the Newport Bermuda Race today.

The pre-race forecast is predicting southwesterly winds between 17 and 22 knots at the start and lasting into the evening, with waves possibly eight to ten feet offshore.

A cold front is predicted to pass over the fleet tonight, bringing with it squalls and strong winds. After the front, the winds are predicted to shift to a northwesterly quadrant and remain in the 20-knot range, with higher gusts.

The record within the major divisions — Gibbs Hill Lighthouse and St David’s Lighthouse — is 39hr 39min, set by George David’s maxi yacht Rambler 90 in 2012, travelling at an average speed of 16 knots.

The course record in the Open Division is 34hr 42min, set by the 100-foot maxi yacht Comanche, skippered by North Sails president Ken Rea, in 2016. Open Division yachts are not eligible for the overall race prizes.

This year’s fleet includes two multihulls that are capable of some fast speeds, including Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo and the 80ft VPLP trimaran Ultim’emotion2, owned by Antoine Rabaste and skippered by Jacek Siwek.

In the 2018 race, the first time that multihulls were entered, Carroll and crew sailed the Gunboat 62 Elvis to line honours in 63 hours. Carroll then upgraded to the foil-assisted trimaran Argo and has proceeded to set seven race or world records. The Newport Bermuda Race multihull record could well be next.

“It looks like a rough race, but fast for us,” said 50-year-old Chad Corning, crew and manager of the programme. “We should have a prefrontal gusty breeze the whole time.

“Our elapsed time looks like 28 hours on the global forecast system and 26 hours on the European model. The hi-res model is just coming into focus, but they all seem fairly consistent. We’ll have to balance prudence and speed.”

The notable single entry in the Open Division is Malama, the new foil-assisted IMOCA 60 skippered by Charlie Enright.

“Yes, it’s definitely attainable, but it’s never quite that simple,” the 37-year-old said.

“A lot of it depends on the timing of the front, and the biggest variable is the sea state. I feel like we go 30 knots every time we leave the dock. We’ve reached a max of 38 knots, but record-breaking is more about high sustained average speeds.”

The fleet is divided into eight divisions, effectively creating eight races in one among similar boats and crews: Double-Handed, Finisterre, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Multihull, Open, Spirit of Tradition, St David’s Lighthouse and Superyacht. Among the eight divisions, 19 classes have been formed.

The smallest boat in the fleet is Thomas O’Connell’s J/99 Finale at 32.6 feet, entered in the double-handed division.

“She’s one tenth over the minimum length,” the 75-year-old said.

Not only is he sailing the smallest boat in the fleet, but he is also in his first Newport Bermuda Race.

“I’d always wanted to do the race, but my previous boats wouldn’t have passed inspection,” he said. “I’m tickled pink to do the race. Doing it double-handed just adds another challenge.”

The largest vessel, the steel-hulled fishing schooner Columbia, owned by Martin Sutter, measures 141 feet in overall length. It is built along the lines of the original 141-foot wooden Gloucester fishing schooner built in 1923.

Among other monohulls, the maxi yacht OC86, with Hall of Fame sailor Dawn Riley as the person in charge, is one to watch, as is the Volvo 70 Il Mostro, campaigned by Atlas Ocean Racing of Canada. Another contender is the well-travelled Mills 68 Prospector, owned by Lawrence Landry, Paul McDowell and Martin Roesch.

“We’re feeling great about the boat and its preparations, thanks to our captain Terence Glackin,” McDowell said. “It’s looking like a tough slog for the first 24 to 36 hours; probably won’t be much fun but should be quick.

“We’ve logged more than 10,000 nautical miles with this boat since 2016, so we’re confident that we’re well prepared.”

Approximately 65 entrants from 2018 are back this year, including seven class winners. There are youth sailors spread throughout the fleet, such as 16-year-old Ella Orem, the E-steward on her grandfather’s Naiad 440 Wassail. The Mudratz Offshore Team returns for its second race, this time on board the Corel 45 Spitfire. The seven youth sailors, among a crew of 11, average 18 years of age.

One of the youngest crews in this year’s race — likely in the history of Newport Bermuda — is the 40ftOakcliff Blue Team Bitter End. Skippered by 18-year-old Sophia Comiskey, the crew of ten includes eight young women from Rhode Island, aged between 16 and 19, plus round-the-world sailor Libby Greenhalgh and Maya Hoffman as their on-board coaches.

The girls, each sailing their first Bermuda race, have been training for this since last year. Together they have logged more than 2,000 nautical miles in the build-up.

“Yes, I’m nervous, but more excited,” said 17-year-old Elizabeth Gardner, the headsail trimmer. “In some of our training, there have been moments when I’m on deck at night and it’s gusting and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ I try to turn it around and tell myself, ‘I get to do this.’ That helps put it in perspective.

“We’re making history. It’s a one-time experience with us all together. Maybe it’ll be the last time together, depending who stays sailing. We’re very confident and we feel we’ve navigated the build-up to the race well.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published June 17, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated June 17, 2022 at 10:26 am)

Newport Bermuda Race braces for testing start

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon