Jason Carroll’s Argo exhausted but excited over Newport Bermuda Race record
Jason Carroll stood on the dock at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club well after midnight, looking fatigued yet energised after winning line honours in the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race.
Carroll and his crew on the MOD70 trimaran Argo set an elapsed-time record time of 33hr — faster than any elapsed time recorded in the 116-year history of the race — covering the 635-nautical mile course at an average speed of 19.24 knots. But it was not without some pain.
“The forecast underappreciated just how rough the sea state was,” the 44-year-old said. “The whole crew is wiped out. We’re tired.”
Tired, perhaps, but also happy to set another course record — Argo’s sixth, to go with two world records — and relieved that they made it to shore in one piece. They were the first Saturday night finishers in the history of the storied race, co-organised by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.
“We’re thrilled about the record,” said Chad Corning, the programme’s manager. “There are only so many major ocean races…to have the Bermuda Race, the Middle Sea Race and the Caribbean 600 means a lot to us. And it’s great to be the only boat to finish on Saturday. The Bermuda race has so much history, this record is probably the most significant one for us because it is such a well-established race. It’s a great feeling.”
Carroll’s international crew on board Argo included Westy Barlow (Newport, Rhode Island), Corning, Pete Cumming (Warsash, England), Thierry Fouchier (Marseilles, France), boat captain Chris Maxted (Melbourne, Australia), Charlie Ogletree (Seabrook, Texas) and Alister Richardson (Bournemouth, England).
It was previously reported that navigator and sailing master Brian Thompson (Cowes, England) was part of the crew, but he tested positive for Covid-19 before the race and did not sail. He was replaced in the crew by Barlow, and Corning filled in as navigator.
“On paper it was very much a rhumb line race,” Corning said. “We ended up to west of rhumb because we had to sail high to keep the boat under control. If we bore away, we’d have sped up too much. We were trying to keep the speed around 20 knots. So we were keeping a higher course to keep the boat slow; that’s why we weren’t on rhumb line.”
After starting the race with a full main and J1 headsail, clearing the committee boat within mere feet, Carroll said that it did not take long for the crew to start depowering.
“We spent a lot of time throttled back, making sure we wouldn’t have a problem. It was quite rough for us in the middle of the race,” Carroll said. “About three hours into the race, we were down to two reefs and the J2. Ten hours in we had the J3. We made a whole bunch of steps down in first few hours as we got offshore.”
Corning echoed Carroll in saying that it was a rough race, mostly owing to the state of the sea.
“We were expecting a sea state of two to 2.5 metres, but in general it was 3.5 to four metres,” he said. “The Gulf Stream was a bit smoother because the current direction was more or less aligned with the wind direction. We had 25 to 30 knots of wind for most of the race, and the high was mid-thirties at times. We were really just hanging on.”
Corning said that they transited the Gulf Stream at about 90 degrees and saw a four-knot current flowing west to east, but they were in and out of it quickly. They sailed the meat of the course with two reefs and a storm jib for about 21 hours, from Friday evening until Saturday afternoon.
“It was some of roughest conditions we’ve had on the boat,” Corning said. “The sea state was just nasty, coming from all different directions. You never knew where the waves were coming from and they would hit the boat at all different angles. You had to crawl around the cockpit to get anywhere. It was a very violent motion; a lot of the guys got sick.”
Mãlama, the second trimaran to finish, was almost 8½ hours behind, skipper Charlie Enright, from Barrington, Rhode Island, guiding the Imoca 60 from 11th Hour Racing across the finish line in 41hr 28min 48sec at an average speed of 15.3 knots.
While Argo’s elapsed time is the fastest in the history of the race, Mãlama’s is the fourth fastest. The two foilers bookend the 100ft Comanche’s 34:49 mark in 2016 and the 90ft Rambler 90’s 39:39 time in 2012.
As Enright disembarked at RBYC, he said that Mãlama experienced winds up to 35 knots and never sailed lower than 70 degrees to the wind. “It was pretty impressive,” he said, “sailing with cracked sheets upwind doing 18 knots.”
The crew had to contend with issues with electronics and rigging but persevered.
“We had some adversity, but we were able to fight through it,” Enright said. “In those conditions, we try not to come out of the water [on the foils]; we’re trying to displace as much of the boat as possible. We can control how much we come out by adjusting the rake of the foil and the extension of the foil.”
At press time, 28 boats had crossed the finish line, with Warrior One capturing the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division in an elapsed time of 56:43:34 and Callisto claiming line honours in the St David’s Lighthouse Division in 57:48:01.
Other than the record set by Argo, the race will be remembered for the tragic death of Morgan of Marietta captain Colin Golder, from New Providence, New Jersey, who was thrown overboard and drowned.