Light air makes for challenging Newport Bermuda Race


Calm conditions during much of the 51st Newport Bermuda Race led to some challenging tactical sailing, according to race organizers.

George David’s 88-foot Juan K design Rambler 88 took line honors with a total time of 50:31:51, followed by Warrior and then Wizard, two Volvo Ocean 70s that finished about 17 minutes apart on June 17.

Wizard, owned by Peter and David Askew, had the fastest corrected time in the race at 47:54:53, earning top honors in Class 15 and overall in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division.

James Grundy’s Columbia 50 had the fastest corrected time in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division comprised of more than 80 sailboats. His vessel, Grundoon, finished with an elapsed time of 112:12:19 and corrected time of 75:22:25.

All told, 169 vessels left Newport, R.I., on June 15 for the Newport Bermuda Race. All but three finished the 635-nm competition characterized by light winds early in the contest.

“Every race is different, but this was an anomaly because it was such light winds,” said race spokesman John Burnham. “Most of the first half of the fleet that finished never had water on the deck.”

While that might have been the case for larger, faster yachts, conditions were better much of the way for smaller sailboats, said Chip Bradish, skipper of the Morris 32.5 Selkie. He said the event allowed for “five days and nights of pure sailing.”

“Predictions were that the small boats would be left behind and then be able to catch the fleet when the leaders hit the dead air ahead, and this indeed occurred,” Bradish said by email from Bermuda, awaiting a weather window to return home to Boston. “We caught the fleet twice, only to be left behind when the wind picked up.

Big friend, little friend: the 88-foot Rambler 88 dwarfs the Morris 32.5 Selkie before the start of the race.

Corey Silken/Newport Bermuda Race

“This boomerang effect kept our crew totally engaged throughout the race. Our main competitor were our friends on Orca (who I crewed for in the 2016 race). We essentially match raced them day after day,” he continued.

The meandering Gulf Stream seemed to fight his small vessel much of the way, providing very little — if any — push toward Bermuda. Selkie and other vessels in the fleet battled through choppy seas much of the way.

“Eventually, we cleared the chop and resumed our pursuit of Orca,” Bradish said. “At one point we were 28 miles ahead. Then a couple more breezy days, all the way through the finish. In all, a truly fun and challenging race.”​

Bradish and Selkie won the 2017 Marion to Bermuda Race. The vessel’s 2018 Newport Bermuda race time was 82:54:22, second in the Finisterre Division, which was won by Orca, an Island Packet 38 owned by Harold Guidotti with a corrected time of 82:15:49.

Other top finishers included the Gunboat 62 Elvis owned by Jason Carroll, which won the multihull division with a corrected time of 63:25:32. Yankee Girl, a Morris Justine 36 skippered by Zachary Lee, won the double-handed division with a corrected time of 90:53:12.

The next running of the Newport Bermuda Race begins June 19, 2020.

By Ocean Navigator