Newport Bermuda Race looking good

This year’s Newport Bermuda Race looks to be well on its way to a rousing success. It could be the third largest race in the history of the contest.

From the press release: With 196 entries, the 47th Newport Bermuda Race fleet is on track to be the third largest in the race’s history. “Despite the economic turmoil since the last start, we have a wonderful turnout from around the world, with many new boats and skippers,†said Race Chairman Bjorn Johnson. “This is a heartening confirmation of the value and importance not only of this race, but of sailing in general.â€

The race has a wide range of boats. Niklas Zennstrom’s Rán (Southampton, England) in her first year won the 2009 Fastnet Race and also took Class 1 in the Sydney-Hobart. This cutting-edge 72-footer is one of 63 entries making their first Bermuda Race. Meanwhile, Peter Rebovich (Metuchen, N.J.) will sail his seventh “thrash to the Onion Patch†in his 45-year-old Cal 40 racer-cruiser Sinn Fein, which he has owned since 1973. The St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy winner in 2006 and 2008, Sinn Fein is a victory away from matching one of sailing’s most hallowed records – three straight Bermuda Race wins by Carleton Mitchell’s Finisterre in 1956-60.

Sinn Fein can’t reprise her 2008 duel with Selkie because that boat’s skipper, Sheila McCurdy (Middletown, R.I.), has duties as Commodore of the Cruising Club of America, the race’s co-sponsor with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Two of Sinn Fein’s sistership Cal 40s will race. One is Douglas Jurrius’ Belle Aurore (Easton, Md.), the other Gone with the Wind, which Bill LeRoy (Tiburon, Cal.) is shipping east from San Francisco Bay. His navigator is Sally Lindsay Honey, who normally races a Cal 40 with her husband, Stan Honey.

The big fleet may get even bigger during the late entry period that expires May 15. The race record of 265 starters was set in the 2006 centennial Newport Bermuda Race, and the 2008 fleet numbered 198 boats. The next largest fleet was 182, in 2002.

Sinn Fein is not the only boat coming back from a victory in 2008. Bermuda Oyster, owned by Paul Hubbard (Pembroke, Bermuda), will defend the Carleton Mitchell Finisterre Trophy, the top prize in the Cruiser Division. The three-time Moxie Trophy winner in the Double-Handed Division, Richard du Moulin’s Lora Ann (Larchmont, N.Y.), returns in a fleet of two dozen shorthanded racers that include five Class 40 boats. One of them, Desafio Cabo Hornos, Felipe Cubillos (Santiago, Chile), finished second in the 2008-09 Portimão Global Ocean Race (winning the leg around Cape Horn), raced in last year’s Fastnet, and finished third in the 2009 Class 40 World Championship.

Two entries have been racing to Bermuda almost continuously since the 1970s. No boat has done more races under one owner, 16, than perennial high finisher Emily, Edwin S. Gaynor (Southport, Conn.). The record for most races by one boat, 18, is held by Carina, overall winner in her first Bermuda Race in 1970 under the late Richard S. Nye, and still winning silver under current owner, Rives Potts (Essex, Conn.). One of the awards that Carina is going after is the William L. Glenn Family Participation Prize for crews that include at least four members of the same family.

The three fastest boats in 2008 are coming back, too. First to finish was Speedboat, a 99-footer owned by Alex Jackson (Piedmont, Cal.). Second was the 90-foot Rambler, George David (Hartford, Conn.). Rambler is coming off an extremely successful 2009 with elapsed time and corrected time victories in both the Annapolis to Newport Race and the Marblehead to Halifax Race, plus the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy as top distance racing boat in the northeastern United States. The third boat to finish in 2008 will also be on the starting line on June 18 – Il Mostro (Puma), second overall in the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race and sailed by Ken Read (Newport, R.I.). Speedboat and Il Mostro sail in the Open Division for boats with canting keels, and Rambler is in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division for boats with fixed keels. These two divisions have no limits on professional crews, unlike the St. David’s Lighthouse, Cruiser, and Double-Handed Divisions.

Among the non-U.S. entries are the overall winner of the recent Royal Ocean Racing Club Caribbean 600, Beau Geste, Cameron Ward (Sydney, Australia), and Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy’s Noonmark VI (Southampton, England), which is on an extended circumnavigation that includes the world’s major races. Another foreign entry is Hugo Boss, sailed by British ocean racer Alex Thomson (Gosport, England). “Newport Bermuda is one of the big classics,†said Thomson. “Having done many Fastnets and Sydney-Hobarts, I am very excited to present our new boat and represent our sponsor in this famous race.â€

Visit for more about the Newport Bermuda Race, including entry forms, race rules, race history, and the official race program, which includes plenty of information about race preparations, navigation, the Gulf Stream, and things to do in Newport and Bermuda.

By Ocean Navigator