The recent Newport Bermuda race saw 170 boats of vastly different types crossing the infamously capricious Gulf Stream on their way to the garden of paradise in the mid-Atlantic – Hamilton, Bermuda and its pink beaches.
Notably, all four of JBoats’ new offshore water-ballasted J/121’s sailed well, finishing in the top five in their respective classes, as well as one, Apollo, winning in “the pro division” – their Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division class.
The 51st running of the biennial offshore classic- the Newport to Bermuda Race was a relatively benign affair, with maximum winds barely pushing 15 kts and most of the time chasing zephyrs and wind-streaks across the Atlantic Ocean.
No speed records, for sure in the Maxi class. Jerry Kirby, bowman on George David’s Rambler 88, was overhead saying on the bow as they approached Bermuda, “I’ve never done a race with George where we had no water over the bow! That’s crazy! What ‘thrash to the patch’? More like a mid-summer night’s cruise to paradise – Bermuda shorts, Gosling’s dark’n’stormies and pink beaches here we come!”
And, with 75 percent of the fleet finishing between midnight Tuesday and Wednesday morning Bermuda time, it was more like a giant “raft-up in company” kind of race. There were no outliers either east or west that did well. Just about everyone could see each other the whole race and if you launched a drone up to 5,000 ft (easy to do), you would have captured half the fleet in one shot!
The action started at 1300 hrs EDT Friday, June 15 from Newport, Rhode Island, just beneath the famous Castle Hill Inn & Lighthouse at the port end of the starting line. It was a slow and steady progression, all heading somewhere along the 162-degree rhumbline to Bermuda.
The forecasts held true, the light northerly dying and the SSE winds building slowly from 4-6 kts at the start to SSW winds offshore overnight. Thank goodness it was a strong ebb-tide at the first starting gun at 1305 hrs. Had that not been the case, the start would’ve been chaotic. As the final Maxi Class and Superyacht Classes started, the fleet was well on its way to the Onion Patch with SSW winds of 7-12 kts.
The vast majority of the fleet endured a rather bizarre scenario offshore. The big, fast boats basically rode the remnants of a micro-Low, then micro-High to whisk them along most downwind/ reaching to Bermuda; specifically, the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse division maxis: Rambler 88, the Maxi 72 Proteus, and the two Volvo 70s.
That group separated quickly into a separate system with a moderate northerly flow and rode it to Bermuda to make up the top five overall in the Gibbs Hill division. Behind them, the weather systems simply deteriorated into nothingness, with wind veering back into the northerly quadrants and dying, with numerous “park-ups” from east to west across the rhumbline for the main body of the fleet. Ultimately, the forecasted south-westerlies and westerlies from an approaching front materialised and those that held to the west of rhumbline fared better than their colleagues off to the east.
Benefitting from that unfolding scenario was Don Nicholson’s J/121 Apollo finishing at twilight on Wednesday at 0322 hrs for a corrected time class win of 62:21:35 hrs (elapsed of 108:12:52) in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division Class 14.
As a result, overall under ORR Handicap, Apollo was 6th corrected time behind the obvious winners in the “breakaway” group in front of the fleet- the two Volvo 70s, Maxi 72, Rambler 88, and a TP52. Fast company, indeed!