104th Newport Bermuda Slow and Steady

It was a slow start for the 183-boat fleet as nearly 2,000 sailors began the 635-mile race across the Gulf Steam from Newport to Bermuda on June 18. With 16 classes underway, this year’s Newport-Bermuda race boasted the third largest fleet in the race’s 104-year history.

By sunset on the second day, Alex Jackson’s 100ft maxi sloop Speedboat took the lead from Tom Hill’s Titan XV as the fleet raced toward Bermuda on a fast close reach with clear visibility and a moderate southwest wind that gradually strengthened and clocked toward the west.

On the morning of the third day, June 20, the big-boat leaders were clear of the Stream and entered the 250-mile stretch of the typically confused winds and currents between the Stream and Bermuda—the area race veterans wryly call “Happy Valley,” where the race is won and lost.

Also leading in her class was Rives Potts’ 48ft sloop Carina, who sailed 60 miles ahead of Joseph Mele’s Triple Lindy, the next boat in her class, quickly putting her within 300 nautical miles of Bermuda.

Nearly 60 hours after crossing the start line, Speedboat sailed across the finish line on June 21 at 0349 EDT. Finishing second at 0625 was Ken Read’s 70ft Volvo Ocean Race boat, Il Mostro.

Larger boats, over 80 feet, averaged two to three days to finish, while smaller boats, 33-40 feet, reached Bermuda in four to six days.

The last boat, John Melvin’s 39ft wooden Concordia Westray, arrived at St. David’s Head on June 23 at 2217, rounding out the fleet and closing the Newport-Bermuda race.

A prize giving ceremony took place on June 26 at Bermuda’s Government House where Bermuda Governor Richard Gozney and a number of guest presenters handed out 113 trophies and prizes as well as a special award for race chairman Bjorn Johnson.

Among this year’s winners were Carina, who took home 11 awards, capped off by the coveted St. Davis’s Lighthouse Trophy. Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy’s Noonmark VI won Class 9 and the 13-boat Gibbs Hill Lighthouse ORR Division. Neal Finnegan’s Clover III won Class 13 and the 38-boat Cruiser Division, taking home the Carleton Mitchell Finisterre Trophy. Mark Watson’s Genuine Risk won first in Class 16 and the Open Division’s Royal Mail Trophy.

“Look at some of the facts of the race. You can sail it with two people. You can sail it with 26 of your closest friends. You can sail it in a cozy 33-footer or a cavernous 100-footer, you can sail a 41-year-old boat like Carina and win, or you can sail a shiny new boat,” said Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Commodore Peter Shrubb in his opening address at Saturday’s prize giving ceremony. “Young, old, big, small, modern, antique, rich, poor, novice ocean racer or old sea dog. It really doesn’t matter. It’s all incredible, racing to Bermuda. It’s priceless. The memories will last forever.”

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