It was a Newport-Bermuda Race competitors will not soon forget, with “perfect” conditions that allowed race leaders to not just break records but shatter them.
Leading the charge was George David’s 90ft maxi Rambler, which covered the 635-mile course in just 39 hours, 39 minutes and 18 seconds, hacking 14 hours off the previous course record set by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket in 2002.
An hour and 45 minutes behind Rambler were Hap Fauth’s 72-foot Bella Mente and George Sakellaris’s 72-foot Shockwave, crossing the finish line a mere three minutes apart. In all, seven boats beat Pyewacket’s time, including the U.S. Naval Academy’s TP52 Invictus, racing in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division for boats with amateur crews.
Key to the blistering pace was the absence of the Bermuda, or Azores, high that can create calms and often turns the latter part of the race into a starboard-tack close reach. A low in the open Atlantic also created 20-30 knot northeasterlies, which proved ideal for powering the fleet south across the Gulf Stream on starboard tack under reaching headsails.
Although meteorologists originally predicted a “big boat race,” with winds going light before the bulk of the fleet would have a chance to finish, the breeze held even as it backed first north then west. Newport-Bermuda veteran and author John Rousmaniere described it as the fastest race ever, by just about every standard.
Winning the St. David’s Lighthouse Division on corrected time for the second time in a row was the 48-foot Carina, owned by Rives Potts, which finished the race in just under 76 hours. Shockwave corrected out to win the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division for boats with professional crews.
Winning this year’s Onion Patch series—which includes scores from the New York Yacht Club annual regatta and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s Anniversary Regatta in addition to the Newport-Bermuda—went to Steve Murray’s new Carkeek HP40 Decision, edging out Lawrence Dickie’s Ptarmigan by a half a point.
“Doing the Onion Patch Series has been a dream of mine since I was 12,” Murray said. “I had heard about it as I grew up sailing. I’m really excited at being able to win it now.”
Top photo: Steve Murray’s Decision competing in the the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club’s Anniversary Regatta. Photo courtesy of Newport-Bermuda/Barry Pickthal/PPL