Talbot Wilson and John Rousmaniere report from the traditional Newport Bermuda Race prizegiving ceremony at Government House, attended by hundreds of competitors and their friends following the finish of 122 boats at St. David’s Head, Bermuda.
An international group of sailors and guests celebrated the final moments of the 50th “Thrash to the Onion Patch” at the prizegiving on Saturday, June 25, on the grounds of Bermuda’s Government House, overlooking Bermuda’s North Shore channel. His Excellency, The Governor of Bermuda, George Fergusson and the Commodores of the Cruising Club of America, Jim Binch, and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, Leatrice Oatley, presented 114 prizes. Five are major division trophies and the remainder are for class wins and other accomplishments.
Of the 185 boats officially entered to start the race on June 17, more than 50 chose not to compete, citing forecasts of gales. The remaining 133 boats, ranging in length from 36 to 100 feet, and with crews numbering from four to more than 20 sailors, started on schedule in light winds. Prepared to turn back if the weather became dangerous, they encountered weather that was, at most, challenging but not threatening for sailors of their caliber and experience, with some strong gusts and also several calms and complicated Gulf Stream currents. Many sailors reported that the conditions were both unusually interesting for racing and also enchanting, with many hours of sailing fast under a full moon. Of the starters, 122 finished with dropouts due to damage or slow going.
Wins by High Noon, Comanche, Warrior Won, and Two Galley Slaves
The first award was one of the most popular of the ceremony. The new Stephens Brothers Trophy for the top boat with a youth crew went to High Noon, the American Yacht Club (NY) entry in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division with seven of her 10 sailors (two girls and five boys) ages 15-18. Only 41 feet long, the very aggressively sailed High Noon was second boat to finish behind Comanche, beating many larger competitors. This was the one of several trophies won by the young crew and their three adult shipmates.
Owners Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark and skipper Kenny Read accepted the prizes awarded the big Comanche as top boat in the Open Division, and also as first to finish. The boat set a new elapsed time record of 34 hours, 42 minutes, 33 seconds–an 18-knot average speed on the 635-mile course, breaking the old race elapsed time record by five hours. Comanche is a professionally sailed, cutting-edge boat designed to break records around the world.
Warrior Won, an Xp44, skippered by Christopher Sheehan of Larchmont (NY) Yacht Club took the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy. This silver replica of the island’s landmark lighthouse is awarded to the boat in St. David’s Lighthouse Division that is first on handicap corrected time. This division was the largest in the fleet with 110 entries, all with amateur sailors steering. Warrior Won won several prizes, including for winning navigator HL DeVore.
In the second largest division, the Cruiser Division (also requiring that helmsmen be amateur sailors), Shearwater won the Carleton Mitchell Finisterre Trophy for first place on corrected time. She’s a Mason 43 sailed by Daniel Biemesderfer out of Stonington Harbor Yacht Club. Among the Double-Handed Division sailors, Yankee Girl was first out of 16 entries with co-skippers Zachary Lee of Pelham NY and Gus Stringos of Skowhegan ME sharing the helm. They win the Philip S Weld Moxie trophy, named for a fine American short-handed sailor of the past, and one of his boats.
Bermuda’s favorite entry, the Bermuda Sloop Foundation’s training ship Spirit of Bermuda, took first against three other competitors in the Spirit of Tradition Division, beating Troy Sears’ America, which had been sailed around from San Diego for the race. Prizes for the Gibbs Hill Division were not presented because the entries did not start the race.
As always in this ceremony, the last prize to be awarded was the Galley Slave Trophy, which goes to the cook in the last boat to finish. The idea behind this award, one of the oldest in the race’s history, is that cooks needed recognition, especially the one who works the longest. The last-to-St. David’s boat this year was Double-Handed entry Whisper, a 48-footer. Her two crew members,Thomas Vander Salm and John Browning, declining to say who did the cooking, came to the podium as a pair, both wearing distinctive cook’s hats. Governor Fergusson presented the trophy to them as a team. Afterwards the sailors said they had kept a high standard–baking bread and ending their serious meals with scoops of the home-made ice cream they carried in Whisper’s freezer.
Rewarding the Chairman
A special award was presented to AJ Evans for chairing the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee, which runs the race for the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. This year the two clubs celebrate the 90th anniversary of their partnership. Organization for the 51st race is already underway under new Bermuda Race Organizing Committee Chairman Jonathan Brewin, a Bermudian.
Reports on the race, the entry list, the final results, and other information are available at the Newport Bermuda Race website.