By John Rousmaniere
event as old the Newport Bermuda Race is bound to have a few colorful
traditions. One of the race’s most charming is a ceremony that takes
every year after the first boat finishes. In the dark pre-dawn
of Monday morning, Alex Jackson’s Speedboat, designed by Juan
Kouyoumdjian, crossed the finish line off St. David’s Head Lighthouse.
A small powerboat pulled alongside with the Commodores of the two
yacht clubs on board. Commodore Peter Shrubb of the Royal Bermuda Yacht
Club handed a magnum of champagne to the winners.
Genuine Risk crossed the finish line three hours later, the two
Commodores sprang back into action. Owned by the U.S. Merchant
Marine Academy, the boat is sponsored in this year’s race by Bermuda
resident Mark Watson and so was the first Bermuda boat across the line.
This time Commodore Sheila McCurdy of the Cruising Club of America did
the honors and presented a magnum of champagne to Watson and his crew.
Genuine Risk is the provisional corrected time winner of the Open
Bermuda Race tradition for at least the last 11 races, the presentation
of the magnums seems especially suitable this year, when the weather
was so fine throughout the race that crews were talking of “champagne
the sailors probably wished for more “beer conditions” – in other
words, more wind. It was so light that Speedboat never reefed.
Her elapsed time of 59 hours, 17 minutes was well behind both the
course record of 53 hours, 39 minutes for non-canting keel boats that
Roy Disney’s Pyewacket set in 2002, and the Open Division record
of 48 hours, 28 minutes, set by Hasso Plattner’s Morning Glory
in 2004. Behind her, the rest of the 183-boat fleet has worried through
many hours of calm.
have been making a special effort to greet the first Bermuda Race boat
since the first race, in 1906. As Tamerlane, the leader of the
two boats that finished that year, neared the island, her skipper (and
the race’s founder) Thomas Fleming Day gratefully noted the appearance
of a pilot’s whaleboat, followed by a fleet of “tugs, yachts, steamers,
skiffs, and canoes by the dozen, crowded with cheering people.”
was the beginning of a week-long celebration, another one of which will
be held exuberantly in Hamilton this year before the fleet sails home