Inches and Seconds Tell All in Newport Bermuda Racing
By Talbot Wilson
NEWPORT, R.I., Feb. 22, 2012 -- “When you round Bermuda’s reefs and cross the finish line with three other boats at virtually the same time after four hard days of racing, you realize the Newport Bermuda Race is a game of inches and seconds,” says Chris Culver (Stamford CT) skipper of Cetacea, hull #1 of the SW Hinckley 59' design built in 1983. “Boats that may have chosen three separate and distinct tracks for the race come together at the very end and are separated by less than a boat length.”
Cetacea is one of the 132 entries for the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race that has been received as of February 20th. There are 147 boats that have entered the registration portal on the race website. Of these, 132 have filed their online Application for Entry (AFE) for this invitational race, and 108 applications have been approved. So far, 22 boats with AFE’s submitted have elected the Cruiser Division, the St David’s Lighthouse (amateur) Division has 66 entries, Double-Handed has 15, the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse (professional) Division has 11, the Open Division has only James Muldoon’s canting keel Donnybrook, and 16 boats have not elected their division yet. At a similar date before the 2010 race, 131 AFE’s had been filed.
The race starts off Castle Hill in Newport RI on Friday afternoon, June 15th and runs 635 miles across the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream to the finish off St. David’s Lighthouse Bermuda.
Cetacea — so named after the order of mammals that includes whales, dolphins, and porpoises— has been under Culver’s leadership in the past four Newport Bermuda Races and has finished in the top three in class in every race. She sails in the Cruiser Division, but Culver and his crew of 11 or 12 surely enjoy a racing attitude not just cruising.
“Think about the blown jib in a 35kt squall,” Culver remembers. “As you work to get another jib up and drawing full, you are thinking you just went from first place to third. This is tough sailing, but it can happen to the competition, too. We never give in and we never give up”.
Cetacea has also won Sail magazine’s Bermuda Ocean Cruising Yacht Trophy three consecutive times for top combined Cruising Division performance in the Newport Bermuda Race and the Marion Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race sailed in alternate years.
“Newport Bermuda is a special race where we can bring family [including Chris’ 12 year old son], friends and competitive sailors together to enjoy an extremely challenging race from one of the most famous sailing harbors— Newport [RI]— to one of the great island destinations in the world,” Culver added. “What could be better than Bermuda? Sail fast, sail hard and end up in one of the most elegant and gracious islands. It's a great race with great camaraderie at the finish and on Bermuda.”
From Culver’s Cruiser Division perspective, “For some, Newport Bermuda may be simply a celebration of the accomplishment of sailing for 100+ hours through varying conditions. For others, like us, we try to push hard especially through tough storms to see if we can get a great old boat across the finish line at the top of our class or division. Newport Bermuda is about drive, determination, tenacity and teamwork!”
The Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Committee introduced the Cruising Division to the 635-mile race in 1990 with 29 entries, and an immediate increase in the total fleet. In 2010, the division had three classes and 38 total entries and was the second largest division in the 183-entry race, after the St. David’s Lighthouse Division for racer-cruisers. Like the St. David’s Division, the Cruiser Division is for amateur crews, while the Gibbs Hill Light and Open Divisions permit professional crews.
Originally, the Cruiser Division did not permit spinnakers at all, but since 2006 each boat may choose to carry one asymmetrical spinnaker and be rated accordingly. Power-driven winches and roller furlers and autopilot steering devices are also permitted. The competition is keen, but the attitude is a little more relaxed. It is a great division for new competitors to gain valuable ocean experience.
“The Cruiser Division continues to be an important aspect of the race,” said 2012 Chairman Dr. John Osmond. It was introduced to broaden our competitor base, and we have been very successful in doing just that.”
“The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee tailors the structure of our race to give a wide variety of offshore sailors the best possible venue for their own level of expertise and competition.” Osmond added. “Over the 106 years since the first Bermuda Race, the organizers have provided one of the great yachting experiences on the planet. The Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club offer education, challenge and training while giving all the sailors the opportunity for a fantastic adventure at a level of competitiveness that is commensurate with their goals.”
About 40 of the two Lighthouse Division entries are expected to sail the Onion Patch series, a tough triathlon of offshore racing. Boats compete in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta in Newport, then race to Bermuda, and finally sail in the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta. Information is online at www.onionpatchseries.com.