Chris Museler continues his account of the new Carkeek 47’s first Bermuda Race
Friday, June 20 – The first day of the race produced a big surprise when the seabreeze came in. We didn’t wallow in a swirl of doldrums off the coast, as we had anticipated. What a beautiful scene it was as we slowly sailed through the boats that had started ahead of us, all spread 15 miles across a flat sea, from the Concordia yawl Westray to the Swans and the J Boats. In our group (Gibbs Hill), Bella Mente with her strikingly tall rig and bright oversized green draft stripes quickly sailed away over the horizon. The silly talk of our finish-time crew pool quickly died as we focused on trimming and deciding where to head, which was just off the rhumb line to pick up some positive current from a well-defined meander 100-150 miles down the track.
Saturday morning. By dawn today we had found the boost—and then the fun began. Even in this vast piece of ocean, a race becomes a microcosm of existence. It’s you and whoever is around you and the nearby weather. Every moment carries weight — for instance when the midshipmen aboard the Naval Academy’s TP52 Constellation reeled us in as we sailed into a hole after sunrise Saturday. Within two hours they gained several miles on us and then crossed our path. When they sailed west, we thought we were clever to stay under a cloud and wait for the predicted WSW breeze to kick in. For a while we were within a mile of each other on opposite tacks, yet with both of us heading toward Bermuda. It was fantastic to be playing the shifts and the weather as though we were in a dinghy race on a lake.
We have moved nicely into the rhythm of the watch system, four hours on and four off at night, and six on and six off during the day.
Jim Hedleston doesn’t stand a watch because he is our chef. At each watch change, he awakens us and makes a meal for everyone in the two four-quart pots on the burners. It was chicken and rice last night, and porridge this morning with cinnamon and nuts and berries. An old friend of the owner, Jim Grundy, he’s from Connecticut, where he raced Sunfish, but went to college in Wyoming, where he worked on a ranch and got into the world of rodeo clowns. A college advisor in Wyoming noticed his aptitude for marketing, and Jim cut his teeth in Manhattan in the late 1980s and early ’90s, making his mark first with Anheuser Busch’s Clydesdale ad campaign, then with American Express’s Platinum Card. Now retired in his 50s, he and his wife split time between the Caribbean and Connecticut and enjoy the life of sailing with friends, like the Grundy family, who have had Jim on all their boats.
He’s one of the few sailors on board who also sailed in the Annapolis to Bermuda Race just a week or so ago. Asked why he committed to 1,500 miles of racing in less than a month, he exclaimed, “Why not? I wake up and feed everyone, and then I go back to sleep.”
Saturday Evening. “If you would have told me when we were reaching along at 10 knots today that we would be sitting here on glass I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Jim Grundy as the sun set Saturday. Like all sailors, Jim sees a silver lining in every cloud and he hoped that the rest of the fleet was enjoying the spectacle of curious pods of dolphins, some spotted, some grey, breaching and exploring our keel. What a challenging day this has been, with other teams popping up on and off the horizon. The midshipmen in Constellation are still with us, and as we are set East, the continued light air is worrisome. If a predicted Easterly arrives, we are in good stead. If not, we hope for another parking lot like this before Bermuda, so we can catch up to the leaders.
Another hot meal, a beef stew of sorts, was again a fantastic find by our do-anything-for-anyone chef “Hedle,” who regaled us with stories of his time in New York. I’d like to introduce you to Matt Calore. Though he is from the quiet waterfront town of Marion, Mass., his headband, beard, and longish black hair tell a different story. At 40, this young guy, a Tabor Academy graduate mind you, had an itch to run sled dogs. He wound up in Fairbanks, Alaska. Now he has completed two Iditarods and bears the paw tracks of his first team wrapped around his right forearm in a tattoo.
As I write, the high-pitched squeaks of the dolphins projecting through the hull are too loud to deny. I’m going on deck!