Izze Best will lead a youth crew to Bermuda in June aboard FEO, a 40-foot Joshua steel ketch. By Chris Museler
This will be the third Newport Bermuda Race for the stout, steel ketch FEO, but it’s going to be different this time for owner Eric Best.
“I want my daughter to get the experience of actually doing it,” says Best, who is required by his insurance company to be aboard with 18-year-old Izze and her peers. “I’m going along as a mute cook. She knows her parent is there, but I want to give her as much opportunity as possible to face these challenges and make decisions.”
Given FEO’s lineage and history, the stretch of ocean from Newport to Bermuda is not a far horizon. FEO (pronounced fee-oh, means “ugly” in Spanish) is a replica of the famed Joshua that was sailed by Bernard Moitessier in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, the first solo, non-stop around the world race in 1968. The introspective French sailor decided to shun society, pull out of the race despite leading, and carry on around the world a second time to “save his soul.”
Best bought the boat in 1985, and with solo trips to Hawaii, then years in Maine and on the East Coast, he has been taught by the sea, and FEO. “This boat is not about a rating,” he says. “This boat is about survival and being the last boat standing.”
She is a good boat for Best’s daughter Izze to challenge herself and learn from the sea as she and five friends sail to the Onion Patch in June. Izze and her brother Will had sailed between Maine and their home in New York City a half dozen times. They both sailed aboard FEO in the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race with older half-sister Emily. The two younger siblings have sailed doublehanded with their father overnight, and Will, who is not doing the race, plans on sailing FEO from Bermuda to Maine with his father after the race.
Other crew sailing are Will Starkey, Islay Van Dusen, Claudio Van Duijn, Tucker Braun and Charlie Britton.
Best took FEO, virtually as is, with hanked-on sails and no dodger, from San Francisco to Hawaii in 1985 to get away from the world and challenge himself. He was frightened and questioned his new celestial navigation skills, but eventually made it. That journey was documented in his book, Into My Father’s Wake.
Best wrote a children’s book for his oldest daughter Emily, The Deep, about the little girl’s visions of her father and the sea while he was crossing the Pacific.
In 1993, he took Emily from San Francisco to Hawaii when she was 13. “The most important ideas she learned from sailing she has applied to her successful film business,” Best says. “Learning about fear and managing her feelings.”
Though he’s disappointed that insurance requires his presence on FEO, he believes Izze is already proving herself as a seasoned ocean sailor.
Delivering FEO from Belfast, Maine, to Marblehead, Massachusetts, this spring, Izze and three of her crew left in a fresh, 25-knot breeze with reefs already tucked into the main. Hours into the trip, the steering system failed.
Izze was clever, and with her friends, used two snatch blocks to divert the steering cables and get back on track.
“She went from, ‘We’re broken and heading back,’ to, ‘We can balance the sails and get to Rockland,’ to, ‘It’s working, we’re heading all the way,’” recalls Best. “That’s the lesson you’re there to learn. You have to decide what to do next.”
Best knows his daughter can sail FEO across an ocean, but he still has the worries of any parent. “As a father I’m walking a tight rope between wanting to give her this opportunity to learn, and worrying about her safety,” he says.
The boat has been outfitted with Wifi Radar, AIS and Raymarine Axion 9 navigation. Best is glad to have this for the “safety it implies” but believes it takes a little away from the “human and the sea” angle.
“Too many people make their lives smaller because they don’t want to take that much risk,” says Best. He adds that he knows the boat has served his family well and he has learned how to sail as his father and grandfather have—as he goes.
“Izze put the team together and insurance said, ‘You can’t,’” says Best. “So Izze asked me if I can go six days without saying anything. I told her I’m willing to try!”