As the fleet rushed to the finish line, they were led by a boat that had the unlikely combination of small size (just 41 feet) and a crew consisting of three adults and seven teenagers. This unusual boat, High Noon, finished a few minutes after 9 AM on Tuesday and when she reached the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club marina, she was the only Bermuda Race boat in the harbor, she stood first on corrected time in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, and–even more impressively–she stood second in the fleet on elapsed time.
Video interviews with High Noon’s young crew are at this link.
The Tripp 41 was loaned by the US Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation to the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team, at American Yacht Club (Rye, NY). “This Bermuda Race will be the culmination of at least three years of work by these juniors,” said Peter Becker, one of the project’s leaders. “First they did overnight distance races, then weekend races, and then they looked for opportunities to sail offshore.”
The young sailors underwent hands-on safety training and worked closely with the navigator, skipper, and watch captains to gain experience in leadership roles. Some of the sailors helped deliver boats home from Bermuda and Hawaii. They are committed to the project, and so are their mentors. “I’ve sailed 16 Bermuda Races,” Becker said. “My first race was when I was 15 or 16. I was the kid on the boat, up on the bow changing sails. I’m trying to give these kids the same passion and experience I was exposed to when I was young and sailing with older sailors. Every junior on the boat is there because they’re competitive and they want to win the race.”
But it’s not all about winning, said Becker. “The kids are resonating with this. They love big boats. It’s challenging, it’s social, and it’s really inspiring. You get out there and you see the stars overhead and you think, ‘the land is really far away.’”
The Stephens Brothers Prizes
The High Noon project is one of the stimuli for two new Newport Bermuda Race awards, the Stephens Brothers Prizes. Yacht designers Olin and Rod Stephens were youngsters when they launched their ocean racing careers. The many boats they designed include 14 Bermuda Race overall winners and the yawl Black Watch, sailing in the 2016 “Thrash to the Onion Patch.”
Sailors ages 14-23 are eligible for the Stephens Brothers Society and may receive through their skippers a Stephens Brothers Society pin, pictured here.
The Stephens Brothers Youth Division Prize will be awarded to the best-performing boat with a qualifying Youth Crew entered in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division or the Cruiser Division. To qualify, at least 50% +1 (rounded down) of the crew must be ages 14 to 23, inclusive, as of June 17, 2016, and the crew’s average age must be 17 or older. The race’s Cross-Division scoring system will be used.
NOTE: This article has been edited to reflect the fact that High Noon was loaned to the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team by the US Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation, to which Steve and Heidi Benjamin donated the boat in May 2016.