Her skipper says he’s attending finishing school, but little Selkie could stir things up in the Finisterre Division this year. By Chris Museler.
For Chip Bradish, who is preparing for his seventh race to Bermuda, all this ocean sailing between Newport or Marion and Bermuda is a finishing school before he and his partner, Ben, take their 8- and 11-year-old children for longer cruises.
“Each time I do a race I feel a little more confident as a skipper,” says Bradish, who has entered the Finisterre Division in his Morris 32.5 Selkie—the smallest boat in the race. “A big part of this race is getting ready to take the family sailing. When you’re more comfortable, you think better.”
Bradish is a fifth-generation Barnegat Bay sailor out of Mantoloking Yacht Club. He sailed the quirky, indigenous Duck boats in junior sailing. Although he left sailing for a while as an adult, his days as an Outward Bound instructor renewed a thirst for the ocean. He sailed in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race aboard Ice Bear, a luxurious, teak-trimmed Morris 48. Since then, he’s crewed in each year’s Bermuda race, alternating between Marion and Newport starts.
If these races are his finishing school, then Bradish is receiving top marks. He skippered his own boat of 14 years, Selkie, in the 2017 Marion to Bermuda Race, and although this will be his first time skippering a boat in the Newport race, he comes in as a favorite. Selkie won overall on corrected time last year, and picked up additional silverware for being first in the celestial navigation and short-handed crew divisions.
“We got there in style,” says Bradish, who will be sailing with five total crew this year, two of whom are new to the race. “We were using all celestial navigation last year, so finding the island was a big part.”
Due to her modest length, Selkie didn’t qualify to enter the Newport Bermuda Race until this year when the minimum rated length was adjusted. (For those interested, instead of using an Offshore Racing Rule calculation for waterline length, the ORR calculation for overall length was used instead.) Now the team will join a small boat race-within-a-race including two other 30-something-foot Morris sloops.
Bradish understands he is a prime candidate for the award given to the last finisher of the Newport Bermuda Race (for the cook who has endured making the most meals at sea). But he’s in love with the virtues of sailing his small boat over the horizon.
“She has a tiller, and you’re very close to the water,” Bradish says fondly of Selkie. “It seems natural looking at the sails. There’s an intimate connection with the water you don’t have on a bigger boat. While they’re slatting in light air, you can stand with the tiller and just enjoy the silence.”
Bradish says he has been “upping his game” for this year’s race. Each crewmember has already completed sail trim and safety at sea seminars, a new asymmetrical spinnaker has been added, and he is taking a weather-routing course. “As a professional counselor, it’s nice for me to coach a team along,” he says. “We’re developing our racing skills, and I’m building up a crew I can sail with for years.”
Most of Bradish’s administrative effort for the race is finished. What he’s learning this time around will certainly be used as he, Ben, Ellie and Atreyu sail farther afield this summer and beyond. “Taking care of these details frees me up to be present for the conditions and crew,” he says. “Of course this is a big race. But our goal is always to get there safely.”