By Talbot Wilson
Hamilton, Bermuda. June 26, 7:30am Bermuda Time. One boat is still racing in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race. This is Westray, a Concordia yawl in Class I and the St. David’s Lighthouse Division. The Pantaenius Tracker shows her 7.3 miles from the finish line off St. David’s Lighthouse. All the other 163 starters have finished or retired from the race.
Shockwave, skippered by George Sakellaris of Framingham, MA, crossed the finish line at 6:34 Bermuda time Monday to take line honors in the 49th Newport Bermuda Race.
Based on provisional results, Shockwave can be confirmed as the class 9 and division winner, taking home his second Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophy in a row. This is the first boat to win consecutive Gibbs Hill Trophies since the prize was dedicated to the grand prix division in 2002. Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente and Alex Schaerer’s Caol Ila are second and third in the class and division.
For the St. David’s Lighthouse Division corrected time honors, first we thought the Class 2 Navy 44 Swift was the winner, then as Class 1 boats began to finish five of the top 6 in the Division came out of that class. Initially, it was the Tartan 41 Aurora, then the Cal 40 Flyer, before the Hinckley B40 Actaea stole the show.
Actaea is a modified Bermuda 40 cruising yawl owned by Michael Cone of Philadelphia, PA. Her crew are John Vj Chiochetti, Constance H. Cone, co-owner and watch captain, James Dalton, George J. Fallon, Rex Miyashiro, Stewart Rose, and Stanley Sneath. Cone is a member of Philadelphia Corinthian YC.
When Michael and Connie Cone competed in the 1996 Newport Bermuda Race aboard Actaea, “we were bitten by the bug and haven’t lost our mutual love of ocean racing ever since,” he told Bill Wagner of the Annapolis Capital Gazette. Inexperience made that first offshore passage a struggle, and Actaea was the last boat to finish. “We won the Galley Slave Trophy and I swore that would never happen again,” Cone said of the dubious honor, based on the fact that the cook who is at sea the longest has to cook the most meals for the crew.
In the 16 years since, Actaea has become known for being one of the best-sailed boats on Chesapeake Bay and beyond. The Cones have enjoyed enormous success aboard the classic cruiser-racer, placing high in class in such offshore events as Newport Bermuda, Annapolis-Newport and Marblehead-Halifax. Actaea was one of 125 Bermuda 40s designed by Bill Tripp and built by Hinckley Yachts. Launched in 1971, she had one previous owner before the Cones bought her in 1989. The Cones later undertook modifications.
The provisional leader in the Cruising Division as of Wednesday evening was Attitude, a Beneteau 423 in Class 10 owned by Shawn Dahlen of Duxbury, MA. Of the 34 starters, 17 in the division had finished. Jeroboam, a Beneteau 351, sailed by Jonathan Green and Russ Hancock led the Double-Handed Division.
Sailors who found themselves in the “Happy Valley” between the Gulf Stream and Bermuda were not happy Tuesday night. No records were set in one of the slower Newport Bermuda Races ever for the majority of the fleet. Officials using estimated elapsed time calculations on the Pantaenius Race Tracker predicted a record 120 yachts would finish from dusk to dawn. As the wind went light, it was more like 16.
Through Tuesday night’s slow approach, boats slid into airless sink-holes on course to the finish off St. David’s Lighthouse. They parked for dismal spells of time. On Wednesday a large portion of the fleet finished, whistling up little bits of wind to move slowly through the final miles. Only a few competitors are left to slog on into Wednesday night and Thursday.
Double-Handed Division racer Joe Harris wrote in what he hoped was his final blog: “GryphonSsolo2 and her fearless crew, me and Rob Windsor, are actually approaching the finish line of the world’s longest race. OMG. Totally. 18 miles to the finish line and we actually have 7 knots of wind, which at this point feels like a frickin’ gale.”
The story on the dock is that the pre-race weather forecasts were less than accurate, and that going a conservative distance to the west was the best choice. The Shockwave team went only slightly west and got through the upper Gulf Stream before the wind began shutting down in the frontal zone moving across the course. They snaked along in the southbound cold core eddy to the building southwest wind. They had to tack and jibe to reach it. Constellation had much the same story to tell.
The J44 battle was classic. Gold Digger’s skipper, Jim Bishop, has done Newport Bermuda 24 times. Vamp’s skipper, Lennie Sitar has done it 14 times, 12 in this Vamp. Vamp finished at 07:27:25 today. Gold Digger followed at 07:28:31 today. Vamp’s corrected time was 90:26:26. Gold Digger’s was 90:14:41 and Bishop won by 12 minutes. Sitar said, “I’ve raced this race 14 times and I still haven’t figured out how to win it.”
With the arrival of the sailors, friends and families who have been exploring Bermuda alone will now have time to celebrate the completion of another classic ocean race.