Nobody was more surprised at Orca's Finisterre Division victory than the crew of the Island Packet 38. By Chris Museler
“I can’t possibly understand how we won,” exclaimed watch captain Dave Gilmore when he was told Thursday that his team aboard the Island Packet 38 Orca won Class 11 and the Finisterre Division. “We were in a bad spot for 12 hours with no wind. Maybe it happened to the others, too.”
Gilmore's disbelief washed away as his shipmates came back to the boat Thursday. Orca finished only 40 minutes in front of friend Chip Bradish’s Selkie on corrected time. But the two were more than five hours ahead of any other boats in their division, the second largest in the race.
It shouldn’t surprise observers that a cruiser racer, even an old one like Grundoon, can win the Bermuda Race. But Harry and Mary Guidotti’s Orca, hailing from Westbrook Conn., is an all-out cruiser. She has high freeboard, a stately salon and biminis that aren’t always taken down when racing.
Even though the couple raced Orca in the 2016 race, their experience was still limited and they had sights on cruising to faraway places. Preparing for the Bermuda Race has been their way of gaining experience before taking off cruising. “This race is so professional,” said Harry. “The way the whole thing is run with such high standards; we like that.”
The crew was new together this year, so they decided to do the Off Soundings distance race just before last week’s start. “We got dead last,” said Harry, ‘but even though we didn’t do well, we learned more about the boat and the people.”
The crew of five also consisted of a young Coastguardsman, Steve Meredith, and navigator Bill Harms, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Their strategy was to stay west of the rhumb line. “We did the best we could,” said Bill. “We can’t point the best and wound up 20 miles east of that line after crossing the Gulf Stream. The winds came in, and the boat close reached most of the way to Bermuda.
“It was rough water, 25 knots, and we were comfortable,” said Harry. “We were just making way. She was really in her element.”
They knew they were doing well in the fleet from notes sent via the tracker. “Selkie was our target,” Harry said about the 32-footerin their class. “Once the seas got rough, we picked up on him nicely.”
The 2016 race was Mary’s first time “overnight on a moving boat.” In the middle of that race, she said, “Never again,” after a bout of seasickness. By the time they made it to Bermuda, she said she would give it another go.
Mary was the cook. The crew applauded her creations including her Sicilian tuna. And the one day she was seasick during this race, she said they were on their own. When asked what they ate that day, Bill responded, “We starved that day.”
That seasickness had Mary singing the same sorrowful tune as in 2016., but the crew asked her on Thursday if she’d do it again. “I guess so,” she said laughing. “I’d do it again.”
Read full results via bermudarace.com.