The Lure of Family, Friendship and Camaraderie

June 18, 2022

By Sean McNeill


Besides the many challenges that the Newport Bermuda Race presents, one of the lures that brings sailors back year after year is the chance to do the race with friends or family. Many boats in the fleet have multiple generations in the crew. The occasion of Father’s Day on Sunday, June 19, adds another dimension to the familial aspect.

“This will be my eighth Bermuda Race, but it will be special this year because I’m sailing with my son, Griffin,” said 54-year-old Latimer Spinney (Newport, R.I.), who’s racing on the R/P 69 Wizard, chartered by Fred Detwiler and Bruce Aikens, aboard which there are four sets of fathers and sons racing.

“He’s 20 and doing his second Bermuda Race, and it’s cool that I get to do this with him,” said Spinney. “He’s the bowman and I’m the pitman, so I’ll be backing him up. We’re going off on an adventure together and we don’t know what lies ahead. The Bermuda Race can be light air or it can be a total fight, you don’t know what you’re going to get until you start. It’s a great way to strengthen the friendship and camaraderie with your son.”

“The Bermuda Race is one of those races when you get a chance to do it, you’re always looking forward to it,” said Griffin Spinney (Newport, R.I.). “Being a local Newporter, starting from my hometown is always special. It’s one of those races everyone around world talks about. But it’s ten times more special to be doing it with my dad. Growing up with him and seeing the boats he’s raced and ran, the biggest thing he’s taught me is to be a hard worker. It’s not the loudest person that gets noticed the most, but the hardest working person. I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities because of that lesson.”

For 58-year-old Matthew Pilon (Middletown, R.I.), skipper of the Oyster 58 Liberty Call, which won Class 12 in the 2018 race, the lure is the chance to race with his son and reconnect with classmates from years gone by.

“The biggest appeal for me is the group of folks I do it with. I went to the U.S. Naval Academy. This year six of the eight crew were in my class at the academy. My son will also be aboard—he did his first Bermuda Race with me at age 15—and one of his close friends is joining us. It’s a great group of guys and we have a lot of fun with it. Everything about it is appealing—challenge, sailing, camaraderie. They’re all big parts of it.”

There’s also the lure of Bermuda, a 20-square-mile idyllic oasis in the vast Atlantic Ocean.

“I just love it; love going offshore,” said 73-year-old Rives Potts, skipper of the classic McCurdy & Rhodes 48 Carina and a two-time winner of the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy (2010, ’12). “I can’t wait to get to Bermuda. Every time we get within 50 (nautical) miles, you start to smell frangipani, see the silhouette of the island, the stars seem to come down to the ocean… you almost just want to keep going.”

Carina was famously raced by the father-son duo of Richard S. and Richard B. Nye and won the St. David’s Lighthouse in 1970 and again in 1982. Potts’ crew includes his two sons and three other sets of fathers and sons. “It’s nice to get out there and away from the sins of the earth. No one’s allowed to talk politics onboard. We’re going to have a good time, good food and enjoy ourselves.”

This year’s race represents a return to action for 75-year-old Van Metre, who has restored his family’s yacht, Running Tide, after reacquiring it several years ago. Beau and his father, Albert, won the St. David’s Lighthouse in 1976.

“It’s always fun going to Bermuda, I’ve been doing the race since I was a kid with my parents. I like ocean racing, and it’s a great ocean race, a challenge for everybody in the crew. It’s a fun race to get to Bermuda, there’s a lot of excitement and fun when you get there. You’re going to a beautiful place, and that’s always fun.”

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