Report From the Fringe
from Sailing Anarchy
Another Sailing Anarchy Bermuda 1-2 report from the fringe:
We love hearing first-person stories, especially those from Joe 12-pack - guys like you and me. The Bermuda 1-2 is a 635-mile, double handed race from Newport Rhode Island to Bermuda. Anyone who has done a double handed race of any distance can tell you just how bitchin' they really are. Not quite so intense as single-handing, yet certainly more involved than fully crewed, double handing is a really fun way to go sailboat racing. I'm not sure 635 miles still constitutes fun, but for some it is. Our friends Rich Ellis and Jan Brandt did it on their N/M 30, and here is their story. Enjoy.
The Bermuda 1-2 was a fantastic race right from the starting gun. Before that, those who know could tell you it was a bit trying for me: Murphy rode the whole way. As a result, the only experience I had sailing Insufferable, my aluminum N/M MORC 30 was that of delivering the boat from Annapolis to Newport for the start. I'll try to recap my experience for the way down, and let my return crew, Jan, describe the way back. (What is it like to fly to Bermuda to sail back on a boat you've never seen with someone you've never met?) He might even be able to clarify Leg 1; at times I was too tired to remember it.
Our class (Class III) was made up of boats of similar size: Two Hobie 33's, Two Quests, (30 and 33) a Tripp 33, an Olson 30, a 28 foot Pogo and Insufferable. At 6800# I was clearly the heavyweight in this crowd. I expected that if the wind went aft, I'd be tail end Charlie, but I might have a shot in a close reach in heavy air. As it turned out, we got the wind and Class III was probably the most competitive in the fleet; the boats were handicapped appropriately enough that most finished Leg 1 within minutes on corrected time. (Barrett Holby and his rocket-powered Quest 30 notwithstanding.) Boat speed was closer than expected too. In fact, on the return leg, after 150 miles we had the Pogo and Olson within sight and were exchanging positions regularly. At least as important, Class III included a fantastic group of people that really had a great time together. Much credit goes to Drew Wood for this. He really promoted the idea of a 30' Class and tried to help everyone to make it to the line, often to the detriment of his own preparations. Without his help, I would have been watching this 1-2 on his cool website race tracker.
Leg 1: I pooched the start. With all the last-minute preparations, I figured I'd read the sailing instructions on the way out, but didn't. Not sure if I ever did read the entire thing. And I couldn't find my watch, so I just headed for the line after everyone else in my class did. It's a long race, who cares?
I was a little surprised to find that Insufferable was relatively fast in the light stuff of the first day. I was doing okay by the time the fog thickened in the afternoon. I didn't see anyone in Class III again until Bermuda. In fact I saw few boats, although the position reports showed several were within a few miles.
Day 1 was light so hand steering was the order of the day (and night). I was told that I should get rest early. I should have listened, but the night was a treat. It was completely black except for the incredibly strong luminescence causing a display of glowing dolphin antics that I'll remember the rest of my life. Also, I sailed through several shoals of fish that left an expanding ring of luminescence in their path to escape. Really cool. When I tried to show Jan this effect on the way home, the school of fish turned out to be a whale. Somewhat less cool; we just missed him.
By Monday the wind had filled in from the ENE, so I was pretty sure that I was getting killed by the lighter boats. I briefly set the chute a couple of times, but wanted to sail a more southerly course than I could hold with it. I'm not the best setting the chute solo anyway, and I really felt I'd burned myself here. At least I wasn't seasick anymore. One thing I learned in this race is that EVERYBODY has some problem that is going to slow them down, but it's a long race so you can't beat yourself up over it. I wish I knew that then; I was getting down. I was surprised later to hear I was holding my own.
I approached the Gulf Stream on Monday noon. I've never sailed through the Stream on a small boat before and admit I was more than a little worried as the most incredible wall of cloud and lightning rose in front of me.
The weather in the stream was incredible. White-out rain squalls that knocked the ocean flat and hurt my skin; winds to 30-35 knots; big, square waves running in random fashion and breaking too often. A sideways ride down a 15 foot breaking wave in a 30 foot boat is not that much fun. I took some comfort in knowing that the hull and carbon deck made for a pretty tough nut to crack, but the inline spreader rig did make me nervous. I had added an inner forestay, and running backstays for additional support and was always glad I did.
I ran most of the stream under double reefed main only. I furled the jib and planned to use the storm jib on the inner forestay, but the autopilot was useless and I couldn't get forward to set the jib. Admittedly, this was not a great set up, made worse by the fact that the tack of the second reef point was beginning to tear.
I think it was that evening I called Jan on the sat phone to ask "how long is this shit going to last." I didn't get through and hand steering in that weather made another attempt with the phone almost impossible. As a result, I didn't report my position for more than 16 hours which created some worry back home. But, I was going pretty fast and the wind was forward of the beam. I hoped the heavier boat was an advantage in the stream. I still think it was, but any illusions I had that a couple thousand extra pounds would make the ride more comfortable were plain stupid. The noise of sailing in these conditions in a small, aluminum boat is deafening.
Monday night I cleared the stream, but a few squalls were still roaming. Some had such low ceilings that they created the impression of trees near land. I was getting a little spooked and even pulled out the paper chart to confirm I was still in the middle of the Atlantic. I was over-tired and decided I needed some real sleep. For the first time on the trip I went below for my nap, setting the timer for 17 min. I never got comfortable and took my remaining naps on the cockpit floor or on the rail.
Tuesday was the day I had been waiting for. I got to take the foul weather gear off and change my underwear. Everyone should change their underwear after the Gulf Stream. Tuesday was one of those perfect sailing days of sun, 10-15 SW and small seas. I'd been plagued with engine and charging problems and was again hand steering to conserve batteries, but it was such a great day that I started to forget how tired I was. It was really easy to remember how sore my ass was. I lost all the cushions in the Gulf Stream and carbon decks punish. It wasn't until the second leg that I discovered that the chicken chute makes a nice seat, even when wet.
I was really spent when the time came for my first-ever approach to Bermuda. I was getting continuously headed (as I'd been told I would, but failed to adequately correct for) and was much farther offshore than I wanted to be. I was unable to distinguish the lights from the background and was having trouble believing whatever I did see. Somehow I managed to grope my way to the finish line at about 1am.
Good thing for that sat phone; it was time to wake Jan for a reality check. The poor bastard must have thought I was nuts: I was waking him up in Florida to ask to confirm the characteristics of Spit Buoy! I'm a little surprised he showed up for the return trip after that. Then I called St. Georges Dingy and Sports Club to tell them I was just too tired and needed some help getting in. Their great hospitality began immediately as they came out and led me and three other recent finishers into St. Georges harbor. They even came aboard and docked and secured the boat for me. The bad news: the bar didn't open 'til 10am.
We love hearing from the guys who get out there and do the races that most of probably won't get to do. It's also refreshing when they are told by guys who don't pretend to be rock stars. Frequent SA forum contributor Rail Meat sent us the report on his experiences in the recently held Bermuda 1-2. Enjoy.
The award ceremonies Sunday night marked the end to the 13 edition of what is arguably New England's premier short handed offshore event. Organized by Newport Yacht Club and Goat Island Yacht Club, this event has some great camaraderie and even better sailing. Past competitors have gone on to compete in the OSTAR, Two Star, and the BOC. In this past year, three of ten finishers of the Around Alone were Bermuda 1-2 alumni: Brad Van Liew, Derek Hatfield and Alan Paris.
This race attracts a diverse and eclectic group of sailors, any of whom come back to do this event over and over again. Juan Perez, on his Tartan 33, has been in every edition of this race, despite claims each time that he is not going to be back the next time. It is not uncommon for skippers to have done the race 4 or more times.
This year's race saw 13 first time entrants, and boats that included an Open 60, Open 50, Aerodyne 38's, a couple of Tripp designs, two Hobie 33s, an Olson 30, a Nelson Marek, a pair of Quests, a Pogo, a couple of C+C's and several others. If you were at all interested in the relative merits and speed of different boats for offshore passages, this was the race to get to see them side-by-side.
This year's edition also offered plenty of action, comedy and challenges. We also had a brand new web site, courtesy of Drew Wood, including forum, picture gallery, surveys, entrant data, positions, and really cool race tracker. Check it out at for more information as well as the results.
Leg 1: When the boats moved off the dock for leg one on June 7, Ray Renaud on Aggressive could not seem to get his C+C to go into reverse. A quick dive into the 52 degree water revealed the problem, the fact that the 2 blades of his feathering prop decided to drop to the bottom of Newport Harbor. End of Ray's race? Nah. He grabs a hammer, his spare (!) 2 bladed prop, a nut and cotter pin and dives the shaft. Bang of the old hub, slide on the spare prop, spin on the nut and pop in the cotter pin. And while he had to sail out of the harbor to the starting line since his class ten minute warning had started, it did not seem to effect his overall results since he took a bullet in his class for the first leg.
Doug Shearer on Nimros had some trouble getting his main up and had to strip down his primary winch in the starting area, and Rich Ellis on Insufferable could not get his main all the way up until he realized that he run a couple of wraps of rigging tape around the mast.
We started out in light winds from the Southeast that died to nothing as soon as we cleared Newport harbor. After sitting in the fog for Saturday afternoon, the wind filled in 10-15 knots from the north east that evening and the fleet started moving for the first way point. By the time Sunday evening rolled around, we were approaching the top of the Gulf Stream meander and the wind died. Dying south to north, the back of the fleet got a couple of extra hours of progress and the fleet compressed as Monday morning dawned. At this point, we had lost Victor Pinherio on Alegria to autopilot problems and Brian Guck on Curlew to a broken gooseneck.
I have never gone into the Gulfstream with out a frontal system sitting on top of the north wall, and this trip was no exception. Monday morning dawned with no wind and towering clouds sitting 20 miles off to the south like the gates of hell. The wind filled in from the south and south west and started blowing 20-25. It was perfect conditions for the jib top reacher, and I kept it up for the rest of the race. The meander was giving us a 3+ knot boost, and I recorded a short period of 5 knot current. The front that had been moving in front of us had built up 9-12 foot swells and confused sea, and several boats were banged around hard. Mark Morwood on Por Favor woke up to find every item in his cabin tossed around when he got knocked down, and several of the skippers experienced autopilot problems. Ray Marine may have redesigned their control heads but apparently they still are prone to leaking. David Sherman on Palangi ended up hand steering most of the 635 miles. Rich Ellis also spent all but 3 hours of his 5 day trip on deck and Drew Wood, on Banzai, ended up hand steering most of the trip due to battery bank issues.
Once out of the stream we suffered from a 4 hour period of very light winds but there was a nice cold eddy that gave us a 2+ knot current boost. As the Bermuda high started to exert its influence the wind filled in from the southwest at 10-15 knots and the rest of the ride in was under sunny skies and light seas. As always, the 9 miles between the northern reef light and Kitchen Shoals light was the longest 9 miles on the ocean. The fleet results were fairly compacted in leg one, but one boat stands out. Rick McCally sailed the shit out of his Pierson 33 and just crushed the fleet on corrected time. There was a period three days into the race when Rick and I were wallowing in no winds, about 100 yards apart. You know you are not having a good day when you are 75% of the way through a 635 mile race and a boat that you owe 73 seconds a mile to is sitting next to you. It was enough to put me off my feed. Barrett Holby also had a fantastic leg, just relentlessly putting miles on the fleet.
Leg 2: In Bermuda, the fleet was hosted in fine style by the St. Georges Dinghy and Sports Club. Families and crew for the return leg flew down to join the skippers. We enjoyed several parties at the Club, countless Dark and Stormies, a couple of days of gunk holing and also were able to watch as Alan Paris returned to Bermuda to a big reception and party.
The return leg kicked off on Friday June 21 with a front system moving off the east coast and heading South East down towards Bermuda. A separate low had passed over Bermuda in the previous couple of days. Winds were 15 off the line, and the broad reach tricked a number of skippers into flying their kites. But within an hour of the start, winds picked up to 23-25 and we found ourselves overpowered. I provided some good laughs for the fleet as Indigo executed perhaps the sloppiest takedown ever attempted. At one point I was pretty certain my next broach would either take out either Mike Millard on Wild Eyes or the light on Kitchen Shoal.
The big news of the first day was Everest Horizontal's capsize. As word started to trickle through the fleet on Saturday morning every one was bummed for Tim. Tim had entered the Bermuda 1-2 as a way to stretch his legs after finishing the Around Alone and it also gave him a chance to get his Shore Captain for the Around Alone, Rick McKenna, out on the water and in a race with the big Open boat. To have something like this happen was terrible.
The big decision was to head east or west of the rhumb line. East was much shorter, but the weather forecasts were threatening to leave us completely becalmed for the latter third of the race as the front moved through and the high filled in behind it. West added more than 100 miles to the trip, since you had to go really far west to avoid the meander. But it offered the possibility that what little winds you would have at the end of the trip would fill in from the west first.
Almost everybody chose to go east, and we all regretted it but not because of the weather. A giant warm eddy that was to the east and north of the meander ended up merging back into the stream and effectively making the meander much larger. Instead of making a short 40 mile crossing of the stream, we ended up crossing the stream and diving straight into the meander. We had 24 hours of 3+ knot currents facing us on the nose and no kind words were said for the router that most of us had used. The few boats that chose to go west, like Dave Sherman on Palangi, were able to counteract the additional distance with some great speed. And really put a hurt on the rest of fleet. Winds blew 25-35 for the first 48 hours out of Bermuda, and we had a very large running sea. As we got up toward the Stream, the waves boxed up and it got much more rough. A line of squalls marched across the boats on Saturday, bringing rains so heavy that you could not tell where the air ended and the sea began. The top end wind speed in those squalls that I clocked on Indigo was 54.2 knots.
The bigger boats had an easier time of it, using their displacement to plow through the heavy stuff. Despite the conditions John Drodzal and Darren Wolter, on Ariana, were able to take showers and cook themselves some fine meals on the way home while they destroyed their class. 30,000 plus pounds of displacement comes in handy every now and then. Meanwhile, on the other end of the displacement spectrum Rich Ellis and Jan Brandt suffered on Insufferable with Power Bars, and their head consisted of the "bucket and chuck it" method. The rough seas and high winds caused a fair amount of damage in the fleet, including severely compromising the lower rudder bearing on Mike DeLorenzo's J boat, Coltrane. Unfortunately for the rest of Class II, his rudder problems did not seem to slow him up too much. Rich and Jan blew out their main sail, which was then patched up with duct tape and thread. Then they blew up their #2 head sail. On Indigo, we ripped the mount box for our hydraulic ram out of the side of the boat, blew up our vang, blew up the turning block for our main halyard, put a rip in our Asym, and put a rip in our Jib Top. Also, our Harken furler shook all of its set screws into the inky deep, leaving us with no furling capabilities. Ted Robinson, on Topaz, was handicapped by the fact that he was solo on the way home, and Ned Caswell on Lolligag had to turn back to Bermuda with an injured ankle.
The bigger and faster boats used their speed to their advantage, breaking free of the stream while there was still wind left up north. Every one else was fucked, coming out of the stream with 10-15 knot winds that then dropped down to 5 knot winds on day 4. The only good news was that the seas were flat, which meant the apparent wind was not moving around on us. The #4 head sails got stuffed below and the kites came out for the next 24 + hours. Occasionally, the wind would clock towards the bow and we would swap the Jib Top for the kite, but the asym got a lot of work for the last half of the trip. We finished up early Thursday morning, right after which the wind dropped to zero and stranded the remaining boats in a sweaty hell of glassy seas and roasting sun. Unlike the first leg, where the fleet was fairly compact, in the return leg there was a huge spread between the front of the fleet and the back of the fleet.
In the end, Tim Troy on Margaret Anna and Barret Holby on Wazimo ended up walking home with a ton of plate. Both sailed great races for both legs and kicked some serious ass. The competitors are a great group of people and there was some fun and challenging sailing going on. Good times.