The Newport to Bermuda Race is over and all boats have safely arrived in Newport. The 635-mile biennial Newport Bermuda Race is the oldest regularly scheduled ocean race, one of very few international distance races and one of just two of the world’s regularly scheduled races held almost entirely out of sight of land. Founded in 1906, the Bermuda Race was held for the 50th time this year. The safety of this race was called into question because of the weather forecast, not for high winds at the start, but for severe weather for the second day into the race. This was problematic because on the second-day teams would be right in the middle of the racecourse without sight of land. And the weather forecast was downright scary. “NE-easterly winds will become strong and widespread from near 38N south through Bermuda. There will be overall little change in this through the 20th. There will be frequent periods of near gale force winds, especially from 36N south to Bermuda from tomorrow afternoon through the 20th. Wind gusts to gale to strong gale will be prevalent near Bermuda and north to 35N during the 19th-20th due to the developing low in the area coinciding with numerous areas of squalls. Winds are forecast to veer to SE-southerly at Bermuda north to 34N during the 20th. For swells, these will remain below 6 feet from coastal Southern New England south to near 38N during the next 3 days. Larger swell sets up to 10 feet will be present from today through the 20th due to active weather and these will be fairly short in period.” Source: Weather Routing, Inc. (WWI), the official weather forecaster for the event. Because of the dire conditions, about 54 teams dropped out of the race, many of them the smaller boats who would have the most difficult time in high winds and huge swells. The above description of the “go/no go” dilemma forced on teams makes the next piece of information all the more incredible. It’s all about High Noon and the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team.
Steve and Heidi Benjamin owned High Noon, a Tripp 41, and donated it to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) Sailing Foundation. Ralf Steitz, who is the president of the Sailing Foundation, has raced for many years in Manhasset Bay and from all accounts, is doing one fantastic job heading up the Foundation over at USMMA. Many readers will recognize Steve Benjamin as he has been an active frostbiter in Manhasset Bay over the years. He and his wife Heidi have supported the sport of sailing and junior sailors for many years.
The USMMA Sailing Foundation loaned High Noon to the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team at American Yacht Club (Rye, NY). High Noon is just 41 feet and had on board a crew of three adults and seven teenagers. High Noon was the second boat in the fleet to finish overall. The only boat that beat them to Bermuda was Comanche, Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark’s 100-footer, skippered by Ken Read and with Stan Honey as tactician, who smashed the Open record when she finished at 4:22:53 EDT on Sunday breaking the elapsed time record with a professional crew. High Noon sailed in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, Class 10 with a mostly amateur crew of seven young sailors ranging in age from 16 to 18 along with three adults. She is the second smallest boat to take line honors. When High Noon reached the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club marina, she was the only Bermuda Race boat in the harbor, and she stood first on corrected time in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division and—even more impressively—she stood second in the fleet on elapsed time. The young sailors underwent hands-on safety training and worked closely with the navigator, skipper, and watch captains to gain experience in leadership roles. Some of the sailors helped deliver boats home from Bermuda and Hawaii. They are committed to the project, and so are their mentors.
Information about the Bermuda Race can be found at www.bermu darace.com.