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The Bermuda Race has come a long way since 1906 when the start of the race was in Gravesend Bay when only three teams began the 635-mile passage to Bermuda. Last Friday afternoon, June 17th, 157 boats in 13 classes in five divisions got underway off Castle Hill Lighthouse, at the entrance to Newport Harbor, in the 44th Newport-Bermuda Race. The Race Committee onboard a Coast Guard cutter gave each division a downwind start, ratcheting the excitement level up another notch for those who ventured out in boats large and small to send off their family and friends on this major ocean racing event. The first 18 hours of this classic provided a challenge to navigators and tacticians in the light northerly winds. Most of the fleet was made up of IMS rated cruiser racers (102 boats) with 27 yachts sailing in a separate non-spinnaker class and 12 two-man yachts sailing in the double-handed class. Weather, as usual, will play a determining role in this year's race, as it has in the past. The fleet started out in light winds out of the SE, with wind velocity at < 5 knots. By the time yachts reported back to land on Sunday, June 20th, the seas were 2 feet, with winds in the 18-knot range. One boat was dismasted during a huge storm during the second night at sea, and was reported sailing under her own power back to port. Several other boats had severe damage to their yachts and are also retiring from the race.

Several local sailors and friends from harbors nearby were on the starting line last Friday. William McFaul is on Free Fall, his Swan 44 (Port Washington YC). Also from Port Washington YC is Bob Limoggio on Cabaret, a Tripp 47. John Browning, from Manhasset Bay YC is sailing on Juggernaut, owned by William Musetti out of American YC. Jim Miller, who has family still living in Port Washington, is on his yacht, Antipodes, a SNC 52. Couper Duerr, a nephew of Jean Shope (a familiar face on our bay, seen frequently on Race Committee) is sailing on Kodiak, with Randy Green out of NYYC. John Storck, who is well-known in this area, but lives in Huntington is also on board Kodiak. Jim Sykes, who grew up in our area, is on Bombardino, a SNC 52. M.D. Schulman out of Sea Cliff YC is sailing Charlie V, his J442. Rich du Moulin, from Larchmont YC, who also grew up here, learning to sail in the junior program at Knickerbocker YC, is on his Lora Ann, and is sailing in the double-handed class with Chris Reyling, who grew up in Sea Cliff. Rich and Chris are trying for a repeat of Rich's first place victory captured in the last Bermuda Race. And Jim Mertz, who sails out of American YC, but does not have roots in our area, can't be overlooked. He is 92 years old and sailing in his 30th Bermuda Race. Last month when your reporter showed awe and respect for such longevity, his comment? "Well, I'm not sailing in the spinnaker division!" Other boats that may be familiar to readers include: Blue Yankee, Bob Towse, Storm Trysail; Mensae, Erling Kristiansen, LHYC; Gold Digger, Jim Bishop, AYC; Brown-Eyed Girl, Scott Dinhofer, IHYC; Cygnette, William Mayer, IHYC; and Vixen, Dietrich Weisman, NYYC.

Roy Disney and Pyewacket, a new MAXz, an 86-foot sled returned to Newport with the expectation of not only breaking the record for the Big Boat division, but smashing it. Disney's previous Pyewacket set the present record of 53 hours 39 minutes and 22 seconds, and they have high expectations of knocking at least 15 hours off that time. He has his work cut out for him, as two other yachts will provide some stiff competition this year: Hasso Plattner's, Morning Glory, and Windquest, sailed by Dick and Doug, from Ada, MI. Morning Glory is identical to Disney's sled, with swing keels. Windquest, a Reichel Pugh designed 86 footer relies on water ballast tanks for her stability instead of the complex swing keels that the other two boats employ. The last time these three boats raced each other was in the Caribbean over the winter, where Pyewacket led at the first windward mark, but lost their way further down the course. After a beautiful downwind start, with set spinnakers, the three yachts were very close as they disappeared into the fog that had settled over Newport. Though the Disney team was seen in Newport preparing and practicing for the "big race," victory was denied them this year. Morning Glory took line honors when she crossed the finish line off St. David's Lighthouse at 14:58:31 EDT. The unofficial elapse time was 48 hours, 28 minutes and 31 seconds. Pyewacket, finished five hours and 15 minutes later to take second place. Windquest was third. No other boats finished by press time. Full results next week.

Newport is a busy port this week. Immediately after the start of the Bermuda Race, the UBS Trophy Regatta started. The wind has been spectacular for this classic match racing event between America's Cup winner Alinghi, the Swiss syndicate and Oracle, out of San Francisco. This challenge between these two is an unofficial match race to raise awareness and produce excitement with match racing, and keep interest alive until the next Cup race in 2007. At press time, Alinghi won the first two races on the first day, and Oracle won both races the next two days. All races are sailed right off the shore at Fort Adams, with close views of the two boats as they circle and cover each other. Live commentary explains each maneuver and adds to the excitement. More results to follow next week.

Upcoming event: Mystic Seaport has an interesting new exhibit called Women and the Sea. For centuries, the quest to sail the world's waters was depicted as a conflict between man and the sea. Truth be known, there was many a woman who sailed the high seas. Mary Patten was a young captain's wife who piloted a clipper ship around Cape Horn in 1865, and Anne Bonny and Mary Read, were legendary female pirates who roamed the Caribbean in 1719. While history highlights explorers, sailors and maritime merchants as men, women's experiences reveal that they have always played an active role in maritime affairs. In the last century, women served with pride in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, explored the world as scientists, worked in commercial fishing, and raced in sailing competitions, including the America's Cup. Women and the Sea, which opens on July 2, is the nation's first comprehensive exhibit on the active role that women have played and continue to play in maritime history. Mystic Seaport, 75 Greenmanville Avenue, Mystic CT. For more information, visit www.mysticseaport.org or call 860.572.5315.

A full report of local sailing results - both Thirsty Thursday and weekend racing - will appear in next week's column.


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