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Bermuda Race features dismasting. speed records and overboards

Jan 1, 2003
From Ocean Navigator #124 September/October 2002

From Ocean Navigator #124 September/October 2002

This summer's 42nd running of the Newport to Bermuda Race was notwithout incident; one boat was dismasted and on other boats several sailors were thrown overboard, although each was recovered without injury to boat or crew. One reason for the mayhem was a long eddy in the Gulf Stream, some 200 miles long, that gave the fleet a thrilling ride — and a five-knot boost. Strong cross winds added to the speed but were to blame for the nasty seas.

Aboard Morning Glory two crew were thrown into the water when a cunningham strap broke, launching the men 15 feet into the air and then into the water. The helmsman witnessed the incident and immediately pressed the Man Overboard alarm, which also released the vessel's emergency flotation equipment, a Man Overboard Module. The two swam to the floats and were reportedly back aboard in minutes.

The maxi Boomerang was enjoying a front position when it, too, lost a crewmember overboard. He slipped overboard during a sail change but was back aboard in two minutes.

A crewmember aboard the vessel Bright Star was thrown into the water seconds after he came on deck to assist in repairing the mainsail. The helmsman instantly responded by putting the helm down and turning the boat 180 degrees into a "quick stop" maneuver. The man was recovered, apparently sans seaboots.

Each vessel crew that experienced man-overboard incidents credited their mandatory training prior to the race with the swift recoveries.

The Andrews 70 Trader was dismasted while the vessel was surfing down 25- to 30-foot seas in the Gulf Stream. The vessel was in the lead, ahead of Pyewacket and Boomerang, when an enormous wave, estimated at over 40 feet, lifted the vessel from astern, causing it to careen down the face and bury its bow in the trough. "The mast instantly broke in two pieces," a crewmember reported in an email message. At this point the vessel's rod rigging was considered a liability on account of the difficulty of cutting through it with a hacksaw or removing the pins. The crew determined that only a set of explosive charges would be a welcome addition to the boat's emergency kit in future. Trader limped to Bermuda under a jury-rig.

Roy Disney's 75-foot Pyewacket won the race, shattering the existing record set by Boomerang in 1996 for an unofficial time of 53 hours, 39 minutes and 22 seconds.