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New Division Announced for Newport Bermuda 2004

Super Maxis and Canting-Keelers Get the Nod

December 15, 2003
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One of the most respected and well-known races in the World is the biennial Newport Bermuda race. Run by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda YC, both clubs where tradition and propriety are highly valued, Bermuda Race is one of the more old-school races around. But that doesn’t mean that the race committee, led by John Winder, in his second time around as committee head, isn’t forward-thinking. For Bermuda Race 2004 boats with water ballast and canting keels will be welcomed into a new division measured under a modified IMS rule. Look for uber-maxis with familiar names to take part in the event: Windquest, (nee Zephyrus V), and her two younger siblings, Pyewacket and Morning Glory, both Reichel/Pugh designed canting-keel MaxZ86s, the Dubois-designed 90-footer, Genuine Risk, and maybe even couple of players from Down Under, Zana and Shockwave.

The new division, which will be called Division 5, or the “Big Boat Demonstration Division,” is open to IMS Racing yachts with speeds between 413.9 seconds per mile GPH and 344 seconds per mile GPH (roughly 12 1/2 hours faster than the traditional upper limit for IMS C/R & IMS Racing), based on the 2004 IMS Rule, and not exceeding 30 meters (98.4252 feet) LOA. All entries must meet ISAF/ORC regulations and Newport Bermuda Race safety and stability requirements.

The regular IMS Racing Division will be open to boats with water ballast, but not canting keels. Entries in this division may not rate faster than 414s/m GPH based on the 2004 IMS Rule and may not exceed 30 meters LOA. The IMS Racing Division races for the Gibb’s Hill Lighthouse Trophy.

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The IMS Cruiser/Racer Division is for conventional designs that don’t use water ballast or canting keels. Sailed by an amateur captain with a predominantly amateur crew-the 2004 IMS Regulations with US SAILING Prescription 104 limiting professionals will be applied-this division will sail for the traditional St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy.

“The effort has been to develop a venue for a growing contingent of super maxis. The IMS Big Boat Demonstration class will have its own elapsed time and corrected time trophies,” says Winder, who adds a caveat. “From a safety standpoint, we’ve always gone with full compliance with ORC Special Regulations Category One, but in the development of movable ballast boats very little attention has been paid to stability issues. Initially ORC simply tacked on 5 degrees to the stability index for water-ballasted boats and were about to do the same thing for canting-keel boats. We, through Jim Teeters, presented a paper at the ORC meetings in Barcelona last fall and identified the fact that there’s a lot more than meets the eye with canting ballast boats, especially as far as windward knockdowns and crash tacks, where the ballast ends up on the wrong side of the boat. We’ll have a stability standard in place that’s basically going to be the preliminary ORC stability for the next standard. It’s going to have limitations on the amount that keels can cant, similar to the way that New Zealand, Australia, and the Volvo 70 rules have their own set of standards.”

Rule 52 (stored energy) will be waived, with respect to movable ballast, but boats that use movable ballast of any type will be required to demonstrate their ability not only to move the ballast back and forth with stored energy, but also manually. Winder says that this requirement isn’t like the Open 60 requirement that asks that competitors show their ability to self-right after a capsize, but to show what the technique would be in the event that they lost all power and needed to simply center the balance.

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Some excerpts from the stability standards, which haven’t been completely finalized: “The cant mechanism must be shown to operate safely and efficiently. There shall be a fully redundant system for canting. There shall be a manual override system operable both upright and inverted. The cant mechanism shall be in a watertight compartment. Appendages forward of the cant keel shall be contained in a watertight compartment. Strong positive stops shall be fitted at the measurement cant angle and be sealed by the race committee. Rule 51 is modified to allow the moving of cant-keel ballast only. All other movable ballast as defined by Rule 51 shall be subject to the rule. Water-ballasted boats will have their set of standards, the canting-keel boats theirs. The big boat division won’t be drawn by what type of ballast they have, but by their speed limit over and above 414.”

As always, safety will be of paramount importance. “Some type of practical training has to be demonstrated,” says Winder. “We’re going to focus on how they’ll perform a quick-stop. Who knows, maybe they’ll develop some new technique for picking people up, especially because they’re liable to be in the next time zone before they’re able to turn. The stability standard and the safety requirements have yet to be nailed down, and we don’t want to issue a standard that’s just plain unattainable.”

When asked why the Bermuda race committee had decided to add this performance division, Winder answered by quoting from a letter written to the committee by Ken Read, who’s been heavily involved in the process: “Thanks to your committee for taking the time to tackle the IMS limits issue for the next Bermuda Race,” writes Read. “I believe your idea of having the standard Bermuda Race with the standard trophies and speed limits, along with a new high-speed class with a new set of trophies is as equitable as could be asked for. It promotes modern design creativity without obsolescing the investments that have been made in the traditional fleet.”

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Winder and the race committee are conscious of the feelings of classes that bring the numbers to Bermuda Race, the racer/cruisers. “We’ve always been very concerned for our core constituents,” he says. “For that reason, we have gone back on what we announced in April and set the upper limit of the Gibbs Hill division at 414 seconds a mile. The Gibbs Hill division will be the same as it was in 2002, for boats with a speed limit up to 414. The big boat division will be a division that will be faster than 414, with an upper speed limit of 344 seconds per mile because we’re trying to be inclusive while keeping some sort of a cap on how far the spread goes under the IMS.”

The new class may also mean some schedule changes for the race committee, according to Winder. “We used to have the finish line party on Sunday,” he says. “Two years ago, if Pyewacket hadn’t run into some light air, they would have finished during the party. In 2004, we may have to move the party to Saturday.”

The Newport Bermuda Race is really becoming 5 different races,” concludes Winder. “Three IMS divisions, an Americap non-spinnaker division, and an Americap double-handed division.” Information about the new class and the Newport Bermuda Race is available on the official website, www.bermudarace.com

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–Tony Bessinger

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