Newport Bermuda Preview

184 boats leave from Newport this Friday

In 1996, the Frers-designed ILC maxi Boomerang, owned by George Coumantaros, hustled the 635 nautical miles to Bermuda in 57h:31m:30s, a little less than two-and-a-half days. In doing so, the crew of Boomerang broke a 14-year-old record held by the Pedrick-designed maxi Nirvana, which had taken 62h:29m:16s to complete the race.

On the other end of the spectrum, the slowest edition of the race was in 1960 when Venturer took over 121 hours; that's an average speed of just 5.2 knots. That was also the year that Carleton Mitchell and the crew of Finisterre sailed to their third straight corrected-time win, a feat that's never been matched. And before you closet historians start sending e-mails; we're only considering the modern version of the Newport Bermuda race, which began in 1936. Prior to 1936 the Bermuda Race left from a few different East Coast locations, including Sandy Hook and New London.

If there's one consistent thing about Bermuda race, it's that there's nothing consistent about it. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, its associated eddies, and the sometime complex weather systems coming off the East Coast, no two races are the same. In 1998, the fleet started in a light breeze that just never got any better. Boats were still motoring in days after all the ceremonies had ended. In 2000, a strong reaching breeze rocketed the fleet to within about 100 miles of Bermuda, but then the breeze shut down, compressing the fleet so much that all the entries finished within 12 hours of one another. That's why the defending Lighthouse Trophy winner this year is Eric Crawford's Restless, a 37-year-old Pearson 41.

This year's edition of the Newport Bermuda race gets underway on Friday, June 14. One hundred and eighty-four boats, ranging from the record-holding ILC maxi to a Contessa 35, will sail the 635 nautical miles to that tiny chain of islands on the other side of the Gulf Stream known as the Onion Patch. A very big meander in the Stream, a couple of helpful-looking eddies, and a string of low pressure areas zooming off the coast should make this race one of the more interesting ones in a few years. "It's not high pressure we're monitoring this year," said Bill Biewenga, navigator on Kodiak. "It's lows." And with those lows will come some breeze, some big direction changes, and some scary holes. As of Wednesday, forecasters are calling for the Race to start in a Northeasterly breeze.

First Bermuda Race winner: Tamarlane, a 38-foot yawl, in a race that began in Gravesend Bay in 1906.

First Newport-Bermuda winner: Kiriwan, in 1936.

First IOR Winner: Circus Maximus, in 1978.

First IMS Winner: Puritan, 1986

Last IOR Winner: Congere, 1988

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