Two New Kings Are Crowned in the 2004 Bermuda Race

Smaller boats take the top two trophies.

While we would have preferred to see 2 less Swan 45s (Alliance, the first in our class and eventual Light House trophy winner, and Better Than) at the Royal Bermuda YC early Tuesday morning, it was still a thrill for the crew of the Swan 45 Plenty to see how empty the docks were. That's a sight that most sailors doing the Newport Bermuda Race don't get to see all that often unless they're frequent fliers on maxi programs. So as we sat at the club quaffing a few barley-based breakfast beverages, we congratulated ourselves on a good race. Granted, we'd been unable to get out ahead of Alliance and Better Than, but we'd managed to stave off a strong push from Richie Schulmann's Temptress, an IMX 45, and stay ahead of many larger boats. We also saw the wind shut down as we crossed the finish line at 0650 Tuesday morning, so we were pretty sure we'd be able to save our time on the boats behind. The final tally? Third out of 15 boats in Class 6, and 9th overall in the 109-boat IMS Cruiser Racer fleet. Not bad. There's ritual to all stages of a Bermuda Race, even after the finish. After you cross the line, the sails come down and get flaked, all the bagged sails below come on deck, you find your gear, and maybe change into some clean(er) clothes. It takes about two hours to get from the finish line off St. David's light, so there's plenty of time to finish those chores and take in the scenery. Bermuda's a pretty island, especially if you've been out in the ocean for a few days. As you go through Two-Rock Passage, you hail the RBYC and they send small powerboats manned by youngsters from the club who tell you where to go, and place themselves between you and rocks so you won't suffer an after-race grounding. If you're lucky, there are friends and family waiting on the dock to cheer you in. After the boat's tied up and squared away, it's up to the bar, which is open 24 hours a day during the event. It doesn't matter what time it is, you're getting a beverage. It usually takes a few hours to clear customs and immigration, there usually more than a few drinks consumed. Then, it's off to the hotel for that long-awaited shower, then sleep, sleep, sleep. If you're lucky, you've carved enough time out of your schedule to enjoy Bermuda before you fly home. If you're really lucky, you've got the time to deliver the boat back and you can see how much space there actually is down below when there isn't a full crew, and how nice running before a southwesterly for 635 miles can be. Two new kings were crowned this Bermuda Race, two classes that may help smash our country's Grand Prix malaise, the Transpac 52 and the Swan 45. Rosebud, Roger Sturgeon's heavily campaigned boat took home the top raceboat trophy, The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse trophy. In doing so, Rosebud beat such top-notch boats as Carrera, Titan, and Blue Yankee. It was Sturgeon's first Bermuda Race, and an impressive debut. Taking the largest class was Dominick Porco's Swan 45 Alliance, which beat out bigger boats that were expected to do quite well, such as Ptarmigan, Zaraffa, and Donnybrook. Alliance took home the big one, the St. Davids Lighthouse Trophy, and made it clear that the small but growing Swan 45 class is and will be a force to be reckoned with. They're fun to sail, reward a skilled crew, and will be hard to beat in any cruiser racer class. The general consensus was that this year's race was a cakewalk, but that may be because the 2002 version was so brutal. Of course, it wasn't so much fun if you finished any time after about noon on Tuesday when the breeze shut down. In Thursday morning's Royal Gazette, one of Bermuda's newspapers, there was a results page that showed more than a few boats still unfinished. If you made it to Bermuda this year, well done. If you didn't, now's the time to start plotting your way into a raceboat program that's got the race on their 2006 calendar. I'll be there, and I hope to see you on the porch of the RBYC with a sunburned face, tired eyes, and a cold beer in your hand.