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Kiwi Spirit Triumphs in Maiden Race - First Boat Home in 680 Mile Ocean Race

June 13, 2013

The eighteenth run of this biannual event, solo to Bermuda and Two Handed back to Newport, Rhode Island, the Bermuda One-Two Race, got off to a good start in fair winds. The race began at 11:00 am with Class I. I was alone in Class 6 and was not to start until 11:40 am and carried the largest handicap by far.  Within four hours I had passed most, if not all of the yachts, and was racing along at 10 to 11 knots (11 to 12 miles per hour).
However, by the end of the first twenty four hours the wind died and we drifted at 3 knots. I know now the frustration of calms. No engine can be used except in an emergency or running in neutral to charge batteries. Yachtsmen do not train for such lights winds. They just put on the engine and motor along till the wind picks up, but not in a regatta where engines are not allowed. In my preparation I had not trained for such light winds, the most frustrating to a sailor. However, on my circumnavigation I will experience them, no doubt, as I cross the doldrums and so this was good preparation.


Then the winds came howling back and it was a beat (into the wind) sail all the way to Bermuda. Kiwi pounded into the onslaught, and mile after mile she stretched out a lead finishing first in Bermuda by some six hours (times not official yet). I have to be pleased with the boat’s performance and mine was not bad either. It was physically quite demanding when the boat would heal past forty degrees and come slamming down off a wave. I marveled at the strength of the boat and as with all sailors, fear for the mast to break or the keel to drop off. Kiwi Spirit was being tested, as was I.


The race has so far seen three of the 26 entrants retire and head back to Newport, principally to the heavy weather.


Another appears to have entangled its keel in debris or fishing net so badly that it was abandoned and the skipper picked up by a fellow competitor. And most worrisome of all, at this time one boat is slowly drifting north, away from the finish line, and all efforts to each the skipper by radio have failed. Concerns mount. More to come.


I have had a solid four hours sleep and now at 5:00 pm Bermuda time (one hour ahead of eastern) it is time to dress and moisten my throat at the designated host location, St George's Dingy and Sports Club.


Tomorrow I will clean the boat and begin the preparation for the two handed return to Newport starting on June 20th. On this leg I shall be joined by my son, Alan, a veteran of this event, and who in 2002 completed a solo, five-stop circumnavigation. It will be great to race together as a team on the doubled handed return.

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