Please select your home edition
Gul 2018 October - Code Zero 728x90

Ted von Rosenvinge: Gulf Stream Society Profile

by Channing Reis 2 Dec 06:50 PST

Meet a 10-time competitor in the first of an occasional series on sailors who have joined the Newport Bermuda Race's society for those completing the race at least five times.

If you ask any Newport Bermuda Race veteran, there is a good chance they will recall their first race like it happened last weekend. Both the challenge and the stature of the 635-mile "Thrash to the Onion Patch" ensure most participants a storehouse of lasting and often life-changing memories. This assumes of course that one's resume does not also include an ascent of Mount Everest or a ride on the Space Shuttle.

For Ted von Rosenvinge, a 66-year-old engineer who grew up sailing Turnabouts and Rhodes 19s in the waters near Gloucester, Mass. (including Ipswich Bay and the Annisquam River), the perennial challenge of a berth to Bermuda is a thrill undiminished after more than 15 passages, 10 of them Newport Bermuda races spanning a quarter century. Ted has been crew, watch captain and navigator on a Swan 40 (Rainmaker), a J/133 (Matador), an Alden 54 ketch (Dove), a J/46 (Tabasco) and a Hinckley Bermuda 50 (Jambi). He easily earns a place in the newly constituted Gulf Stream Society for sailors who have completed five or more Newport Bermuda races.

As the 2020 Bermuda Race draws near, Ted has gone back to work preparing for his job as navigator aboard the J/133, Matador – a position he has held on three earlier thrashes—2012, 2014 and again in 2018, when Matador earned a third-place class finish. "The challenge was a large cold eddy ring, south of the Gulf Stream," Ted says. "We were lucky to hit it right by staying on the favorable west side of it."

Ted's offshore racing experience began in 1995 when he eagerly signed on for the odd-year Marion to Bermuda Race. His late father was a sailor whose experience included a Marblehead to Halifax race, and Ted's cousin singlehanded a Hinckley 41 to Bermuda in the 1980s. Together, father and son shared an 11-day delivery from Fort Lauderdale to Gloucester in 1991 on a 46-foot ketch.

Ted recalls nostalgically, "I was hooked." His racing in the years that followed often had him at sea during Father's Day, so Ted a made it practice to call his dad from the SATphone.

From 1996 onward, Ted sailed in nearly every Newport to Bermuda Race, up until 2016, when as navigator aboard the new Hinckley Bermuda 50 Jambi, he and his afterguard confronted the grim weather forecast, and made the decision to withdraw before the start. There was consensus among the vessel's brain trust that the relatively new boat was untested. Ted recalls the factual basis of the decision-making this way: "We had an experienced, capable and well-prepared crew, the first hull of new design and a weather forecast that caused a large fraction of the fleet to withdraw—15-foot square waves with 40-plus knot winds, in the ocean 'wilderness.'"

While acknowledging it was only a forecast, and actual conditions could be better or worse, Ted says the boat had not been tested under anything nearing the forecasted conditions. "We decided that 200 miles out to sea was not the place to run the test."

Ted quotes renowned high-altitude mountain climber Ed Viesturs, who famously said "Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory." To race or not to race—a call that ultimately resides with the skipper—invokes reasonable and prudent decision-making among most ocean racing veterans. It may explain in part why the Newport Bermuda Race has an enviable safety record.

In 2016, the worst-case weather never materialized, but neither were there any regrets among Jambi's crew. "The decision was a thoughtful one endorsed by the entire crew and based on the information we had," Ted explains. "No regrets. This is supposed to be fun. There will be other races."

One year later, Jambi's skipper and crew had a redemption tale to tell, taking line honors in the 2017 Marion to Bermuda Race. Preparation and patience had paid off.

"We had a great race," Ted says, "and were greeted by television cameras and a press interview at the dock of the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club. It sure felt great after missing 2016."

It was fitting that the skipper, John Levinson, jumped into the water for the camera, as did a few of the crew, including Ted. Champagne and a platter of Dark 'N Stormy's elevated the euphoria. A member of the Gosling family, which has seen their share of exhausted, yet sated sailors, served up the libations to the crew.

Flash-bulb memories of nearly a decade earlier, the 2008 race on Tabasco, a J/46, also owned and skippered by John Levinson, take a prominent place in Ted's Bermuda Race memories.

"We punched through the Gulf Stream and put up a No. 3 jib and fetched Kitchen Shoals in one tack," he says. He recounts that watch captain Dave Curtis made a call to use the smaller jib, a key decision to keep Tabasco on her feet while punching through moderate seas. To their delight, "When we pulled into Hamilton Harbor only a small fraction of the fleet was in and their masts were well taller than ours," Ted says. "We knew we had done something." Indeed, Tabasco earned a solid first in class, winning the perpetual Argentine Trophy awarded to the corrected time winner in Class 6 in the St. David's Lighthouse Division.

Ted says getting there fast and safely will remain mandatory in 2020. This, along with the honor and excitement of racing, coalesce with elements that are harder to explain: "It is a privilege to be able to participate in one of the greatest and storied ocean races in the world. It is a complete escape from the usual 'terra firma' activities."

Whether a class winner or last to arrive in Hamilton Harbor, Ted says, "The challenge and the camaraderie are key, and there is perhaps something more primal I can't explain that will remain a mystery."

Channing Reis of Hampton Falls, N.H., is a member of the Cruising Club of America and has nine Newport Bermuda races to his credit.

Related Articles

Coast Guard Alumni like the sea and its lore
51st Newport to Bermuda Race provided a true test of seamanship The 51st Newport to Bermuda Race provided a true test of seamanship to several modern-day Coast Guard Academy adventurers. By Bob Lally '08, Rear Adm. W. F. Merlin '56, Lt. Cmdr. J.J. Shock '06, and Capt. Chris Sinnett '83. Posted on 1 Dec
Onboard to Bermuda: The sequel is a winner for YYZ
Justin Bonar raced YYZ to Bermuda and made videos of the adventure In both 2016 and 2018, Justin Bonar raced YYZ to Bermuda and made videos of the adventure. On the Jeanneau 53's second trip to the Onion Patch, the team won its class, and the skipper doubled down on video production. Posted on 30 Nov
Gold Level Clean Regattas Certification
For the Newport Bermuda Race The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee is proud to announce the race has earned gold-level certification from Sailors for the Sea's Clean Regattas program, a race of its own aimed at restoring ocean health. Posted on 6 Nov
Jury-Rigged Rudder steers Bailiwick for 100 miles
A broken rudder left Bailiwick‘s crew out of the race and with an even bigger challenge No amount of inspections could have helped prevent what happened to the Blue Jacket 40 Bailiwick late Tuesday night during the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race. Posted on 3 Jul
Women skippers set the pace at Onion Patch Series
Swift and Dorade won the two divisions Swift and Dorade won the two divisions of the Onion Patch Series, skippered by Paige Krumweide and Pam Rorke Levy, respectively. Posted on 3 Jul
Lighthouse Trophies and 100-plus other awards
A diverse, multi-generational group of sailors awarded The St. David's Lighthouse Trophy, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Trophy, and 100-plus more awards were presented to conclude the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race. Posted on 25 Jun
51st Newport Bermuda Race winners named
The division winners of the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race were finalized The division winners of the 2018 Newport Bermuda Race were finalized today with the arrival of the remainder of the fleet, after a slow but strategically challenging race. Posted on 22 Jun
Newport Bermuda Race: Most of fleet has finished
The fleet came in quickly on Wednesday Between 0400 and 0500 local time, the finish-line team stationed at St. David's Lighthouse logged 38 finishers. Nearly the entire fleet of 168 boats were expected to finish by the end of the day. Posted on 21 Jun
The "breakaways": The first five home to Bermuda
The adventures continue for the Sailor Girl in Bermuda The adventures continue for the Sailor Girl in Bermuda for the finish of the 51st edition of the Newport Bermuda Race. Posted on 18 Jun
Line honours for Rambler 88
In the Newport Bermuda Race Leaving most of the fleet far behind in light winds, George David's Rambler 88 crossed the finish line off St. David's Lighthouse at 5:51:51 Eastern daylight time on Sunday evening. Posted on 18 Jun
Gul 2018 October - Code Zero FOOTER