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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Sherwin leads Bermudian hopes in Newport Bermuda Race

by Bermuda Race 20 May 16:51 PDT
Nasty Medicine - Newport Bermuda Race © Charles Anderson / PPL

In four weeks, a fleet of approximately 200 yachts will set off on the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race, the original ocean race. For many the lure of the Bermuda Race is the challenge of ocean racing with the promise of landing at an idyllic oasis in the Atlantic Ocean. For one Bermudian crew, the motivation is all of the above, as well as the answer to the question, "Why not?"

Dr. Stephen Sherwin (Hamilton, Bermuda) will make his ninth start as skipper since 2000 when his Corby 41.5 Nasty Medicine takes the start on Friday, June 17. Representing the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, which has hosted the finish of all 52 editions of the race, Sherwin is one of the more successful Bermudian skippers to compete in the storied race, having scored two class wins (2000 and 2014) and a third place (2008). His class win in 2000 also captured the Americap Classic Division overall.

"It's a great race; I'm looking forward to it immensely," said the 67-year-old Sherwin, a family physician. "It'll be nice to be back on the water. Nasty Medicine's an ocean-going boat, and if you don't use it in the ocean, you don't get that sensation of being tossed around belowdecks in unbearable weather."

Sherwin's Nasty Medicine is one of three boats entered from the destination island of Bermuda. Also entered is the J/125 Crossfire, owned by Brian Hillier (Hamilton, Bermuda), and the Bermuda Sloop Foundation's sail-training vessel Spirit of Bermuda, the three-masted 112-foot schooner captained by Alexander Peacock (Newmarket, N.H.), which will be racing for the fourth time with a crew of more than 30.

As of Tuesday, May 17, the fleet roster stood at 203 yachts. While a bit more attrition is expected in the registration process, a fleet of 200 yachts would be 18 percent larger than 2018 and the second largest fleet on record, behind only the 265 entrants in the Centennial Anniversary Race in 2006.

With June 17 drawing nearer, many deadlines loom. Tomorrow, May 20, is the deadline to register for on-site Covid testing in Newport prior to the race start. May 26 is the boat measurement deadline, and June 3 is the crew registration and waiver deadline. For navigators, Frank Bohlen has issued his first analysis of the Gulf Stream which, at present, looks quite challenging.

"The calendar may say one month to the start, but the pace of preparations is brisk," said race chairman Somers Kempe, a past commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. "We're strongly encouraging crews to register for the pre-race Covid test so that they're not scrambling once in Newport trying to complete a test. No one will be allowed to enter Bermuda without a negative Covid test, so that's vitally important. There is a myriad of other things that need to happen still, but we're very excited to welcome a robust fleet in Bermuda."

Sherwin, who crewed in a number of races before 2000, loves what happens at both ends of the race, namely the camaraderie that develops from shared expectations and reflections before and after the race among a group in excess of 2,000 sailors.

When it comes to Sherwin and the Bermudian entries, however, they put the cart before the horse, experiencing the race in an almost backwards manner. Whereas nearly all of the fleet races to Bermuda and then delivers the boat back to its homeport, Sherwin and crew put the delivery before the race.

"We're well crewed up for the delivery, maybe not so well clued up," Sherwin quipped. "The race is a challenge for placing. The delivery is a challenge for seamanship. When we're going up, we're on our own. We're driving to bad weather rather than good. Once in the States, it's all about how we place on the race back down."

Peacock has been captain of Spirit of Bermuda since 2018 and has a hectic pre-race schedule that includes a stop in New York City for a hospitality event for the Bermuda Tourism Authority. He then heads to Newport for another hospitality event and then the start.

Peacock is one of eight professional crew on the boat who will be watching over both trainees and experienced sailors. Designed by Bill Langan, Spirit of Bermuda was built by Rockport Marine and is cold-molded with carbon-fiber spars.

"We're mostly hoping for a strong breeze where we can set the course and focus on trim and speed," said Peacock. "She's heavy displacement but quite lively, and a low freeboard, so a pretty wet deck. She can stand up to a lot of wind. On a good day, we'll average 12 knots to the mid-teens. I've seen 17.5 as a top speed."

Note that the final entry list may be affected by Covid impacts or any of the other standards and qualifications that must be met in preparation for a race across the open ocean. Visit the Newport Bermuda Race website for more information.

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