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Argo had a rough run enroute to Bermuda Race record

by John Burnham 19 Jun 2022 12:44 PDT
On its final approach to the St. David's Lighthouse finish, late Saturday evening, the MOD 70 trimaran Argo shows its sleek lines and black sails made of carbon. The time-lapse photo turns the port navigation light into a red streak © Chris Burville

Jason Carroll (New York City) stood on the dock at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club well after midnight, looking fatigued yet energized after winning line honors in the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race.

Carroll and his crew on the MOD70 trimaran Argo set an elapsed-time record time of 33 hours—faster than any elapsed time ever recorded in the 116-year history of the Bermuda Race—covering the 635-nautical mile course at an average speed of 19.24 knots. But it wasn't without some pain.

"The forecast under-appreciated just how rough the sea state was," said the 44-year-old Carroll. Later he added, "The whole crew is wiped out. We're tired."

Tired, perhaps, but also happy to set another course record—Argo's sixth, to go with two world records—and relieved that they made it to shore in one piece. They were the first Saturday-night finishers in the history of the storied race, co-organized by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

"We're thrilled about the record," said Chad Corning (New Rochelle, New York), the program's manager. "There are only so many major ocean have the Bermuda Race, the Middle Sea Race and the Caribbean 600 means a lot to us. And it's great to be the only boat to finish on Saturday. The Bermuda Race has so much history, this record is probably the most significant one for us because it is such a well-established race. It's a great feeling."

Carroll's international crew aboard Argo included Westy Barlow (Newport, Rhode Island), Corning, Pete Cumming (Warsash, England), Thierry Fouchier (Marseille, France), boat captain Chris Maxted (Melbourne, Australia), Charlie Ogletree (Seabrook, Texas) and Alister Richardson (Bournemouth, England).

It was previously reported that navigator and sailing master Brian Thompson (Cowes, England) was part of the crew, but he tested positive for Covid before the race and did not sail. He was replaced in the crew by Barlow, and Corning filled in as navigator.

"On paper it was very much a rhumbline race," said Corning. "We ended up to west of rhumb because we had to sail high to keep the boat under control. If we bore away, we'd have sped up too much. We were trying to keep the speed around 20 knots. So, we were keeping a higher course to keep the boat slow, that's why we weren't on rhumbline."

After starting the race with a full main and J1 headsail, clearing the committee boat within mere feet, Carroll said that it didn't take long for the crew to start depowering.

"We spent a lot of time throttled back, making sure we wouldn't have a problem. It was quite rough for us in the middle of the race," Carroll said. "About three hours into the race, we were down to two reefs and the J2. Ten hours in we had the J3. We made a whole bunch of steps down in first few hours as we got offshore."

Corning echoed Carroll in saying that it was a rough race, mostly due to the sea state.

"We were expecting a sea state of 2 to 2.5 meters, but in general it was 3.5 to 4 meters," said Corning. "The Gulf Stream was a bit smoother because the current direction was more or less aligned with the wind direction. We had 25-30 knots of wind for most of the race, and the high was mid-30's at times. We were really just hanging on."

Corning said that they transited the Gulf Stream at about 90 degrees and saw a 4-knot current flowing west to east, but they were in and out of it quickly. They sailed the meat of the course with two reefs and a storm jib for about 21 hours, from Friday evening until Saturday afternoon.

"It was some of roughest conditions we've had on the boat," Corning said. "The sea state was just nasty, coming from all different directions. You never knew where the waves were coming from and they would hit the boat at all different angles. You had to crawl around the cockpit to get anywhere. It was a very violent motion, a lot of the guys got sick."

Malama Second to Finish

At 07:48:43 ADT this morning, almost eight and a half hours after Argo finished, skipper Charlie Enright (Barrington, Rhode Island) guided the IMOCA 60 Malama from 11th Hour Racing across the finish line. Malama, like Argo a foil-assisted craft, completed the course in 41h:28m:48s, at an average speed of 15.3 knots.

While Argo's elapsed time is the fastest in the history of the race, Malama's is the fourth fastest. The two foilers bookend the 100-foot Comanche's 34h:49m mark in 2016 and the 90-foot Rambler 90's 39h:39m time in 2012.

As Enright disembarked at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club later in the morning, he said that Malama experienced winds up to 35 knots and never sailed lower than 70 degrees to the wind. "It was pretty impressive," he said, "sailing with cracked sheets upwind doing 18 knots."

"We had some adversity, but we were able to fight through it," said Enright, referring to issues that cropped up with electronics and rigging. "In those conditions," he added, "we try not to come out of the water [on the foils]; we're trying to displace as much of the boat as possible. We can control how much we come out by adjusting the rake of the foil and the extension of the foil."

Asked about guest crewmembers big wave surfer Ian Walsh and backcountry snowboarder Elena Hight, Enright said, "Our guest crew was amazing. I was worried about them surviving but they not only survived, they thrived. They enjoyed every second of it and got involved in sailing the boat."

Gibbs Hill, St. David's Leaders Approach Island

With the foilers safely moored in Bermuda, the focus is now on to be the elapsed-time winner of the race's major divisions. At 1300 ADT today, there is a battle royale taking place.

The leading boats in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division included Christopher Sheehan's Pac52 Warrior Won, the Mills 68 Prospector, owned by Lawrence Landry, Paul McDowell and Martin Roesch, and the TP52 Hooligan, owned by John Evans and John Sheehan.

In the St. David's Lighthouse Division, Kate and Jim Murray's Pac52 Callisto from the U.K. is leading the Reichel/Pugh 74 Wizard, chartered by Fred Detwiler and Bruce Aikens.

All of those boats are racing within proximity of each other to the west of rhumbline. The forecast is predicting lighter winds throughout the afternoon, so the first finisher likely won't cross the line until early Monday morning.

Stay tuned to the race with the Bluenose Yacht Sales YB tracker at the Bermuda Race website and for more interviews watch the Bermuda Race Youtube channel.

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