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Doyle Sails 2020 - Built for Adventure 728x90 TOP

J/Teams garner silverware in record twelve classes in epic Bermuda Race

by J/Boats 25 Jun 09:49 PDT
A line of thunderstorms approaches from the northwest, ultimately delaying the final three starts - 52nd Newport Bermuda Race © Daniel Forster / PPL

This year's Newport Bermuda Race was the 52nd running of the biennial offshore race and the first since 2018 when the 2020 event was canceled due to that pandemic thing. 193 boats from 23 countries were anticipating a challenging start and first 24 to 36 hours to tackle their first big obstacle- that giant, undulating serpent of fast-flowing hot water called the Gulf Stream.

The wet and often wild weather created a lot of commotion for the start on Friday, June 17th from Newport, Rhode Island. With a strong WSW breeze in the 10 to 20 kts range, sights were set to sail as fast as possible down the 150-degree rhumbline. For the most part, the leading boats settled into a long starboard tack heading generally SSE, hoping the wind would clock a bit to throw up more sails to go faster and faster.

The race demands good seamanship, and this year's race was no exception. The wind + waves combinations were often brutal at times. It's no wonder that over the past 30+ years that more and more Bermuda racers have put their faith and trust in high-quality, offshore performance sailboats produced by the J/Design team that are easy to sail in any weather conditions- from sybaritic and benign to stormy as hell. In virtually every major offshore race around the world, J/Teams have prevailed in some of the nastiest conditions imaginable and sailed home safely to win class or overall trophies. And, remarkably, many of them have repeated those winning performances over time on their J/Boats.

J/Boats Dominant Offshore Brand

In this year's 52nd Bermuda Race, a record forty-six J/crews started the race with most all of them finishing. Of the 144 production boats participating, the 46 J's were 33% of that fleet, the largest representation of any single brand in the history of the Bermuda Race.

J/Teams also set another record for the Bermuda Race, garnering silverware in twelve classes across four divisions- the St Davids Lighthouse Division, the Gibbs Hill Division, the Finisterre Division, and the Doublehanded Division. Furthermore, J/Teams swept two divisions with dominating performances across the board. Here is the breakdown by division of how they faired in the race.

St Davids Lighthouse Division

With 108 boats, the largest division of the race was the St David's Lighthouse Division (SDL) as it's comprised primarily of amateur/ corinthian sailors. There was a veritable J/NAVY of thirty-eight boats sailing in the six classes!

In the twelve-boat SDL B Class, Fred Allardyce's J/40 MISTY took fourth place, just 90 minutes corrected time off the podium.

The thirteen-boat SDL D Class nearly saw a sweep by J/Teams. Nevertheless, two of the top three and seven of the top ten were strong performances for J sailors. Winning class and taking 2nd SDL Overall was Andrew Clark's J/122 ZIG ZAG. True to their name, the bright red boat did a lot of zigging and zagging in the middle of Saturday night and Sunday morning to maximize their nearly 50.0nm of Gulf Stream current eddy boost on their way to nearly winning the entire race overall. Taking the bronze was Doug Evan's J/122 ELBOW ROOM, a notable performance for the Milwaukee, WI-based team sailing their first Bermuda Race! Filling out the top ten were Eric Irwin & Mary Martin's J/122 ALLIANCE in fourth, William Klein's J/120 SPECK in sixth, Richard Born's J/120 WINDBORN seventh, Dan Heun's J/122 MOXIEE eighth, and David Cielusniak's J/122 J-CURVE in ninth.

A similar scenario played out in the fourteen-boat SDL E Class, with J/Crews literally sweeping the top ten spots... a FIRST for any Bermuda Race in history! Leading the charge over his J/Lovers by just 30 minutes corrected was Rick Hanson's J/120 NO SURRENDER. Taking the silver was one of the first woman owners to podium in Bermuda history, June Kendrick's J/44 PALANTIR 5. Rounding out the podium with the bronze medal was Ken Luczynski's J/44 COMET. The balance of the top five included Mark Nannini's J/120 SALACIA in fourth and Chris Lewis' famous J/44 KENAI in the fifth position.

SDL F Class might as well have been labeled the "J/133 Class" since seven of them were sailing in the fourteen-boat class. Missing the class win by 43 minutes corrected was Bob Manchester's J/133 VAMOOSE. Their stablemate, Matt Stokes' J/133 BLUE JAY III, took the bronze. J/Teams took seven of the top ten, with Ray Rhinelander's J/133 BELLA J in fifth, Phil Helmes' J/133 FAST COMPANY III seventh, David Southwell's J/121 ALCHEMY in eighth, US Naval Academy's J/133 WASP ninth, and Mike & Dale McIvor's J/133 MATADOR in tenth place.

The fifteen-boat SDL G Class saw Len Sitar's offshore greyhound- the J/160 COUGAR- happily take the silver medal as well as earn de-facto honors as the first J/Boat to finish on elapsed time in the SDL Division!

Finally, in the turbo'd-up custom SDL H Class of fourteen boats, it was Brian Hillier's J/125 CROSSFIRE that grabbed the bronze medal as by far the smallest boat in their class! Fellow stablemate, Brian Prinz's J/145 SPECTRE 4, inexplicably ended up far, far to the west of the entire fleet all the way to Bermuda. Despite missing the 2.5 to 3.5 knots Gulf Stream eddy completely, and being on the lighter wind side of rhumbline, they still managed to have enough speed to burn to finish seventh in class. Just imagine...for a moment... what might've happened had they just hung with the fleet off to the east of rhumbline on Saturday evening... more on that move explained by famous navigator Stan Honey down below (winner of his class in the Cal 40 ILLUSION and also SDL Division overall).

Gibbs Hill Division

Known by many as the "pro division", the GHD boats include water ballast, canting keels, pro helmsmen, and crew with no limits. In the end, J/Crews took three of the top five in the GHD A class. Taking the silver after an all-out battle for 400+ nm was Leonid Vasiliev's custom J/120 DESPERADO. Losing that "death march" to the finish was Ken Comerford's J/121 DARK STORM, having to settle for the bronze medal on the podium. Fifth place went to Steve Lev's J/121 EAGLE.

Finisterre Division

The "cruising division", as it's known, only allows one main, one jib, and one spinnaker fixed on the centerline. In all three classes, J/Teams excelled. Taking silver in Finisterre A class was John Plominski's J/40 ARTEMISIA. Fourth place in Finisterre B class was Brad Willauer's J/46 BREEZING UP. Then, Howie Hodgson's J/160 TRUE took the bronze in Finisterre C class!

Doublehanded Division

Despite the challenging conditions on Saturday evening and Sunday morning as the fleet was confronting the "washing machine" known as the Gulf Stream, Peter Becker's famous J/105 YOUNG AMERICAN #146 put in yet another yeoman's effort to take the silver medal in their class. As a result, Becker continues to be the most decorated doublehanded offshore sailor to and from Bermuda! Becker must also be lamenting their "what if" scenario, like their J/145 SCEPTRE 4 friends from Long Island Sound... staying too far west and dramatically missing the Gulf Stream eddy.

Gulf Stream Strategy:

As explained in last week's analysis by a variety of race-leading navigators and fanatical Gulf Stream students, there was a fairly well-defined feature in this year's Stream meanders, with a counter-clockwise, southeasterly-flowing eddy forming just to the east of rhumbline from Newport to Bermuda.

In fact, an analysis of the various class winners/ leaders in this year's Bermuda Race shows that virtually all shared the same Gulf Stream entry/ exit points in terms of when they gybed to enter the fast-flowing river and when the gybed back to head southeast at 150 degrees, paralleling the rhumbline for the next 36 to 48 hours to the finish. Here is the basic data and approximate locations and distance to the finish:

Date/ time Boat Lat/ Lon/ Action

0618-1836- J/121 Dark Storm- 38.23.33 N/ 069.21.93 W- 429.1nm out- entry gybe ESE
0618-1845- J/125 Crossfire- 38.25.86 N/ 069.20.13 W- 430.5nm out- entry gybe ESE
0618-2008- J/122 Zig Zag- 38.31.46 N/ 068.47.28 W- 421.5nm out- entry gybe ESE (3rd one)
0618-2122- Cal 40 Illusion- 38.26.39 N/ 069.11.39 W- 427.2nm out- entry gybe ESE
0618-2248- J/122 Zig Zag- 38.13.41 N/ 068.16.80 W- 394.4nm out- gybed back SSE
0618-2132- Cal 40 Illusion- 38.25.60 N/ 069.09.18 W- 425.6nm out- bore off SE
0618-2338- J/121 Dark Storm- 38.02.89 N/ 068.08.40 W- 382.0nm out- gybed back SSE
0619-0010- J/125 Crossfire- 37.55.98 N/ 068.12.72 W- 377.5nm out- gybed back SSE
0619-0113- Cal 40 Illusion- 38.09.47 N/ 068.18.04 W- 391.3nm out- gbyed back SSE

Most notably, following that strategy and "formula" to perfection was none other than one of the most storied and famous navigators of our time- Stan Honey. Stan and his wife Sally were sailing their "last hurrah" on their Cal 40 ILLUSION. Commented Sally, "the conditions were perfect for our boat, and we had a pretty good navigator onboard," referring to her record-setting husband, Stan. "Stan chose a really good course, and the conditions were just what the boat loves, heavy-air reaching. A lot. We got into a Gulf Stream eddy and stayed in it for about seven hours. That gave us a good boost. We managed to stay in the wind most of the way down. We had a couple of light spots, but nothing like the later boats."

For you armchair racers and navigators, if you recall, the May 10th view showed a southeasterly flowing meander parallel to the rhumb line approx. 240 miles from the start. And, here's the overlay of the winning J/Teams and the Honey's ILLUSION... coincidence? NOT! "GO WITH THE FLOW"... said Stan more than once to friends who cared to ask him!

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