Boasting a fleet of 215 yachts, the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race is set to return on June 17. The fleet size for the 635-nautical mile race, co-hosted by the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, is shaping up to be the second largest in the race’s history, trailing only the 265 yachts that entered the centennial anniversary race in 2006.
The entry period closed on April 3, and as the provisional entry list stands, 72 entrants in this year’s race also sailed the 2018 race. Although the 2020 race was postponed due to COVID-19, the pandemic only whetted ocean racers’ enthusiasm for the classic yachting event that traverses the Gulf Stream, the northerly flowing ocean current off the U.S. eastern seaboard, and which has been a feature of the racing calendar since 1906.
“We’re extremely pleased with the turnout for the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race,” said Race Chairman Somers Kempe, a past commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. “The Bermuda Race has been beset in the past by World Wars and now the pandemic, but it remains a proving ground for offshore sailors who wish to test their crew organization, navigational skills, and seamanship. Bermuda looks forward to welcoming all finishers in late June with a Dark ‘n Stormy and hearty handshake.”
This year’s race features eight divisions: Double-Handed (22 entries), Finisterre for cruisers (38), Gibbs Hill Lighthouse (27), Multihull (3), Open (1), Spirit of Tradition (2), St. David’s Lighthouse (121) and Super Yacht (1).
The fleet of 52nd Newport Bermuda Race includes eight of 17 class winners from the 2018 race as well as two overall division winners. Jason Carroll (New Rochelle, New York) looks to go back-to-back in the Multihull Division while the Morris Justine 36 Yankee Girl goes after a three-peat in the Double-Handed Division but under new owner Thomas Vander Salm (Salem, Massachusetts), who purchased the Chuck Paine design from Zachary Lee in 2018.
“The previous owner was a much faster sailor; I may not live up to the boat’s reputation,” deadpanned the 81-year-old Vander Salm, who’ll be sailing his seventh Bermuda Race and sixth in the Double-Handed Division.
A retired cardiac surgeon, Vander Salm won the Endurance Trophy in 2016 as cook aboard the last yacht to finish with his Hinckley 48 Yawl Whisper. But realizing that the 18-ton Hinckley would have difficulty sailing to its rating, he purchased the 8-ton Yankee Girl when Lee made it available to him.
“Yankee Girl is a much better handling boat, much better upwind boat. It sails to its handicap, whereas my other boat did not sail as fast as the handicap would indicate,” Vander Salm said. “The biggest physical challenge of double-handed racing is trying to get enough sleep so you’re prepared for problems and emergencies and bad weather. That’s a huge challenge. I’m a surgeon by profession and I got used to existing on inadequate sleep and compensating for it. But you can’t thwart physiology. You have to force yourself to sleep, which is especially difficult. But I like the solitude of the open ocean, and sailing double-handed, the boat isn’t as much of a mess when you get to Bermuda.”
Visit the Newport Bermuda Race website for more information.