Last June, I helped Dorade sail from Newport to Bermuda for the first time in 82 years. Crossing the finish line represented the end of the first stage of what owner Matt Brooks calls “Matt’s Crazy Idea” — to compete seriously in all of the ocean races the boat sailed in the early 1930s, from Europe to Hawaii. On June 19th, I reported on our finish (Dorade Log 6: Finished! Just After Midnight) and described the final couple days of what was a windy race.
With this story, I’m closing the chapter on the 2012 Newport-Bermuda Race with some reflections and a video, shot with the help of a number of members of the crew. Interviewed on camera, several of them did a better job reflecting on the race than I ever could. I hope you enjoy this video, as well as the previous Dorade Logs and videos published here on Boats.com.
A few additional thoughts:
#1: Practice Made a Difference
Several of our nine crew were new to the 52-foot Sparkman & Stephens design as of 2012, and we climbed a steep learning curve at regattas earlier in the spring. This paid off in multiple ways. Not only did we get to know each other and the boat as a result, but also, in the process, we improved the boat’s rigging and equipment and refined the sail inventory. By the time we set sail, we really felt we knew how to sail Dorade and were ready for the race. In my opinion, this was the number one reason we sailed a good race, and it’s a credit to our skipper Jamie Hilton and owners Matt Brooks and Pam Levy for setting up the framework in advance so we could succeed.
#2: A Fast and Relatively Easy Race
Rambler set a record of 39 hours, 39 minutes, and 18 second to complete the 635-mile course, demolishing the old record. It took us a little longer—3 days, 11 hours—but it was still relatively straightforward sailing. We never tacked, we jibed only once, and we didn’t have to change sails too often.
Still, I use the term “relatively easy” for a reason. While I can imagine the race being much rougher, the strong northeasterly blowing against the Gulf Stream current took its toll on us. Several crewmembers were seasick, and a great deal of our prepackaged freeze-dried meals sailed home again to Newport with our captain, Ben Galloway, and his delivery crew on the return trip. Personally, my decision to start going to the gym two months before the race and to drink no alcohol and eat no rich foods during the last two days before the start paid off. I felt queasy one morning while getting geared up to go on deck, but once topsides, I felt good again.
#3: Credit to the Competition
As Steve Foraste mentions in the video, Olin and Rod Stephens beat us to Bermuda by a couple of hours with their time in the 1932 race. When you consider the sail cloth available back then, all I can say is, “That’s fast sailing!” But not only were we out-sailed by the designer and builder four score years ago, we were also beaten by some well-sailed boats in 2012. The modern race has a quirky scoring system, using two separate handicap methodologies, yet no matter how you cut it, four boats in our class beat us across the finish line.
Under ORR scoring, the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron’s Swift, a Navy 44 skippered by Steve Jaenke, finished five hours in front of us on corrected time, and we placed 6th out of 15 boats. Under IRC handicapping, we were 4th, finishing two-and-a-half hours astern of Stephen Kylander’s Swan 48 Dreamcatcher on corrected time.
#4 Any Regrets?
We believe we did well by finishing in the top half of our class and for the most part sailed Dorade to her potential. But we sailed extra miles we didn’t need to cover (thanks to electronics problems that are documented in the video and elsewhere) and in so doing, we feel we let Dorade down a bit. As Matt says, however, this could provide the motivation to take the race on again in two years.
#5 Offshore Adventures Take You Places
The personal challenge of competing as a crew in this race required physical and mental output that forced me to push against what I perceived to be my own limitations. Like a few others who may be reading this, I’m not as young as I used to be, and as I write, I’m nursing a few ailments. But doing the race on Dorade has reminded me how much there is to gain by continuing to push and by not getting too comfortable. There’s still plenty more adventure out there for all of us.
Read the previous Dorade Logs:
- Dorade Log No. 1: Skinny Genes
- Dorade Log No. 2: Like Dating Marilyn Monroe
- Dorade Log 3: Lessons in Light Air at St. Barth
- Dorade Log 4: Bermuda Race Inspection
- Dorade Heading for Bermuda
- Dorade Log 5: Entering the Gulf Stream
- Dorade Update: 120 miles to go
- Dorade Log 6: Finished! Just After Midnight