Newport Bermuda Race: Pulling the Plug
Published on June 25th, 2014
by Chris Museler
It’s part of every offshore racer’s DNA: Never Give Up. The very challenge of overcoming everything Mother Nature throws at you is our reason for being. Therefore it is well understood across this year’s Bermuda fleet that when a competitor retires, it is done with a heavy heart and sound reasoning.
One of those who pulled the plug this year was Dutchman Olaf Litjens who raced his Shipman 63 Hassebas. Litjens, who was sailing in his first Bermuda Race, decided to withdraw from the race Tuesday and wound up getting to RBYC at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. “We had four guys from Europe aboard who had to be back there by Friday,” said Litjens, later that morning. “We knew we wouldn’t make it when we sailed into the light-wind front for the third time.”
Litjens and his navigator, Anderson Reggio, both agreed that the decision to withdraw wasn’t easy. After all they were in a race. Litjens sailed the boat across the Atlantic in 2012 as part of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and held class line honors. Early in this race they were trading tacks with Rima 2, a much faster boat.
“It was one of those races,” said Reggio, a top US navigator, “where at one point everyone is a hero, and then slips back.” The team, which included Litjens’ 16-year-old daughter, his brother, and his girlfriend, was sailing the carbon cruising boat well.
In the end, the decision came down to the crew’s schedule. “It’s not pleasant waiting hours and hours for wind,” said Litjens, who plans on delivering the boat to the Med next month for a few weeks of cruising. “But that’s not the reason we stopped. It was painful to have sailed the boat for two years, and not finish.”
Litjens and his team, some of whom have already flown out of Bermuda, are definitely not licking their wounds. He arrived in the dark but in the midday sun, he was all smiles. “It’s incredible, with all the boats coming in and the flags,” he said. He admitted that he had his first ever Dark ’n Stormy (three of them in act), upon arrival on shore this morning. When asked if it’s his new favorite drink, he laughed, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Maybe.”
The race has five divisions, essentially five separate race fleets:
– Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division: for professional crews on modern competitive boats
– St. David’s Lighthouse Division: for amateur crews on dual purpose racer-cruiser boats
– Double-handed: only two people on each boat
– Cruiser: for amateur crews on boats not designed for racing
– Open: for boats of a size or construction type beyond the normal range of the fleet