Fast Pace for Youth Team in Bermuda Race

Published on June 20th, 2016

Newport, RI (June 20, 2016) – As the fleet rushes to the Newport Bermuda Race finish line on Monday night, a boat with a crew of youth sailors stood first on corrected time in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division and fourth in the entire fleet on elapsed time. This surprising boat, High Noon, was expected to finish early Tuesday (June 21).

The Tripp 41 was loaned by her owners, Steve and Heidi Benjamin, to the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team, at American Yacht Club (Rye, NY). “This Bermuda Race will be the culmination of at least three years of work by these juniors,” said Peter Becker, one of the project’s leaders. “First they did overnight distance races, then weekend races, and then they looked for opportunities to sail offshore.”

The young sailors underwent hands-on safety training and worked closely with the navigator, skipper, and watch captains to gain experience in leadership roles. Some of the sailors helped deliver boats home from Bermuda and Hawaii. They are committed to the project, and so are their mentors.

“I’ve sailed 16 Bermuda Races,” Becker said. “My first race was when I was 15 or 16. I was the kid on the boat, up on the bow changing sails. I’m trying to give these kids the same passion and experience I was exposed to when I was young and sailing with older sailors. Every junior on the boat is there because they’re competitive and they want to win the race.”

But it’s not all about winning, said Becker. “The kids are resonating with this. They love big boats. It’s challenging, it’s social, and it’s really inspiring. You get out there and you see the stars overhead and you think, ‘the land is really far away.’”

The Stephens Brothers Prizes
The High Noon project is one of the stimuli for two new Newport Bermuda Race awards, the Stephens Brothers Prizes. Yacht designers Olin and Rod Stephens were youngsters when they launched their ocean racing careers. The many boats they designed include 14 Bermuda Race overall winners and the yawl Black Watch, sailing in the 2016 “Thrash to the Onion Patch.”

The Stephens Brothers Youth Division Prize will be awarded to the best-performing boat with a qualifying Youth Crew entered in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division or the Cruiser Division. To qualify, at least 50% +1 (rounded down) of the crew must be ages 14 to 23, inclusive, as of June 17, 2016, and the crew’s average age must be 17 or older. The race’s Cross-Division scoring system will be used.

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The 635-mile Newport Bermuda Race, starting on June 17, is the 50th edition and also marks the 90th anniversary of the partnership of the organizers, the Cruising Club of America and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Leading up to the start, the fleet size looked to be the second or third largest in history. Then the weather forecasts began predicting gales in and below the Gulf Stream. Following the weather briefing on Thursday night (June 16), boats began withdrawing from the race. Finally 47 boats that had entered decided not to race. That brought the total from 184 boats on June 13 to 142 starters on June 17.

There are seven divisions, each for a type of boat. The race has no overall winner (only division winners), though the winning St. David’s Lighthouse Division boat (the largest in the race, and a division dedicated to amateur sailors) is regarded as the race’s top boat.

• St. David’s Lighthouse Division, for normal multi-purpose cruising-racing boats sailed by amateur or mostly amateur crews. This division is the largest at approximately 100 boats. There are limits on the number of professional sailors in these boats, and only amateurs are allowed to steer.

• Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division, for all-out racing, lightweight, high-performance boats often sailed by professional crews, who may steer. Ten to 15 boats usually enter this division.

• Cruiser Division, for boats that normally cruise, not race, sailed by mostly amateur crews, with only amateur helmsmen. The division usually has about 30 boats.

• Double-Handed Division, for boats sailed by two sailors. Approximately 20 boats usually sail in this division. One crew may be a professional and steer.

• Open Division, for racing boats with cant keels, which tilt from side to side. About five boats usually sail in this division. There is no limit on professionals.

• Spirit of Tradition, for traditional boats, most recently the Bermuda Sloop replica Spirit of Bermuda. No limit on professionals.

• Super Yacht Division. No limit on professionals.

Source: Newport Bermuda Race

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