New Annapolis to Newport Race Record

Published on June 5th, 2017

(June 5, 2017) – Some very impressive sailboats have taken aim at the Annapolis-to-Newport Race record since it was set in 2001. A few have come tantalizingly close to accomplishing the feat, but the mark managed to stand through seven subsequent editions of the offshore classic.

This year, the combination of a fast boat and proper conditions finally came together. Warrior, a Volvo 70 skippered by Stephen Murray Jr., capitalized on predominantly reaching conditions to smash the course record in the 2017 Annapolis-to-Newport Race.

Warrior completed the 474-nautical mile course in 40 hours, 14 minutes and 36 seconds. That tremendous time took nearly three hours off the previous record of 42 hours, 58 minutes and 12 seconds, set in 2001 by the Farr 60 Carrera (Joseph Dockery).

“We are absolutely thrilled to now hold the record for one of the world’s greatest offshore races,” said Murray, an attorney from New Orleans. “I didn’t want to talk about the possibility of breaking the record before the race because I didn’t want to jinx it. We were extremely excited as we got closer to Newport and realized the record was within reach.”

Warrior started the race just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at 11:05 on Saturday morning (June 3) and crossed the finish line off Fort Adams this morning at 3:19:36.

“What makes this so satisfying is that this is such a difficult record to beat. You need to get very lucky in terms of conditions,” Murray said. “This boat is a real rocket ship in power reaching conditions and that’s mostly what we got.”

Warrior hoisted its huge A2 asymmetrical spinnaker immediately after crossing the starting line and carried that and either a masthead or fractional Code Zero the rest of the way. Navigator Jan Majer said the only time Warrior was forced to beat into the wind with a genoa was the short distance from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to Chesapeake Light.

Warrior exited the Chesapeake Bay at 9:40 p.m. on Saturdayand got into the Atlantic Ocean ahead of a healthy southwesterly that was forecast. It was extremely light in the ocean during the wee hours of Monday morning so Majer took the Volvo 70 inshore in order to keep it moving.

“The only pressure that was going to happen at that point of the race was the sea breeze coming off the coast,” said Majer, noting boat was close enough to the coast the crew could see Ocean City, Maryland.

Majer said the expected southwesterly finally filled near the mouth of the Delaware Bay and Warrior rode it all the way to the rhumb line. The racing machine chewed up considerable mileage between Cape May and Montauk, sailing at the wind speed or higher in 14 to 18 knots of breeze.

“We had really good reaching conditions during that particular stretch,” said Majer, adding that Warrior saw top speeds of 20-23 knots on occasions.

The Murray family made a grant to the Merchant Marine Academy to purchase the Volvo 70, which was sailed by the Camper syndicate in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race. The Merchant Marine Academy subsequently donated to the boat to the Warrior Sailing Program, which provides maritime education and outreach for wounded, injured or ill service members and veterans.

“One of the reasons I am most pleased about this record is that it brings attention to the mission of this boat, which is to raise awareness of Warrior Sailing. I’m really happy this accomplishment can help shine a spotlight on the program,” Murray said.

Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand, which was led by skipper Chris Nicholson, was runner-up in the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race.

This particular Volvo 70, which was designed by Botin Carkeek and built by Cookson, changed hands a couple times and fell into disrepair in the years since then. Majer and Gjis “Guiness” Gunnemann spent considerable time in Valencia, Spain rehabilitating the eight-year-old vessel.

“The boat had not been used for some time and needed a lot of work,” Murray said. “Jan and Guinness basically took the boat apart and rebuilt it from the keel up. It was a really involved project.”

This was the second major offshore distance race for Warrior, which captured line honors and was overall winner of the Antigua-to-Bermuda Race. The Volvo 70 will not wind up as overall winner of the 36th biennial Annapolis-to-Newport Race, but Murray was more than satisfied to come away with the record.

“We are certainly very proud to have the record and can only hope it stands for a while,” Murray said. “I would think our time will be tough to beat. There are a lot of great boats that have the ability, but it’s very hard to get the right conditions for this race.”

Murray, along with his father and namesake, has campaigned numerous boats named Decision over the years. The Warrior crew was comprised of veteran professionals, some Decision alumni and a few sailors who are Murray’s friends and fellow Southern Yacht Club members.

Ryan Breymaier, who has enjoyed tremendous success in the short-handed distance sailing realm, did considerable driving. Andy Green, a match racing champion and former America’s Cup sailor, also served as one of the helmsmen. Jesse Fielding is a Volvo Ocean Race veteran while John von Schwarz was a crew member aboard the record-breaking Comanche.

“We had a great bunch of people aboard the boat and it was a lot of fun. Everyone was cracking jokes and it was a very light-hearted mood among the crew,” Murray said.

“I give a lot of credit to the crew for keeping the boat moving, even in the light stuff. All the pros brought the rest of the team up-to-speed,” Murray added. “That boat is more complicated than anything else I’ve ever sailed. The cockpit looked like a mess of spaghetti with sheets going everywhere. I was amazed every time we performed a maneuver.”

Black Pearl, a Carkeek 47 skippered by Stefan Jentzsch of London, was the second boat across the line. The German-flagged entry, which started alongside Warrior on Saturday, crossed the finish line at 12:58 on Monday afternoon with an elapsed time of 49 hours, 53 minutes, 40 seconds.

“It was a very fun and interesting race,” Jentzsch said after arriving at the docks of the Newport Shipyard. “We basically saw every type of condition. This race was never boring, always a challenge. We had to stay on our toes the entire time.”

Black Pearl made its Annapolis-to-Newport Race debut in 2015 and placed second in IRC 1 behind Murray and his Carkeek 40 Decision. This time around, Black Pearl has already corrected over Warrior by approximately three hours.

“We kept our foot on the pedal the whole way. I think we sailed the boat very well. We didn’t make any mistakes,” Jentzsch said. “We shall see how we do against the fleet, but I cannot think of anything we could have done better.”

Black Pearl had quite a duel with the TP52 Hooligan for a good portion of the race. Hooligan, which is being raced by members of the Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team, finished the race at 4:11 on Monday afternoon.

“We had a close battle with Hooligan in the Chesapeake and during the early part of the offshore leg. We finally started to put some mileage on them when the wind piped up in the ocean,” Jentzsch said.

Orion, a J/122 owned by Annapolis Yacht Club member Paul Milo, was the fourth finisher. Orion came across at 4:37 on Monday to earn line honors for boats that started on Friday.

Kenai, a modified J/44 owned by Chris Lewis of Houston, Texas, finished 27 minutes after Orion. Kenai was also among the 32 boats in four classes that started on Friday.

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