Youth embrace the journey to Bermuda

Published on July 1st, 2018

The biennial 635-mile ocean race from Newport to Bermuda is a bucket list adventure not typically afforded to a teenage skipper, but that was the opportunity 18-year old Isabel Best had when her parents gave use of their Joshua 47 FEO for the 2018 edition.

The crew of six – four teenagers and two college-aged adults — became one of the youngest teams to ever race in this legendary blue water challenge.

Best was joined by 18-year old navigator Islay Van Dusen, Tucker Braun, 18, Will Starkey, 19, Claudio VanDuijn, 22, and Charlie Britton, 22.

With the exception of Braun, the others got to know each other as children during summers in Maine. They hatched the idea about one year ago and then began fundraising and planning for the race.

Although the team finished in last place, it is due in part to FEO’s sturdy construction as she is a steel-hulled, double ender design — a sister ship to the one sailed by renowned world sailor Bernard Moitessier.

According to Best, the team knew they were bringing “a tank to a Ferrari race,” but followed Moitessier’s motto that it is “not just about the competition but about living life to the fullest” and were pleased to be awarded the famed Cook’s Award “for perseverance and fortitude in cooking for a racing crew longer than anyone else in the race.”

During the race, the teammates not only explored new territory geographically, but also as sailors. Braun, who has competed with his parents J.B. and Kelley in the Marblehead Halifax race, noted how the biggest difference sailing to Bermuda is how far offshore you truly are.

From left: Will Starkey, Claudio VanDuijn, Charlie Britton, Isabel Best, Islay Van Dusen, and Tucker Braun.

“You look around and all you see is ocean, no lights at all,” said Braun. “And you just can’t quite fathom how far out there in the ocean you are.”

As the boat neared Bermuda, Braun was in disbelief.

“It is such a tiny piece of land out there in the middle of the Atlantic,” he said. “For a few moments we wondered if we had missed it completely, but once we saw it, that was a great moment.”

As navigator, Van Dusen impressed her teammates and other sailors as she navigated through one of the most difficult components of the race: the Gulf Stream. “For a time in the Gulf Stream the current had complete control of the boat,” said Van Dusen. “There was nothing we could do for 24 hours.”

For both Braun and Van Dusen, the preparations for the Newport Bermuda race began months prior, and although Van Dusen knew the other crew members from summers in Maine, Braun had not really met the others before.

“We were so happy to get to Bermuda, but over the course of the race we really bonded and had really been through something together,” said Braun. “We only stayed in Bermuda for 24 hours and flew back together on Sunday. On the plane back, we all looked at each other and I knew that I would truly miss these guys forever.”

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Source: Laurie Fullerton, marblehead.wickedlocal.com

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