Family team for Marion Bermuda Race

Published on June 13th, 2019

Forty-one teams are entered for the 2019 Marion Bermuda Race which starts June 14 for the 645nm course from Marion, MA to Bermuda. Among the fleet, based on their rating, the Farr 63 Kiwi Spirit should be leading the way, skippered by 18-year old Jonathan Riley.

Jo, as Jonathan is called, and his sister Chloe got their start in the junior program at Beverly Yacht Club (Marion, MA), and the siblings are now embracing the offshore game. The Bermuda race is his turn in charge while Chloe will skipper Kiwi Spirit in the Marblehead Halifax race in July.

“We bought the boat for the reason we are doing this race,” said dad Mark Riley. “It is manageable with limited experience people yet big enough that we could take a lot of family and friends on board and enjoy some nice blue water sailing.”

Jo added, “It was meant for shorthanded sailing. Since we are taking so many family members it met all of our needs…. We want to go fast and finish in our slot.”

That means he wants to finish first. He added, “We see a couple of holes [Parking lots] along the way. We hope to bridge those if we can.”

Father, son and daughter plus three cousins and a brother-in-law make up the family part of the crew. Joining them is Chuck Fontaine, a lifelong friend, who has run the Mass Maritime Sailing Program. Riley said he wouldn’t dream of going offshore without Fontaine. “He’s more than competent and very entertaining.”

Kiwi Spirit was designed for Dr. Stanley Paris who sailed her in an unsuccessful single-handed circumnavigation attempt. Built in 2012, she has a carbon hull with a lifting keel, twin rudders, and an interior designed for comfortable cruising.

“People do the Marion Bermuda Race because they want to be able to say they did it, not because they want to say they won,” shared Mark. “However you finish, everybody should be proud of being able to say they did it. If you did well, then fantastic… and maybe it will make you want to do it again.”

For Mark Riley, this year will mark his 18th Bermuda race. Speaking of Jo, Mark said, “There are very few people who can say they did it with their kids, and didn’t drag their kids. Jo drags me along.”

Jo attended the Oakcliff Sailing Program last summer to hone his offshore skills and has already done multiple races to Bermuda. In his first Marion Bermuda Race in 2013, a younger Jo Riley was on the 15-person crew of line honors winner Shindig. He was the youngest sailor in the race. At 12 years old Jo stood all his watches including two at night.

This year is Jo’s fourth race from Marion. Plus he has done four returns for a total of eight Gulf Stream crossings. He’ll be the skipper and looking for line honors again.

Given the right conditions, which may actually be shaping up for this race, Kiwi Spirit could break the course Record set in 2011 by Lilla, a Briand 76 (IRL7600) owned by Simon and Nancy De Pietro of Cork, Ireland and Mattapoisett MA. Lilla set the course record for the 645-mile track from Marion to Bermuda at 68:58:45.

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Background: The 2019 race is the 22nd Marion Bermuda Race and the 42nd year for the 645-mile open ocean challenge for cruiser type yachts.

The first Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race in 1977 saw 104 starters cross the line. Over the forty-two years since that first race the race has evolved into a true offshore challenge for cruising yachts, amateur, family and youth sailors. Special prizes abound to emphasis celestial navigation, short handed sailing, family crews and regional competition. The race is handicapped under the ORR rating system to assure the fairest scoring available for ocean racing yachts.

Source: Talbot Wilson

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