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Apollo and the Newport Bermuda Race

Published on June 11th, 2020

While the 52nd edition of the Newport Bermuda Race was cancelled in 2020, there remain 51 editions of memories that have come from this 635nm course. Scuttlebutt is celebrating this history by sharing the stories … here’s one from John Deermount, USNA Sailing Officer 1968-70:

It was early January 1970. I was sitting in my office in Santee Basin at the Naval Academy. When an international call came through from a very inebriated person claiming to be a USNA graduate serving as a US Navy Lt. Cdr. in Perth Australia. He said that he met some Aussie sailors at a bar and they needed help with arrangements to sail in the 1970 Newport Bermuda Race.

The caller said they were arranging shipping for their boat Apollo, but they needed help finding an arrival port, a yard for rigging and a navigator. Once I realized this wasn’t a prank, I agreed to help. Subsequently, they connected me to the team manager, a guy by the name of Brian who worked for the owner, Alan Bond.

After a few more phone calls we arranged a port arrival and yard in Baltimore. The navigator was a staff member of The Naval Institute. We got to spend some time with them in Newport before the race. The crew was the wildest, most fun loving group I’d ever been around. When they entered a bar they took over the place over. It was like an Aussie invasion.

I was a watch captain on Mareda, a 60-foot Morgan designed yawl that had been donated to the academy. The Aussies wound up mooring across from us at Bannister’s Wharf, and I distinctly remember watching them “provision” Apollo. There really wasn’t much food put onboard, but there were cases upon cases of Fosters.

Apollo was basically a 60-foot dinghy. It was a cold molded plywood, sloop designed by Ben Lexcen. As I remember, they finished in the top third of B Division.

Once Apollo arrived in Hamilton, a large suite at the Princess Hotel was their headquarters. They did well in the race, but definitely won the party. There were late night sundies along with plenty of alcohol in the suite. Getting there was also an event which included Ens. Scott Allan riding to the hotel in the roof carrier of a taxi.

Apollo was Alan Bond’s first foray into US offshore racing. Thirteen years later, his name would be part of America’s Cup history.

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