How small beginnings lead to Bermuda

Published on March 19th, 2022

Eight girls are set to become the youngest, all-female team to compete in the 635 nm Newport to Bermuda race when it gets underway June 17, 2022.

Seven of the eight girls on this crew are members of the Lincoln School sailing team, and they train at the Bristol Yacht Club (Bristol, RI) under coach Richard Feeny. Last summer, he ran a two-month program in which he coached the crew in big boat racing skills on board a 33-foot Beneteau Figaro.

At the end of summer, when someone suggested as a joke that Newport to Bermuda was the next step, Feeny chirped, “Yeah, that’s totally doable.” The seed was planted.

The team includes Phoebe Lee, grade 12; Milla Clark, grade 11; Elizabeth Gardner, grade 11; Olivia Vincent, grade 10, Gigi Fischer, grade 10; Sophia Comiskey, grade 12; Sarah Wilme, a student in the IRYS boatbuilding program; and Callie Dawson, grade 11.

“I had previously been involved with the Figaro fleet down in New York when I was in college,” said Wilme. “That’s how I ended up reaching out to Richard. These Figaros are used to train younger people distance racing on boats that have really, really light loads so that they’re easier to start out with without much risk.”

They logged miles while learning a lot of offshore skills going out every weekend in the summer — they even did some boat deliveries in the fall. By October, they had sailed about 2000 nautical miles as a team. The original program was only six weeks, but the passion built for this new-to-them niche of their sport.

After the seed was planted, Fischer reached out to the chairman of the Newport to Bermuda race, who at first thought they would be the first all-female crew (actually there was one other, back in 1992). It was confirmed, however, that they would be the youngest.

They then reached out to Oakcliff Sailing, a nonprofit sailing center in New York, which will be providing a Farr 40 for the race, training leading up to the June event, and two coaches. They also must focus on fundraising to pay for their charter and training (if you are interested in helping out, visit Oakcliffsailing.org and select Lincoln Team on their donation page).

“I think it’s comforting to know your crew and I think we all know each other so well and we trust each other so much,” said Wilme. “Of course we don’t want to be messing up during the race but if we mess up on something there’s no embarrassment factor, there’s always someone to step in and help out. I feel like we all just work really well together.”

Top Photo: (left to right) Olivia Vincent, Sarah Wilme, Gigi Fischer, Sophia Comiskey, Elizabeth Gardner, Milla Clark, and Phoebe Lee. Not pictured: Callie Dawson.

Source: EastBayRI

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