Newport Bermuda: A chronic condition
Published on May 24th, 2022
by Wendy Mitman Clarke, Soundings
When James A. “Jim” McCurdy of McCurdy & Rhodes in 1985 designed the 38-foot cutter Selkie for his family, competing in the Newport Bermuda Race was, of course, part of the plan.
“My father had done Bermuda races since the 1950s,” says Sheila McCurdy. “He would disappear every two years for a week or so. My mother would disappear and meet him in Bermuda. So there was this thing—it’s just what you do.”
It was especially sweet, then, after the 1994 race’s finish when McCurdy called her father, who had by then retired from competing offshore, to report that she, her fiancé, and her two brothers had sailed Selkie to second place overall in the coveted St. David’s Lighthouse Division, a result any sailor who knows this race might only dream about. (Selkie repeated it in 2008 and finished second in class in 2016.)
“He was pretty much speechless,” she says. “That was a wonderful thing, because he died suddenly a couple of months later.”
On June 17, McCurdy and Selkie will be on the starting line again when more than 200 boats and 2,000 sailors take off in the 52nd biennial Newport Bermuda Race, known more commonly as the Bermuda Race and colloquially as the Thrash to the Onion Patch.
It will be her 19th race, a symptom of what she has wryly called “a chronic condition”—that compulsion among certain sailors to pour immense amounts of time, money, effort, skill and hope toward sailing fast and well the 635 nautical miles from Newport, Rhode Island, through the tumultuous Gulf Stream, to skirt the reefs guarding Bermuda and finish off St. David’s Head, smelling the oleander, and tasting the dark ‘n’ stormies to come. – Full report
Comment: For the Transpac Race, Scuttlebutt founder Tom Leweck initiated TPA – TransPac Anonymous – to “protect yachtsman from unscrupulous boat owners who make promises about sunny July sailboat rides to Hawaii.” I contend the Newport Bermuda Race needs a sister organization to reveal the high cost of those dark ‘n’ stormies. I did the 1984 race, and after pounding through condo-sized waves, becalmed in an adverse ebb, and arriving in biblical rain, the cost was too high. – Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt