Barcanova's Bermuda 1-2 by Stephen Gay

Barcanova, is a Jeaneau Sunfast 3200

The Bermuda 1-2 consists of two legs: Singlehanded from Newport to Bermuda and doublehanded for the return trip. Like any shorthanded race, one of the hardest parts is managing your time and efforts in the preparation phase to ensure you've met the safety requirements and have a plan for how to deal with all the contingencies that could occur on an ocean race when there's nobody to help you! I had always wanted to do this race and so last fall I bought a Jeanneau Sun Fast 3200, a boat designed for just this sort of thing.

My boat, Barcanova, the name chosen by the previous owner, means “New Boat” in Portugese, proved to be a great choice for a race that throws a little bit of everything at you. Unlike the great Hawaii races, the Bermuda races don't always fall into a reliable pattern of weather, and the navigation plan must account for the powerful Gulf Stream current that crosses the race course at five knots or more.

The singlehanded leg started out with some reaching and running and ended with a two-day slog upwind into 20-25kts (or a three-day slog into 25-35 knots for the slow boats!) as we met the front edge of the low pressure system that would later head out to sea and devastate the OSTAR fleet. Our race, too, was not without drama: One Mini 6.5 suffered a cracked keelbox (though they made it to Bermuda) and Spadefoot, a Schumacher 28, was abandoned as a result of keel issues, though her skipper was safely transferred to another boat in the fleet.

Barcanova put me in a great position to do well heading into the final two days, though my newness to the boat showed as I had some headsail issues that caused me to just miss the layline to Bermuda and spend an hour or so on the wrong tack just before the finish. After the finish, short on sleep and emotionally spent, I had the incredible experience of pulling into the beautiful harbor at St. George's and pitching the hook amongst the mooring field full of superyachts in town for the America's Cup. I anchored as close to the lee shore as I dared: I decided that if my anchor didn't hold, I'd be better off aground than I would be bouncing off several 100' sailboats in the middle of the night!

Return Leg: The results of the singlehanded leg were, ah, something of a motivator for me in the next leg: I finished 4th of 10 in my class (10th of 34 overall), but the spread between 4th and 2nd was all of seven minutes after four and a half days of ocean racing. Del Olsen met me in Bermuda and after several days of R&R and boat prep in Bermuda, we set off on the return leg. I think Del thought he was doing the Pac Cup again: We reached and beat into a day of light winds, spent a few hours adrift, and then spent the last two-thirds of the race pouring it on downwind in 15-25kts! These conditions suited the boat, and we routed well and sailed aggressively. The final night was probably the hairiest: 100 miles from the finish, we peeled from the 1.5oz symmetric to my small asymmetric kite as we weren't quite laying the finish line controllably in the 20kt breeze and funky, confused wave train north of the Gulf Stream. The breeze built to 25 at night (of course!), the waves got weirder still, and we sailed into one of Newport's notorious summer advection fog banks. We never had 100 yards of visibility for the last ten hours, and that night was as pitch black as they come. Del and I kept the hammer down as long as we dared and crossed the finish line in just under four days to win our class on corrected time by several hours and lose only to the Class 1 boats (Class 40s, canting-keel Elliott 35s, etc.) against the rest of the fleet. On the combined scoring, we finished 7th in the fleet and lost the Class 2 title to Breakaway, a J/35, by all of six minutes after over two hundred hours of ocean racing. What a finish! The experience of the race is one I'll always treasure. I've never been amongst such an interesting group of competitors and friends. In a shorthanded race, there's no huddling up with your crew at the post-race parties--you have to get out there and meet your competition. This forms a bond that is hard to describe, but is very comforting when you're facing a problem alone on the ocean and know that you can call upon the only other nearby boats to commiserate or come to your aid if required. I got a bad cut on my foot the day before the race back from Bermuda started from a barnacle on a piling while scrubbing my boat's bottom; one of my competitors quit preparing his boat so he could finished cleaning my boat's bottom while another helped me clean and disinfect the wound so I could get racing the next day. A spectacular race!

Also see:

Facebook page, BarcanovaUSA

Start Photos can be seen at:

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