Dear Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Authority,
I am the founder and skipper of Abilyn Racing, a sailing program based in Larchmont, NY, focused on shorthanded sailing. Our weapon of choice is a Mini Transat 6.50 named Abilyn. I am writing to advise the OA that, despite being ineligible to race in the Newport Bermuda Race on two grounds (length and ORR-calculated stability), we nevertheless intend to “race” double-handed from Newport to Bermuda on June 17. Our goal is by no means to disrespect the race, its heritage, or the OA. Rather, the upcoming Newport-Bermuda Race provides us with an opportunity essentially for live practice: practice for next year’s Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race; practice for future, bluewater racing and passage making; in short, practice for whatever sailing adventures come next.
Our approach to this adventure is well-grounded in the origins of the Newport Bermuda Race. In A Berth to Bermuda, John Rousmaniere writes that Thomas Fleming Day had a radical idea at the turn of the 20th century—offshore sailing in small boats. Day believed that “small vessels are safer than large, provided they are properly designed, strongly built, thoroughly equipped, and skillfully manned.” Confident in his own abilities as a seaman, unphased by those who preached the dangers of offshore sailing, and desiring to “get a smell of the sea,” Day set sail in 1906 from Brooklyn, NY, with three other boats in what became the inaugural Newport Bermuda Race.
Day understood that sailing offshore in a small boat is a beautiful challenge for the prepared seaman. Even today, to many sailors across the pond and around the world, sailing a small boat across an ocean means only that it must be Wednesday. It is my belief that, if Day were alive today, he would have smiled and tipped his hat at the thought of sailors venturing short-handed into the ocean aboard 21-foot oceangoing machines. He would have done so not in amazement, but rather as a gesture of respect and camaraderie that can only be shared among like-minded sailors who understand the importance of safety and seamanship as the bases for offshore sailing.
It is with the principles espoused by Thomas Day in mind that we intend to get a smell of the sea ourselves on June 17. Our boat—a Pogo 2 Mini Transat designed by Groupe Finot and built to offshore standards—is properly designed and strongly built. Indeed, Mini Transat boats have been racing across the Atlantic since the 1970s with crews of one. At least one Mini has circumnavigated the globe. And another Mini was recently sailed from the Caribbean to NYC, where it is staging for a record attempt between NYC and Lanzarote. Our boat also will be thoroughly equipped as we are adhering to the Newport Bermuda Race Safety Requirements, as supplemented by guidelines promulgated by the Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race organizing authority and the Storm Trysail Foundation. Finally, our boat will be skillfully manned as my co-skipper and I have substantial ocean racing experience, including five Newport-Bermuda races between us both. I also previously qualified for the Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race aboard Abilyn.
In view of our intention to “race” along with the fleet to Bermuda, we respectfully request that the OA permit us passage out of Narragansett Bay on June 17 by way of the official Newport Bermuda Race starting line. As a gesture of good faith—and regardless of whether the OA grants our request—we will donate $500 in the name of the Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Authority to the Storm Trysail Foundation, the preeminent organization providing education to young sailors about the importance of safety at sea.
Please let us know at your convenience whether the OA will grant our request. We are amenable to speaking further about logistics, including, for example, an appropriate timing for our start so that we do not interfere with the starts of any official entrants.
Read on, or get in on the argument here.