Photo: Stuart Streuli

Bermuda Short-Handed Return Runs Long on Unique Stories

In the world of distance racing, every boat crafts its own tale, and the Bermuda Short-Handed Return is no exception. Although the fleet was modest compared to the grand North American race to Bermuda two weeks prior, the narratives from the Bermuda Short-Handed Return were as varied and captivating.

The second Bermuda Short-Handed Return commenced from the western end of St. George’s Harbor on June 30. The first boat crossed the finish line off Newport just after dawn on July 4, with results tallied and awards presented in a cozy ceremony at the New York Yacht Club Harbour Court on July 7. This race, organized by the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, and the Cruising Club of America, focuses on the journey. Supported by Safe Harbor Marinas, Peters & May, Helly Hansen, and Hammetts Hotel, the New York Yacht Club’s 2024 Regatta Program showcased three riveting stories from the event.

Murray Beach, the skipper of the Tartan 4600 Meridian, was the sole entrant in the Singlehanded Division. Despite his automatic victory in the class, Beach also secured an impressive fourth place overall.

“I participated in the Newport Yacht Club’s Bermuda 1-2 in 2015, and it was the most enjoyable sailing experience I’ve had,” Beach reminisced. “I always thought a return race would make sense.”

Beach’s strategy emphasized energy conservation. “Exiting Bermuda, the doublehanders were racing northeast with spinnakers out, while I went straight up the rhumb line, wing-on-wing. I was rested and they were exhausted. We converged again later, and I realized my strategy of rest over speed had paid off.”

Beach’s approach underscores the importance of energy management in singlehanded racing. “At 70, I can’t compete with younger sailors’ stamina. I set a conservative strategy and stuck to it, which proved successful.”

For Will McKeige and Zach Doerr, co-skippers of Groupe 5, the journey was about pushing the limits. Competing in Doublehanded Class 1, they clinched both their division and the overall award.

“Zach, having raced the Newport Bermuda Race on this boat, was our speed guy,” McKeige said. “We pushed hard from the start, knowing we had to make it to the new breeze down the track. Despite the kite reaching its limit, we kept it up until it failed.”

Doerr added, “This boat’s stability in high winds allowed us to carry the A2 spinnaker in 30 to 35 knots. Even as the sea state made it tough, we kept pushing. When the A2 eventually tore, we knew we had given it our all.”

The final story highlights the importance of safety and adaptability. Jonathan Bixby, co-skipper of Yankee Girl, recounted their diversion to assist a distressed boat.

“The Coast Guard directed us to aid a boat with a damaged VHF antenna and AIS. Communicating through an intermediary sailboat, we reached them with the help of a freighter. The injured woman aboard was relieved to find that our skipper, Tom, was a physician, ensuring her safety until we could continue our race.”

Bixby emphasized their readiness. “Our safety-at-sea training with the Cruising Club of America prepared us for this. We resumed racing but prioritized getting within 200 miles of the coast to facilitate potential medical evacuation.”

The 2024 Bermuda Short-Handed Return results reflect the resilience and skill of its competitors. Full results can be found here.

2024 Bermuda Short-Handed Return Final Results

Single Handed Division (ToT – 1 Boat)

  1. Meridian, Tartan 4600, Murray Beach, Westwood, MA, USA – 1/RDG; 1

Double Handed Class 1 (ToT – 7 Boats)

  1. Groupe 5, Figaro 2 Custom, Will McKeige, Mamaroneck, NY, USA – 1; 1
  2. Blur, J/111, Peter Gustafsson, Gothenburg, SE, SWE – 2; 2
  3. Envolee, Beneteau Figaro II, Nathan Bossett, Alameda, CA, USA – 3; 3
  4. Charlotte, J/120, Richard L. West & Robert Hamilton Kelly, Newport, RI, USA – 4; 4
  5. Take Two, JPK45, Gordon Fletcher, North Kingstown, RI, USA – 5; 5
  6. Fearless, Sunfast 3300, Philip Haydon, Boston, MA, USA – 6; 6

Double Handed Class 2 (ToT – 7 Boats)

  1. Young American-146, J 105, Peter Becker, Rye, NY, USA – 1; 1
  2. Avanti, Hanse 43, Jeremi Jablonski, Wilton, CT, USA – 2; 2
  3. Rocket J. Squirrel, Swan 39, Deanna Polizzo, Fairfield, CT, USA – 8/RET; 8
  4. Artemisia, J 40, Kyle Wishart, Coventry, RI, USA – 8/RET; 8
  5. Comet, J/44, Kenneth Luczynski, Kings Point, NY, USA – 8/RET; 8
  6. High Note, Baltic 51, Gary Nackman, Montville, NJ, USA – 8/RET; 8
  7. Yankee Girl, Morris Justine 36, Thomas Vander Salm, Salem, MA, USA – 8/RET; 8

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