Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Approaching the Onion Patch

Class 12' Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Start - June 16
2006 Newport to Bermuda (Photo Credit: Race Committe)

Bella Mente Shines in Light Air Marathon
by Laurie Fullerton

Hamilton, Bermuda- In what is proving to be one of the most frustrating light-air races in the 100 year history of the Bermuda classic, the leaders within this year’s 263-strong fleet are finally converging on the final leg towards the St David’s Lighthouse finish line. At 10:30am EDT today (Monday) Hap Fauth’s JV 66 Bella Mente was 126nm from the finish, 33 miles ahead of the Charles St Clair Brown's 98-foot New Zealand super maxi Maximus.

Early today, Maximus led the much smaller Open 50 Gryphon Solo skippered by Joe Harris by just 12 miles. “This is not exciting sailing by anyone’s standards, with any chance of this year’s race setting new speed records now all but gone,” one Maximus crewman reported overnight, adding. “During the past 8 hours we have covered just 42 miles. It is a huge frustration for a team that knows they have a record-setting boat beneath them.”

After three days and nights at sea, not everyone is disheartened, especially those on the 66-foot Bella Mente, John Thompson’s Alchemy and Dr. Richard Shulman’s 45-foot Temptress, who now find themselves in prime positions to challenge for the coveted Gibbs Hill Lighthouse trophy.

“I am still chasing that Holy Grail,” Shulman admits. In the 1994 race, he missed a first place by 3 minutes and 40 seconds. “If I had won that race, I don’t know if I would still feel the same way today. I know that you cannot win unless you are well prepared and lucky. The luck part of it is really true. The good Lord has to be there.”

In the St. David’s Lighthouse Division, another dramatic lead change took place during the early hours today when E. Llwyd Ecclestone’s Kodiak II (138nm from the finish at 10:30am EDT) slipped ahead of Skip Sheldon’s 65-foot Zarraffa (141 nm from the finish). Lawrence Huntington’s 50-foot Snow Lion and Trey Fitzgibbon’s 65-foot Mischievous are tied for third place, 153nm from the St David’s Lighthouse.

Gary Jobson, the navigator on Kodiak II said today “While there is a fair share of luck involved in winning, it is difficult to control your destiny. We have an incredible afterguard whose average age is 63. We also calculate that between us, we have completed a combined total of 170 Newport Bermuda races!”

Frank Steinemann’s Selene (163nm to finish at 10:30am EST) led the Cruising Division 23 miles ahead of Jim Reiher’s Swan 53 Sky and James Brown’s J133 Rumba a further 7 miles astern.

Tom Slade’s 52- foot Renegade, which has led the double-handed division throughout, was 163 miles from the finish this morning, 23 miles ahead of Gardner Grant’s J120 Alibi

The lead boats are expected to reach Bermuda early Tuesday morning followed by more than 100 others which are all in close proximity to each other. The bartenders are waiting.- Laurie Fullerton

-Laurie Fullerton

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