Rough trip for 2009 Bermuda Race Winner and others

The 2009 Marion-Bermuda Race is in the record books. It is also an indelible memory for most of those who took part. Among them is Chris Culver, whose GMT-rigged Hinckley Sou’wester 59 Cetacea placed First in Class A.

“Obviously, we are happy to see we can hold our own in the Cruising Division with a big, solid cruising boat,” Chris admitted. “Over a period of 30-36 hours, we had one squall after another. The wear and tear on crew and the boat is significant. Many other boats had issues with broken gear and fear for their rigs, but we really didn’t worry about our boat or our rig – which gave a lot of peace of mind. It was an amazing ride.”

“We’ve never had the boat heeled over this much. The water was only about two inches from coming into our (raised center) cockpit in a few of the 40+ knot squalls.”

“We tried to navigate through the worst squalls using our radar. The squalls show up as big red blobs. As we approached Bermuda, 3-4 days into this pretty tiring effort we saw one squall on the screen so long and solid that we couldn’t find a route through it. Then, we realized in our tiredness, that red blob wasn’t a squall: it was Bermuda!”

In addition to his Class victory, Chris won the Sail Magazine Trophy for best combined performance in successive Marion-Bermuda and Newport-Bermuda Races, the RHADC Past Commodores Trophy for best performance by an electronically navigated yacht, and was a member of the NYYC’s team that won the I-Boat Track Trophy for the best 3-boat combined result. He was widely quoted in press for his summation: “Winning is a bonus. Arriving was the challenge.”

When Chris bought this boat, he found he had to replace the rig. He looked at spar builders both in the UK and USA “GMT came highly recommended and were here in the States. I was even able to come see the mast being built.”

Chris races to Bermuda every year (both Newport and Marion starts), so Cetacea has certainly made use of her GMT carbon rig for racing, but Cetacea also goes South for the winter (this year: the BVI) and adds even more miles cruising.

Cetacea was just one of several GMT-rigged boats in this bluewater classic. There were also other podium finishes and an Award of Merit for GMT customers.
Andrew Norris, who extensively refurbished the 1969 Tripp yawl Katrinka, came Third in Class C, an impressive result for what was not only his first Bermuda Race but his first-ever ocean crossing. A major component to the restoration work by Brooklin Boat Yard was the replace-ment of aluminum spars with GMT carbon composites.

In Class A, where Cetacea reigned supreme, Second place was taken by Sheldon Brotmann with Whisper, a Canning 48. She, too, carries a GMT carbon rig.
The Award of Merit was presented to George Denny, a Class winner in a previous Bermuda Race who, along with three other skippers, suspended racing to search for the source of an emergency flare, launched by a French solo sailor (who was subsequently rescued by a cruise ship). “I happened to be at the wheel and thought I saw a flare. I’d never seen one at sea, only at safety seminars. I got on the radio and asked others if they had seen it. And broke off racing to head in that direction.”

George, whose Restive is a custom Alden 48 designed by Niels Helleberg and built in wood by Brooklin Boat Yard, noted that “We had to beat all the way into Bermuda. It was not nice: that’s a long beat. And it was blowing 20-plus. I didn’t worry about my GMT rig; it’s solid in every respect and strong as hell.

Before the start, I had a concern about my boom vang, but GMT came right over and it turned out to be nothing to worry about. Absolutely, they produce a good product and back it up.”

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