AYC in the 2024 Newport-Bermuda Race

AYC in the 2024 Newport-Bermuda Race
Scylla battling at the start

American Yacht Club was strongly represented in this year's Newport-Bermuda race, with Cougar, Inisharon, Scylla, Young American, and ZIG ZAG all in the running. It was a challenging race right from the get-go, with competitive starts into a failing wind and then a building southerly. One boat, Alliance, suffered catastophic damage, likely from a submerged container, and had to be rescued (video interview here). We caught up with a few of the AYC participants after the race.

ZIG ZAG approaching the start

Andrew Clark, of ZIG ZAG, noted, "It was a tough race. We broke with our initial plans to stay west and dug ourselves a nice big hole on the wrong side of the course. We had 1.5 knots against vs. up to a 5 knot push for other folks. It took a 30 hour sprint at the end to save a spot on the podium." ZIG ZAG, which included AYC members Andrew Clark, Kohl Brinkman, and John Fryer, managed to claw their way back to 2nd in class 4 in the St. Davids Lighthouse division, and won the Olin Stephens Ocean Racing Trophy for top combined performance last Halifax and current Bermuda races.

Inisharon receiving first prize in their class

After a frustrating race in last year's light-air Marion-Bermuda race, Inisharon had a stellar showing in 2024. They won Class 2 in the Finisterre division and came in fifth overall in the division. Kristin Murphy noted, "The race was fast and bumpy — very unusual in the fact that once we cleared Newport Harbor, it was a one tack drag race!" They spent 3 days on starboard tack at 35% heel, leading to a highlight being a 60-minute tack just to spend some time on port. Kristin said, "It was a great race with ideal wind for the boat. We had some fantastic sailing, beautiful weather, and lots of fun." Among its crew, Inisharon included AYC members Jim, Kristin and Thomas Murphy and Elliot Taft.

Scylla crew before the race

Scylla had a tough race this year, having to cut things short due to a medical emergency on board (we're happy to report that everyone is okay). They tangled at the start with an XP44 that tried to push them over early and forced them to tack away and start a little late. Markus Lahrkamp reported, "It took almost 5 hours until we caught up with the fleet again, and started picking up speed in a freshening southerly breeze." Unfortunately, they were only 12 hours into the race when they realized they had to retire and get a crew member to an ER.

Markus said, "Under close observation and with guidance from the USCG, we turned around and sailed back to Newport in less than 8 hours. Special thanks go to the USCG watch captains on duty during that night and morning who were calling in every hour to check on the condition of our patient. They were ready to deploy a helicopter in case the condition got worse." Scylla had a large AYC contingent, including Markus and Michelle Lahrkamp, Will Canty, Drew Fung, Vince Graziano, Rich Jessop, Dave Richman, and Fiona Walsh.

Jim Murphy at the helm of Inisharon

John Fryer of ZIG ZAG also shared his take on the race: "This was a somewhat 'interesting' race," he said. "The Newport to Bermuda Race tends to be either a strategic 'go east or west' race or a 'speed' race. This race was both. This was evident from the start, as we battled light winds getting out of Narragansett Bay, and by 2100 on the first day, had only made it as far south as Block Island. Once the breeze filled in, we saw a consistent 16-22kts. This required an innumerable number of evolutions of 1st reef in the 1st reef out, with a few 2nd reefs thrown in for good measure. We pushed the boat hard and focused on hitting our numbers. The final 30 hours was an all-out sprint with a few cat naps on the rail and fighting for every .1 of a knot."

ZIG ZAG receiving the Olin Stephens Ocean Racing Trophy

Markus also noted on Scylla's journey, "The entire Scylla crew was very disappointed about the situation. While we all knew that we made the right decision, it still hurt to not be able to sail to Bermuda. To overcome the experience of our shortened Bermuda trip, we had a 'Bermuda' party in Rye on Tuesday where we also announced that the preparation for NBR 2026 is starting now. We will be back."

Racers becalmed after the start (photo from Dave Richman on Scylla)

While Bell 42 hasn't had a chance to catch up with Leonard Sitar of Cougar, or Peter Becker who once again did the race double-handed on Young American, we trust they also had tremendous experiences.

Inisharon crew

For more on the Newport-Bermuda 2024, you can watch start highlights and a video recap of the race.