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2004 Newport Bermuda Race - The Story Behind Garbo's DNF

Curmudgeon’s Comment: The following was provided by Timmy Dow, the watch Captain and boat manager for GARBO, who recounted the evening that kept his team from finishing the Newport Bermuda Race.

Thought you might like a story to share from our ill-fated Bermuda Race. GARBO is a Farr designed First 47.7 that was racing in IMS RC. Our crew included 5 veterans of several offshore races, 3 USCG 50 ton masters and the balance of GARBO's regular race crew (1 dockwalker was added in the 11th hour). We had a fabulous race going, and were quite excited as we approached our stream entry point at midnight on Sunday. This is what happened...

photo courtesy of the Beneteau website
Before all hell broke loose

Sunday, June 20, 2004, 1644 EDT: I am sitting in my bunk on GARBO reeling from the chaos that started at 0155 this morning. We are currently under power, and crawling back towards Newport. Our wonderful little race turned to &$@# in the dark hours this morning as Mr. Murphy and his entire family shipped aboard as watch mates (ie, Murphy’s Law). We are gradually hauling ourselves out of the square Gulfstream swells, as the seas have subsided to a more gradual groundswell and the wind has dropped off into the 20 knot range….a far cry from the 38 that howled across the deck as GARBO struggled to her feet.

I was awakened from my off watch to a cry for all-hands, and heard the A3 (sail) in distress, snapping and popping as the helmsman struggled to refill it after getting rounded up in a puff. The wind had filled in to the 22-25 limit of our spanking new North A3, and as the foredeck crew clipped in and worked forward, a huge puff rounded us up hard. Anyone who has ever broached a boat knows that the recovery is slim to none when it swings back the other way.

GARBO took a dive to leeward, and the next thing we had was 47 feet of boat pinned with the boom dragging along in the water and North A3 raining down on the deck. The kite had self destructed, and we hauled it down while the boat got herself to her feet. The deck went from an orderly arrangement of precise control lines to a salty spaghetti factory of wet spectra that rolled under your feet in the darkness.

We centerlined the boom and prepared to put in a second reef while the bow crew collected the remnants of the A3 and shoved them down into the sewer, where I stood with my head out the hatch as green water filled my bibs and the compartment as an extra slap in the face.

In cleaning the foredeck up, we found a pole guy that had been swept overboard and was now securely trapped somehow under the boat. Too many problems at once…while several of us set a #3 on the foil, the balance of the crew set about trying to free the fouled line and securing the second reef as GARBO began to make way again. A quick check-through found everyone without injuries, and we began to trim on again to get us back in race mode.

photo courtesy of the Beneteau website
Prior to the Murphy's coming aboard

Unfortunately, after the 100’s of hours of prep, Gerry’s countless dollars invested in the boat, our hardcore sanding program for the bottom, and meticulously checking the systems over and over this spring, the Murphy family decided to deliver the coup de grace, and cripple our steering. At 0255AM, the call from the helm was “I have no steering!”, and the chaos ensued again.

Rigging the emergency tiller, we regained control of the boat, dropped the main, and hoisted a storm jib to try and keep us from being slammed broadside by the northern wall rollers that were building rapidly. Jay Moynagh and I squeezed ourselves into the two aft lazarettes with headlamps to discover that the Kevlar quadrant lines had indeed chafed through and parted.

For two hours we fought nausea and a beating trying to affect some sort of repair that would restore our quadrant to use. We reeved a spectra spin sheet, and threaded it up the pedestal, but in the end could not remove the key in the wheel shaft that holds the lines in place.

With dissent, and fear from several of the less experienced crew about trying to continue under jury steering, we turned GARBO back towards the north and engaged the auto pilot, keeping the emergency tiller close by. At about 1500EDT, the wind dropped off dramatically and the seas subsided to the point where we could put skipper Gerry Sears over the side with helmet, wetsuit and knife to find out what was up under the boat.

As we suspected, the spectra guy had streamed under GARBO's broad belly, through the prop strut and then spun itself 8 or 9 times around our feathering Max Prop. Once it was cut away, we hauled Gerry back aboard, fired up the Yanmar and motorsailed through the night towards Newport.

Arriving back at Hinckley Yachts in Portsmouth, our project manger Rick Burnham met us outside the breakwall to hip tow us in to a slip. Once tied up, the crushing disappointment of what happened set in on all of us, and we immediately set our plan in motion for our return trip to the "Patch" in 2 years.

The learning experience to be taken away from this is huge, in the sense that no matter how much time and effort you put into a boat, there are always more scenarios to entertain. Our thoughts on additional spares and tools have changed, as well as creating a more viable emergency tiller for long distance use. We wish all our class competitors the best, and only wish we could join them for the stories in Hamilton. Now if I could just figure out who brought those goddamn bananas aboard....

Click here for the 2004 Newport Bermuda race website.

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