The Bermuda Backwards Two-one

June, 2002

By Dodge Morgan

There’s a daily email of sailing news called “Scuttlebutt.” The coverage is strictly racing. A grand cast of the world’s racing famous report and debate racing matters at an awesome level of technical and personal knowledge and insight. I have even responded with a couple of “letters” of my own that, for reasons obvious only to the editor’s whimsical side, have not been printed. My two favorite news items were of the collision of two racing maxi boats well off shore and the debate over the financial burdens yacht clubs assume for sponsoring and putting on ocean races.

It seems a fully crewed maxi struck another bow on to port side as the two danced around each other, seeking a few yards race advantage. The two were alone in a wide expanse of blue water. I understand the crews were having a lively verbal exchange just prior to the hit – you know, the mea culpa, youa culpa kind of yelling.

Result was one bruised bow, one holed topside. The attack boat obliged its burdened status with the awesome payment of a 720-degree roundabout. Scuttlebutt debate by all sorts of experts explored, in excruciating detail, the penalty and repair costs, essentially summarizing the event through race rules and financial obligations. My thought that both skippers might best be chained to a club bar for life was not well received.

Now the startling news that yacht clubs are reeling under the cost of sponsoring offshore races was a real shocker. The debate raged over the assumed key variables – member dues, liability insurance premiums and race entry fees. I shared my expert opinion on this controversial subject that a yacht club complaining about the cost of putting on a sailboat race is like the Royal Hounds Club complaining about the cost of holding a fox hunt. I was again ignored.

I truly believe my inability to get my wisdom past the Scuttlebutt letters editor is a matter of my racing reputation, which is lousy or absent or both. I have created a solution to this. Forthwith, I will sign my letters, “Tom Snyder of Tom’s Sailing Institute”.

I believe the long-term answer, however, is for me to enter the realm of active and aggressive sailboat racing. I intend to take this heroic step with unprecedented fury and some expert help. The fury will be mine and the help will be Snyder. My first step is that Institute Tom and I will be entering the upcoming Bermuda One-Two race. Tradition has the Newport to Bermuda leg accomplished single-handed and the Bermuda to Newport leg two-handed. (Note: There is a Californian sailor with just one arm who claims to be the only true single-hander around.)

Only Tom and I will team up to do this event in reverse of tradition. With the solo fleet racing to Bermuda, we will double-hand to Newport and, with the pairs racing back to Newport, Tom will solo to Bermuda. There is a certain poetry in this procedure. We will be in both ports without the crush of many sailors jockeying for bragging rights and degrading the service in bars. We will not be fraught by the frayed nerves that come from being amidst a mongo, testosterone fleet, thus relieved of the attending demand for constant watches and freed of discouraging sightings of competitors. We will, of course, be receiving the starting process via satellite, so our crossing times will have complete and unassailable legitimacy at any protest committee meeting. Racing boils down to just a matter of reading clocks anyway.

Our major challenge will occur when we must pass through the oncoming fleet. During this scary period, we will mount a loud hailer fitted with an endless loop audio tape (technically known as a Mobius strip) on the bow, repeating over and over the words, “starboard tack…woman overboard…fresh pizza…stock market crash news on channel 169.”

I intend to absorb Snyder’s knowledge and wisdom of the sail racing art like a sponge. He will take the solo leg but I will be cleverly hidden below with ears and bowels wide open. The racing community is duly warned.

Dodge Morgan broke all sorts of records when he single-handed American Promise around the world without stopping in 1985 and ’86. He lives on Snow Island in Harpswell, Maine.