Beringer Bowl Ocean Race?...but we didn't even get out of Mass/Cape Cod Bay!

The Beringer Bowl is an ISAF Category 3, 45.7 nm, overnight destination race from Marblehead, MA to Provincetown, MA. Leaving on a Friday early evening, this race typically takes all night to traverse the course, first to the west around a buoy outside Boston Harbor then southeast to Provincetown.

The race course (click on picture for larger sized image):

John Keane did this race many times on Eddystone Light and I think I only crewed for him once but this time we did it double handed on Jeroboam. The race is hosted by Boston Yacht Club and proved to be another organizational and administrative nightmare. I'm convinced that it doesn't take much to run a good regatta but hard work and half a brain. Apparently these are scare resources in Marblehead.

By way of a bit more background, Jeroboam first did this race in 2007, in fact this was the very first race in which I ever entered Jeroboam. Shawna and I did the double handed division but because my PHRF rating at the time didn't include a spinnaker, we sailed racing class without one (a requirement for the double handed entry), a massive blunder on my part. Needless to say we got crushed, earning a last place finish, both in class and in fleet, on both elapsed and corrected time. Ouch. It just doesn't get any worse than that. But as Shawna and I were reminiscing recently, we chalked it up to another reason not to take first impressions too seriously. On this go around, Jeroboam and I were looking to even the score.

Marblehead has never really embraced the single or short handed racing scene and the entrants list for this year's Beringer Bowl showed no change in status. Jeroboam was the only boat willing to race double handed. What we didn't find out until after we'd finished was that the race committee decided to can the division all together which is fine but even if we had heard of their decision, it was made only an hour or two prior to the start and wouldn't have allowed us time to recruit additional crew. The other funny part about this race is that they've declared it to be an ISAF Category 3 race but without any provision for insuring the boats entered meet the race requirements. Good thing they didn't or else their entrants would be far fewer in number. Here are the key areas that collectively would exclude a majority if not all of the fleet:
1. First of all, the boats with coated lifelines are all excluded which applies to just about every boat older than 6 years.
2. The emergency drinking water provision? ya right, if any of those boats had emergency water on board I'd be very surprised
3. Compass deviation card
4. Reserve navigation lights with a separate power supply - I bet less than 3 boats in the fleet had this
5. Emergency antenna
6. Documented radar cross section not less than 10 meters squared - probably 10% of the fleet has this
7. Safety equipment location chart
8. Alternative method of steering
9. Solas flares
I guess if I get really bored with this race in the future, I'll finish then protest every single boat in the fleet on each of the above items, knowing that each boat will surely fail at least one of them, then take first place because all the other boats have been disqualified.

Conditions on the course were in a constant state of change. The wind never steadied for longer than ten minutes nor did the velocity ever even out, always rising or falling and not by just a few tenths either. There was one stretch near the first turning mark outside Boston Harbor where we rode a 45 degree lift for about an hour from the Graves to Nantasket Beach. Around 2 am the rain showers began, some of which brought a thorough soaking for Jeroboam and her crew then a little later the lightning showers began. Normally, Keane and I are just fine in about any weather condition, perhaps, on a good day, one might even characterize us as "impervious to damp" however what a pathetic couple of souls we were on this race! The coughing, sniffling, flem hocking duo were anything but at our best and my throat hurt so badly by the time we got to Ptown that I could barely speak. We put our best foot forward nonetheless and were able to keep the boat moving efficiently through the night.

At dawn, on our approach to Race Point, visibility cleared a bit and there we were, close to the finish line with a whole bunch of boats that owed us time, every one of them fully crewed to our mere two sickly Jack Tars. Things looked bright and even in our illness, hopes ran high for a class victory. Sure enough, after we finished, a call to the race committee indicated that indeed, we had won our class and that our presence was request at the Provincetown Inn for bestowing of honors. But wait, upon arrival at the awards ceremony and review of the official results, another boat had not only destroyed us on corrected time but had beat the entire fleet. Something smelled fishy but in disgust, we turned away and headed back to town.

The Monday following the race, we challenged the results to find that the race committee had performed their corrected time calculations incorrectly and awarded our first place trophy to someone else. There was no apology issued or even a "Congratulations" from the race committee. Instead they provided  my cell phone number to the guy they awarded my trophy to so he could call to ask if I really finished at the time the race committee marked us. So much for redemption for the 2007 results and frankly my disgust of the entire event won't subside for some time.