SI Vault
A log of the 1956 Bermuda Race kept by SI's boating editor aboard the 70-foot yawl 'Gulf Stream,' with firsthand reports from three other key boats in the ROUGH PASSAGE
Ezra Bowen
July 02, 1956
Saturday, June 16, 11 a.m., aboard 70-foot yawl Gulf Stream, Newport, R.I.
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July 02, 1956

A Log Of The 1956 Bermuda Race Kept By Si's Boating Editor Aboard The 70-foot Yawl 'gulf Stream,' With Firsthand Reports From Three Other Key Boats In The Rough Passage

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Saturday, June 16, 11 a.m., aboard 70-foot yawl Gulf Stream, Newport, R.I.

Two hours before the Class A start of the Bermuda race, we cast off our lines and slide out the channel toward start at Brenton Reef, 13 aboard counting Skipper Monroe Hemmerdinger. Ahead a forest of masts moves along to low roar of auxiliaries, mastheads waggling as boats—89 of them—roll on oil-slick surface of water. Day is hot with almost no wind, air hazy with high overcast. The fleet rumbles by the ugly gray cottages on shore with crowds of people spread along rocks by the channel, looking like colorful water birds on landspits. Sails begin to go up. There's Gesture , the 1946 winner with blue hull and aluminum spar; there's Mustang —Arthur Knapp at the tiller with a splash of white bandage across his sunburned nose. There's Malay , winner in the last race and, as we come to the line, big, black Bolero booms across our bow under a working rig. A Coast Guard boat comes alongside and hails us, "Twenty-mile-an-hour northeast forecast."

One p.m.: Start for Class A marked by a horn blast from the destroyer escort U.S.S. Rhodes , which will patrol the races. Absolutely no wind. Bolero has what would be windward position with Gulf Stream next. Now a zephyr comes in, and the 67-foot cutter Mogu walks out ahead, her big genoa trimmed close. If we get this kind of air all the way down, Mogu could take it. Now Class B, C and D boats are going off at 15-minute intervals. Fleet is strung out from shore to horizon, most of them trying to set spinnakers in the shifting air. 635 miles to go.

Aboard Finisterre. Saturday ,
June 16, 6:30 p.m.

Bad start hurt, but Finisterre came over the line well to leeward and picked up a bit more clear air than the bunch at the windward end. Wind turned to WSW at about eight knots. Finisterre dumped spinnaker and got a good run out of her ballon jib. By 7 p.m. she was leading Class D and had moved up among the C boats.

Aboard Gulf Stream, Saturday ,
June 16, 11:30 p.m.

Incredibly beautiful night with bright half moon and light WSW breeze. A real tourist race so far. A silky haze slides over the moon. There is a weather front hanging over us, and radio reports have given up on the northeaster. Our course is 175 magnetic to bring us into the Gulf Stream current 35 miles west of the rhumb line, the straight course for Bermuda. We're counting on the current to set us back onto the rhumb line. Distance-recording log strung from stern shows us 60 miles out of Newport. Water temperature is 62�. We'll know we're in the Stream when the water temperature goes up to 78�. The watch on deck lies along the cockpit, easy in the light air, watching masthead lights spaced out to leeward. Still Mogu weather.

Sunday, June 17, 6:50 a.m.: Air light at sunup. I took my first trick at wheel. This is a big boat with not too much feel in light wind. Only two boats in sight: Barlovento and Ni�a , both to leeward. This is good company for Gulf Stream . If we can stick with them till we get some wind, we might do something. Course 178, barometer 30 and rising. The day should be hot.

One p.m.: Twenty-four hours out and we've made 170.3 miles. Wind has freshened to 15 knots, and Kenyon speed indicator shows a steady 9. This is more like it. While I was in my bunk off watch about 10 a.m. I could feel the boat take a list and begin to work, lifting and dropping her nose in slow rhythm while water hissed along outside. We've sailed into sargasso weed now, meaning the Stream is not far off. Course 167. A perfect sailing day. There's a school of porpoises off to leeward edging over toward us, playing back and forth, some taking 12-to 15-foot leaps arching out of water like heavy blue-gray projectiles. They play all around the ship, then dive off to windward.

4 p.m.: Into the heart of the Gulf Stream. Water temperature up to 78. Course 160, Kenyon shows 10.4 knots, close to hull speed. No sign of usual line squalls that guard the edges of Stream.

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