The unofficial story

How Morning Glory and Pyewacket duelled to the finish of the Newport Bermuda Race

Tuesday June 22nd 2004, Author: Barry Pickthall, Location: Transoceanic
Hasso Plattner's new maxZ86 Morning Glory has pushed ocean racing into a new era. The radical Reichel/Pugh design, with its patented canting ballast, twin foil underwater keel and rudder configuration (CBTF) reached the St David's Lighthouse finish at the end of the 635 mile Newport Bermuda Race, having sliced a massive 5 hours off the existing race record.

"Their's is not a record, more a benchmark for the future" says John Winder, the Newport/Bermuda Race Chairman, of Morning Glory's remarkable 48 hour 28 minute 51 secs. run. He and his joint organizing committee from the Cruising Club of America and the Royal Bermuda YC have been walking something of a tightrope in wanting to encourage leading edge developments like Morning Glory and Roy Disney's second placed Pyewacket, but without alienating or outclassing the 154 other yachts within the fleet.

Their answer was to allow these MaxZ86 racers, and Richard and Doug DeVos' Windquest, an earlier Riechel/Pugh design fitted with water ballast rather than a swing keel, to race in a special demonstration class.

Record or not, Morning Glory's passage was some demonstration. To give it some perspective, the 80ft Carrera, Plattner's former Morning Glory, and the first regular IMS maxi sized yacht to finish, did not complete the course for a further 18hours 37mins Unperturbed by the semi-official status of his yacht, Hasso Plattner, who was competing in his third Bermuda classic, called it 'A champagne Race'. Comparing this with the last race two years ago when Plattner's former Morning Glory was beaten into second place by Roy Disney's previous record-setting Pyewacket, he said. "Last time was bumpy, it was rocky, it was awful, but this time there were no problems, nothing broke and she came through perfectly – It was real champagne stuff.'

After the start from Newport, Rhode Island last Friday, Morning Glory, Disney's new Pyewacket and Windquest diced within a few boat-lengths of each other for the first 6 hours before losing sight of each other in the evening fog. The next time they saw each other, Pyewacket was ahead and Windquest had disappeared to the west.

John Bertrand, Windquest's skipper explained at the finish. 'Our boat isn't as fast as those two, so we had to do something better tactically.' They did – hooking up into a favorable meander within the Gulf Stream for 50% longer than Morning Glory and Pyewacket to come out ahead. But then, the two rocket-ship rivals set their giant mast-head gennakers and shot over the horizon.

The problem with rocket-ships, as Disney and his crew found to their cost, is that they go just as fast in the wrong direction. During the second night at sea, Pyewacket lost her way, and the following morning, the Morning Glory crew had a 30 mile advantage. Plattner and his crew crossed the line at 2:38 EST on Sunday just before the wind died to prolong Disney's discomfort for a further 5hours 26 minutes. Windquest finished 3rd, a further 1hour 39 minutes astern.

A jubilant Dee Smith, the navigator on Morning Glory, reported that their best 24hour run was 420 miles, much less than these new yachts have achieved even in delivery mode. Both Morning Glory and Pyewacket crews had set out with high hopes of knocking a further 10 hours off the existing record, but the weather does not always play to the rules either. Asked if he would return with a 100 footer for the Centennial Bermuda Race in 2006, Hasso Plattner said at the finish: 'We are very grateful to the organizers for letting us join in the race. It was very gracious of them. But the next race? We will have to see what is illegal next time.'

Elapsed times
Morning Glory (Hasso Plattner – Germany) 48hrs 28min 31secs
Pyewacket (Roy Disney – Burbank California) 53hrs 55min 23secs
Windquest (Rich and Doug DeVos – Michigan) 55hrs 35min 08secs
Carrera (Joseph T Dockery – Cos Cob CT) 67hrs 05min 55secs

Further reporting by Talbot Wilson:

The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Duty Office received a call from Killua owned by James Binch of New Cannan CT indicating that they have withdrawn from the race and are proceeding to Bermuda under power. She is in the Americap Double Hand Class.

Amelia III a Fontaine 64 owned by Jefferson Hughes of New York has had a failure with respect to sails and is also motoring to Bermuda. During the 0800 roll call on Monday the vessel was some 252 miles from the island. This report came from the race communication vessel Geronimo.

Geronimo, the sailing vessel of St. George's School returned to the Newport Bermuda race for the third time as the communications and emergency coordination center for yachts during the 2004 Newport Bermuda Race. Bermuda Race Organizing Committee members are on board to conduct a daily roll call, or check-in, on the race course and are available 24 hours a day to facilitate and coordinate emergency communications and management. Geronimo is not equipped to be nor is she intended to function as a rescue vessel. To perform communications functions, Geronimo has VHF, single sideband radio and satellite telephone capability.

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