Photo by Amanda Dale
SHIPSHAPE: Owners George Cubbon, left, and Bill Andrews, right, aboard Alice Kay.
Photo by Amanda Dale SHIPSHAPE: Owners George Cubbon, left, and Bill Andrews, right, aboard Alice Kay.
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Alice Kay, a 40 ft yawl, will be flying the flag for Bermuda in the 2013 Marion to Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race.

Along with the Spirit of Bermuda, she is the only Bermuda-based yacht competing in this year’s offshore classic, and is the island’s only competitor in the Founders Division.

Skipper George Cubbon faces tough competition from 36 other vessels in the fleet but is relishing the challenge.

The biennial race however, is not so much about racing to win but the enjoyment of taking part, said Mr Cubbon, 61, of Pembroke.

Friendly

“It’s quite a friendly race,” he said. “It’s not such a ‘full-on’ or intense race as the Newport Bermuda Race, so is more of a cruise.

“It’s not about a massive desire to win, it’s all about participating. Handicap racing can be hit and miss — it depends on myriad factors — so it is really all about the experience.

“We are excited to be taking part; it’s going to be very pleasant.”

He said: “It’s the first time I’ve entered the Marion-Bermuda, but I’ve done the Newport Bermuda and Charleston Bermuda races in this boat when it belonged to Richard Hartley, whom I still regularly sail with.”

Alice Kay is a Hinckley Bermuda 40, built by Henry R. Hinckley & Company of Southwest Harbour, Maine.

Mr Cubbon, former president and CEO of AIG Insurance Bermuda, said: “There’s been 203 of these boats built since 1959, and Alice Kay is number 185. She was built in 1985.

“There are a number of boats built by Hinckley taking part in the Marion to Bermuda race — between six and eight — so it will be nice to socialize and talk to some of the other owners.

“But we are the only one of this design. Alice Kay is quite an old design so is more predictable at sea than a lot of the more modern boats. She’s more comfortable in that she doesn’t bounce so much.

“We are one of the few boats to have a mizzen — a second mast — so she is what you call a yawl.

“It means we can sail an extra sail going forward. This makes the steering easier and you’re more capable of keeping the balance.”

Mr Cubbon and his crew left Bermuda on May 31 to sail up to Buzzards Bay in Marion, Massachusetts. They took a leisurely sail up to their destination, where they then spent a week relaxing and making the final preparations for the race.

Co-owner Bill Andrews was also due to sail in the event but unfortunately broke a rib a few weeks before the event. Canadian Stephen Benn, who has previously competed in the Marion to Bermuda race aboard Bermuda Oyster, is to take his place.

The crew also includes Canadian Irene Conlon, and three other Bermudians —father and son, Donato and Chris Sgobba, and Mark Berry.

Mr Cubbon said the Marion to Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race has some of the highest safety standards in the world, which involves in-depth training for crew and strict equipment requirements.

“Safety is a critical issue. We went to Boston in March for a Safety at Sea seminar, which a certain proportion of the crew have to attend. This involves training in the use of PFDs (personal flotation devices), lifejackets, lifeboats and first aid. It’s very comprehensive.

“On Alice Kay, we will have a two-watch system, splitting the crew into two groups of three.

“Keeping a good lookout for other boats is critical but there are various mechanisms which will allow other ships to see you more easily. We have a radar enhancer which sends a powerful signal to other ships’ radar.

“We have the US Coast Guard close by, and technology to locate vessels in distress has advanced enormously in the past decade.

“We have a satellite phone that we can dial from any location in the world, and we also have a GPIRB (Global Position Indicating Radio Beacon), that transmits a GPS signal when wet, telling a satellite where it is. It’s registered to this vessel and can pinpoint us within the nearest 200 feet. It has a battery life of 36 hours.

“So, if anything was to happen to the boat, there are three to four buttons we can push to inform the Coast Guard of where we are.”

He said: “The Marion to Bermuda race has strict safety requirements and is classed as an ISAF (International Sailing Federation) Category One event.

Forecasts

“This has the second-highest requirements for safety and other equipment, so these requirements are quite strict.

“This has given us an opportunity to get Alice Kay into tip-top condition. In the process we’ve found out some defects, mostly routine stuff and upgrading of equipment, such as when something was nearing the end of its life.”

The Marion to Bermuda race is scheduled during fair conditions for offshore sailing for the northeast US to Bermuda.

“The event is set at this time of year because it’s after the winter but before hurricane season,” said Mr Cubbon.

“It’s very rare you will get a hurricane this far north in June.

“However, the swell can be high and you can get storms at any time.”

He added: “You can use commercially-available weather forecasters for the race.

“For the journey up to Marion we have a guy at a weather routing service to tell us the best route to avoid any bad weather — the optimum way to go for comfort. But you can’t use this service during the race.”

In terms of food and clothing, the crew has to keep supplies basic.

“We are bringing food that is easy to prepare, because it’s difficult to cook in saucepans when the boat is jumping around,” said Mr Cubbon.

“We have ready-prepared dishes we can put in the oven, plus granola bars, candy and fruit.

“At this time of year there can be one or two cool evenings close to the US coast, but more than of half the race will be this (eastern) side of the Gulf Stream, so by now it is very mild and we will dress
accordingly.”