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Ski Bum at Sea: The Marion to Bermuda Race

Posted by Dan Egan  June 19, 2013 04:16 PM

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Joseph Campbell famously once said, “The best things in life can not be described, the second best thing in life are the things we attempt to describe and the third best things in life are the ones we talk about.”

One thing is for sure: sailing the open ocean at night can’t be described, and in the spirit of Joseph Campbell, I will not attempt to do so here.

Listen to my most recent Edging the Xtreme update:

But what I can tell you is that Marion, Mattapoisett and Padanaram, Massachusetts are towns where sailing reigns. Located in those towns are some of the most respected boat yards, boat wrights, and sailors in the world.

The annual Marion to Bermuda Race is a rite of passage in this part of New England, and the scene at the dock with generations of families ranging in age from four months to 80 plus years old, wishing us luck is equally hard to describe.

On the boat I sailed on, ages ranged from 18 year-olds to seasoned sailors, many of whom had done this race as many as 13 times. The largest boat in the race, Shindig, had a father-son team on board. Mark Riley and his son kept a blog with that is very moving and both the father and son are sailing the boat back later this week.

Listen to me talk to Adam 12 on my way into Bermuda:

photo[2].JPG
The crew of August West cruising across the finish line.

I sailed on the boat August West. We had an amazing start, only to blow out the spinnaker three miles into the race. We eventually sewed it back and referred to it as Frankenkite, but by then the leaders were too far out in front to catch. This photo was taken by Hew Russell of our kite ripping away from the boat.

August West Kite Rip.JPG

Racing these sailboats is a mix of mental endurance and physical grind, with three-hour watches at night and four hour watches during the day. The hardest part of sailing in general is staying focused on making the boat go fast and in a 650 mile race like this, that often can be a tall order. We had eight crew members to motivate each other, and the winner of the race (on the boat Alibi) was a double-handed entry. I can only imagine that their challenges during sail changes and rough seas were greater than ours.

Our crew consisted of boat owner and skipper Jamey Shachoy, Ed VanKeuen (who spent five years sailing around the world), Jon Pope (who has raced to Bermuda 13 times), Will Godfrey (who sails for Hobart College), Sam Schafer (who had sailed the Trans Atlantic leg of the 1997 BT Global Challenge around the world race in 1997), Barrett Levenson (a sailing whizz kid), sailing industry professional Dan Cooney (who is a life-long sailor and did his first Marion to Bermuda race as a teenager), and myself.

The Bermuda one-two race is also currently going on. In this race sailboats are single handed on the way down and double handed on the way back. These boats leave today and will start returning to Newport RI over the weekend.

The following quote by Joseph Campbell sums up my not only my overall experience of this race but also of life: “The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure ”

Thanks to my sailing partners who made this trip possible, Sperry Top-Sider, Gowire Insurance, Atlantis Weather Gear, Lake Winnipesaukee Sailing Association, Uncle Jon's Coffee and Buzzards Bay Yacht Services

For more, follow Dan Egan on Twitter at @SkiClinics and Like SkiClinics on Facebook.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Edging The Xtreme with Dan Egan focuses on the hip and happenings of the extreme sports world, with exclusive interviews with regional, national and international athletes in the world of skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, surfing and so much more.

More about Dan Egan

Dan Egan thrives on action and has been at the forefront of the extreme sports scene since the mid 1980s. As a pro athlete, Egan pioneered extreme skiing and the extreme sports industry. He has led adventure trips around the world from the Alps to the Arctic. His company skiclinics.com runs camps and clinics across North America, Europe and South America. Dan Egan is a writer, world- renowned extreme skiing pioneer and an award-winning and Emmy nominated media producer.
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