The ocean-racing crowd ain’t what it used to be. Back when offshore racing started — in the days of Don Aronow, Dick Bertram and Jim Wynne — it meant going out no matter what and not being afraid to lose sight of land.
In 1972 one of the last of this breed, Robert A. Nordskog, took part in the only running of Michael Hennessy’s Bermuda Race. None of the boats that started from Long Island made it, but Nordskog came the closest. With only 28 miles to go, his boat sank. If nothing else, he showed that it might be possible. So now, with today’s boats, you’d think there’d be no reason not to give it a go. Yet no one tried. That is, until 1996 when it came from an unlikely branch of boating’s evolutionary tree — a catamaran. And not a racing cat either.
The first of this new breed was a 26-foot Glacier Bay powered by two diminutive 90 hp Hondas. Taking 37 hours, it wasn’t fast but it proved that the Challenge was possible. Soon, more outboard cats followed, with the last, a Renaissance Marine Prowler 302, bringing the time down to 22 hours 23 minutes.
So it was that these boats ruled the seas between New York and Bermuda. At least until I got a call from this modest-sounding fellow, Chris Fertig, who told me he was mounting an attempt, this time in a monohull with diesels. After so many years it was finally going to happen. But it wasn’t going to be easy.