“I’m drawing a line in the sand. Fine pink sand. On a beach in Bermuda.”
David Seidman, then editor of Boating magazine
When David Seidman uttered the words above, the sport of boating was at an all-time high, and quality demands from customers were making boat and engine builders step up to meet them.
What is the Bermuda Challenge?
“It started as one of those things in a bar,” Seidman says, admitting that’s where some of his best ideas germinate. “I’d been testing boats 15 years then, and boats had made huge improvements. Finally small boats were available that a regular guy could own and afford to operate, and with good seamanship he could do anything with it.”
Seidman was enthused about the newer technology and wanted a way to demonstrate its strengths. He and his drinking buddy started looking at a map.
“There on a chart, in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic Ocean, on the other side of the Gulf Stream, was Bermuda. I thought if I could reach that spot with an outboard, that would make a statement.”
There was the Bermuda Challenge. A simple 760-mile jaunt across open water. The conversation took place in 1994.
Once proposed, the challenge was first met in 1996 by Larry Graf in his Glacier Bay 260 Canyon Runner with twin Honda 90s. Running time from North Cove Yacht Harbor at the World Financial Center in New York City to Bermuda, off Gates Fort, was 37 hours.
In 1997, a World Class 266 SF catamaran powered by Mercury Optimax 150s cut the time to 29 hours, 30 minutes.
In 2002 Boating reported, “another cat has won the challenge.” Neil Burnie captained a Marine Prowler 306 with twin Honda 225s. That record: 22 hours, 23 minutes. The record still stands and, until today, stood unchallenged.
Now there’s a new player eyeballing Boating’s coveted title, and he’s not going in an outboard and not even a catamaran.
Chris Fertig of Virginia Beach, Virginia, plans to lay the keel of his Statement Marine 37 in January, aiming at a run for the record upon its completion. His boat, powered by stern-drives, will have some whistles and bells not on the early record setters.
“One of the factors in making the trip is fatigue,” Fertig says. “To alleviate that, we’ll employ Statement Marine’s air-cushioned deck. The deck moves on air bags and shocks, and we can adjust the sensitivity based on sea conditions that will make the trip easier on the crew.”
Fertig has another goal up his sleeve.
“I plan to beat the current record by more than two hours” — but he has still more on his mind. If he succeeds, he will cover the water at 35 knots and won’t be carrying any extra fuel on the deck.
“We expect to make it getting about 3 mpg of fuel,” he says.
If he does it, Fertig and his Statement 37 may hold the record firmly for another 10 years. That’s bragging rights Boating will be happy to give.
To learn more about the Bermuda Challenge, visit boatingmag.com/bermudachallenge.