It's Over, But Not Done

Chris Fertig reflects on his Bermuda Challenge World Record attempt.

Nick Buis, Mike Anderson and I are back and wanted to finally send out our trip report from our Bermuda Challenge World Record attempt. We were amazed and humbled by the amount of interest and support we received during our trip and we want to share our first hand account of the race.

At 9:35 we took off from the start line at the entrance to Morris Canal with US CG Station New York City leading us out. About 4 miles into the race, running down New York Harbor we encountered heavy fog with visibility of less than 50 feet. Relying heavily on our Simrad NSS/NSE navigation system we cleared the fog at the entrance to the harbor and we treated to glassy seas and a cloudless sky. With calm seas and nothing but blue water in front of us, we set the autopilot for our first waypoint off Bermuda and adjusted our Cummins Mercruiser Diesel TDI 350 engines give us a cruise of 40 MPH. For the next seven hours we ran along smoothly with our Simrad NSS GPS and AP28 autopilot leading the way, engines purring along and our suspension system soaking up the 2 – 3 foot seas.

At the 300 mile point in the race we were a little over 2 hours ahead of the world record time. Unfortunately, a squall which was predicted to only be 3-4’ seas exploded into a full gale right along our track line and caused conditions to rapidly deteriorate. As you may have been able to interpret from our SPOT tracking map, we started to significantly slow down at 5pm as seas built from 2-3 to 3-5 to 4-6 then 6-8. By 5:30 we were running directly into very steep 12 – 14’ confused seas at a very tight interval with gale force winds, torrential rain and lighting directly on our bow. Taking turns at the helm, we pressed onward as fast as we could possibly push it running between 16 and 21 MPH. Since we were so far east and the weather was so poor, it turned dark around 7pm. After sunset, with Nick on the controls, we continued onward trying to punch through the storm and get to the calm water that awaited us closer to Bermuda. Seas continued to build as we pushed on. The darkness combined with the driving rain and pounding spray made it difficult to accurately estimate the actual wave heights, but they were running several feet above the top of our T-Top with 3 foot of breaking whitecaps on top of that which would put them at 12 – 14’ with an occasional larger wave. For the next two hours we continued forward was fast as we could possibly push it but we were only able to make about 16 – 18 mph. Just after 9pm, we had a decision to make, continue forward through 12 – 14’ deteriorating conditions, or turn back. You will never find three guys who are more competitive, hate to lose or give up than Nick, Mike or I but we also all have enough experience to know just how far we can push ourselves and our equipment and when it is time to choose safety over pride and have the chance to break a record another day. For us, that time came around 9pm. We were almost exactly halfway to Bermuda, when we made the turn and set course for the nearest U.S. port which was Indian River Inlet in Dewey Beach, DE. Once we made the turn, our attitude shifted from race mode and we slowed down and took the next hour checking all our equipment, making sure nothing had broken loose on the boat, checked all engine fluids, etc.

In the pitch black of night and the pouring rain, we took turns at the helm as we made our way back home in silence. Independently, each of us knew we had made the right call but we were all disappointed we had to turn back. As the sun came up, the seas started to lay down to 4 – 6’ and we picked up speed, and started to cover some ground as we made our way back. When we hit the pier at Indian River inlet we had run over 705 miles in 26 hours. We averaged 1.77 mpg and still had 120 gallons of fuel in the tank.

As Nick, Mike and I sat down for lunch before we headed home, we all remarked how well the boat and engines performed. Running for over 26 hours in the weather we were in and the boat, engines/drives and electronics all operated flawlessly with the exception of a loose coax cable and fried inverter which prevented everyone from seeing our streaming video.

I want to thank all of you who cheered us on and encourage you to come down and meet us and go for a ride on the boat at the Fort Lauderdale and Miami International Boat show were we will be giving demo rides at the in-water venues.

Will we try again for the record? Absolutely!! After the Miami Boat Show, the boat will be prepped and ready for another record attempt as soon as we see the right weather window the spring.

Thanks again for everyone’s interest, support, offers of assistance and for cheering us on. We will be posting more pictures and video’s during the actual run in the coming days and will try to answer any questions you may have about the run, the boat or our future plans.