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Kelsey Durham Dominates at 2019 Bacardi Keelboat Regatta
February 3, 2020

By Rick Thompson 

The three-day 2019 Bacardi Keelboat Regatta was shortened by one day due to heavy winds at the outset, but once released from the moorings, it quickly became evident that the top team was Dalliance, skippered by Kelsey Durham of Bermuda’s St. George’s Dinghy Club squad. Durham won the first four races and never looked back, despite a solid second-place performance by Blythe Walker’s Peppercorn team, representing the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

The regatta, hosted by the RBYC over a long weekend in November, was spirited, as always, with a total of 12 entries, five Bermudian teams and seven teams from the United States and Canada. After winning two years in a row, Bermuda’s Patrick Cooper crewed for veteran Bill McNiven. Walker, also a previous Bacardi Keelboat Regatta winner, and Craig Davis, a perennial winner in the Great Sound, presented a deep Bermudian fleet. With the addition of two IOD fleet-racing rookies as wild cards, Lou Pengelly who recently bought Impulse and Kelsey Durham who has raced IODs in a number of match-racing events but not in fleet racing, the overseas visitors had their work cut out for them.

Photo by Tom Clark

Three overseas teams were competing for the first time. Helming for the Boulevard Club of Toronto was their sailing director, Charles Rishor. From the U.S. Gulf Coast, Pass Christian Yacht Club was represented by James (Buddy) Clarke, and the third new skipper came from the Manhattan Yacht Club, home of the newest IOD fleet, Dan O’Neil.

Returning skippers were Courtenay Jenkins from the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron in Maryland, Michael Fortenbaugh from the Manhattan Yacht Club, with his MYC compatriot Andreas Giacoumis, and frequent participant from the Northeast Harbor Fleet, Nicholas Schoeder.

Activities got underway on Wednesday evening with a well-attended and much-anticipated welcoming cocktail party at the World Headquarters of Bacardi in Hamilton. Our sponsor had all their brands on display for tasting by the sailors, which of course being sailors they did in abundance. It certainly was a great way to start the regatta. Racing was to commence on Thursday morning, but windy conditions of 20 to 35 knots made it marginal for our boats to sail. The Principal Race Officer wisely cancelled racing for the day.

All was not lost, however, as an impromptu cocktail party was held that evening on Arabella, the 157-foot, three-masted schooner of the Manhattan Yacht Club, which had sailed down to Bermuda for the event. All of the competitors, flag officers and other yacht club dignitaries came aboard to join in the fun.

Racing started in earnest on Friday as the winds subsided. Everyone was anxious to get off to a good start on the first day of racing. Unfortunately, this led to a number of collisions and protests on the racecourse. Dan O’Neil touched masts with Nick Schoeder and had to retire, as did Nick. At the end of the day after five races, young Kelsey Durham was comfortably ahead of the pack having won four of the five races. Second was fellow Bermudian Blythe Walker and rounding out the top three was Bill McNiven.

On the final day of racing on Saturday, another five races were sailed. Once again, Durham dominated with two more first-place finishes, plus two seconds and a third. There was no doubt who would win this regatta.

Blythe Walker and Bill McNiven kept pace and finished second and third, respectively. The top foreign competitor was Michael Fortenbaugh, commodore of the Manhattan Yacht Club. (See full results.)

Photo by Nicholas Schoeder

The prize-giving was held on Saturday evening at the RBYC with Kelsey Durham receiving the Armada Jug. It is reputed to be the oldest trophy in the RBYC trophy cabinet and is believed to have been salvaged from the wreck of a Spanish galleon from the Armada that attempted to invade England in 1588. It was donated to the Club by the former Governor General Sir Dennis Bernard in 1946 and was raced for the first time in 1949 and won by Bermudian Bert Darrell. Sir Dennis was an avid sailor and sailed on the IOD Westra during his time in Bermuda.

The prize-giving was followed by dinner at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club down at the end of Hamilton Harbor. This closed out a very successful and fun week where we connected with old friends and made new ones.

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