The Bermuda One-Two Yacht Race is a historic two-leg biennial race departing from Newport, Rhode Island to St George’s, Bermuda and back to Newport. Founded in 1977, this two-part race features single-handed racing to Bermuda and double-handed back to Rhode Island. The boat’s lengths have varied from 21-foot Mini Transat to 41 feet and the race emphasis is on safety, good seamanship and ongoing communication, according to Bermuda One-Two history. Developed for single-handed sailors looking to further their experience, as well as seek adventure with the help and camaraderie from the other single-handed sailors, this race gives skippers and crew the chance to earn awards for sportsmanship, seamanship, conquest of on-the-water adversity and sheer guts.
Single-handed sailor and winner of Class 3 in this year’s event was Brian Flynn. Flynn, who races with a complete North Sails inventory, won the single-handed leg and placed second on the double-handed trip back. He completed this race on his Islander 36, Island Girl, and has completed the 2011, 2013, and 2015 races. Brian had a few minutes to catch up with us after his impressive performance.
Q) Congrats on winning your class in the Bermuda 1-2 (the single-handed leg) and finishing second in the double-handed leg. Can you tell us a little about how/when you started sailing and what has kept you interested in the sport of sailing? Do you enjoy single-handed sailing?
A) I started sailing catamarans off the beach when I moved to Virginia Beach in 1982. I was hooked the first day. To move a boat without an engine fascinated me. To figure out how to make a boat go faster than the next person appealed to my engineering background and competitive nature. Plus it is just plain fun. I moved slowly up the ranks to bigger and better boats and by the early 90s, I was spending all of my vacation ocean racing. I even became a part-time coach at the Naval Academy. Many people that I have met along the way have become lifelong friends but despite different backgrounds, we all had sailing in common. No one cares about your background or what you do for a living, they share a passion with you and like what you bring to the boat, both in skill and personality.
I’ve held every position on a boat during crewed ocean races. Solo sailing involves you in every aspect of the boat from cooking and cleaning to sail trim and navigation. It is an opportunity to prove all of your skills. Solo sailing is about seamanship. Boat preparation, weather forecasting, routing and sleep management are all equally important. Doing well in a race is very rewarding as is shows that you understand the task at hand and that all of the hard work over the years paid off.
Q) Tell us a bit about your boat, the Islander 36. When did you buy it and how often do you race it?
“The camaraderie between the sailors is why people do this race. When in Bermuda, there are no crews, there are just other competitors. It is like joining a fraternity.”
A) The boat is an Alan Gurney design from the early 1970s and built through 1986. Around 700 were built. They were originally designed as west coast racing boats to the IOR class rule. I bought Island Girl (Islander 36 hull number 645 built in 1983) in 1992. I lived aboard and married my wife Lisa on the foredeck in 1995. From May 1996 through June 1997 we cruised her to Canada and the Bahamas homeschooling our daughter Billie throughout third grade. Island Girl sat idle for a number of years while we raised our daughters Billie and Casey and pursued career goals. I became interested in the Bermuda One-Two in 2009 and started upgrading Island Girl to race her competitively.
Q) Have you done the Bermuda One-Two before? Will you do it again? Any advice for people interested in doing the race?
A) I participated in the Bermuda One-Two in 2011, 2013 and 2015. In 2011 the race was about proving that I could sail to Bermuda solo, little else. I was in the back of the pack. In 2013 there were significant storms during the solo leg and I had equipment failures. I was happy to finish as only 16 boats made it to Bermuda after many turned back and one sank. I felt I had unfinished business to take care of in 2015. That’s why I teamed with Jonathan Bartlett and the North Sails team to upgrade my sail inventory. I was not planning on racing in 2017 but my nemesis Ray on Aggressive bet one drink in Bermuda. Now I have to do it again, damn you Ray! The camaraderie between the sailors is why people do this race. When in Bermuda, there are no crews, there are just other competitors. It is like joining a fraternity. Everyone knows what you have been through when it comes to years of preparation for the boat and yourself, and treats you like family. My best observation is that solo sailing is a test of seamanship. You have to be prepared for anything. When the going gets tough is when all the preparation pays off.
Q) Do you have any mentors or people you admire in the sailing world (specifically in the single-handed arena)?
A) I have been racing in Annapolis since the late 1980’s. I have met many impressive people who have shared their knowledge with me. I have always been like a sponge, absorbing as much as I can. I’ve raced on Maxis, 12 meters, and special built ocean racers. I may have learned the most during frostbite racing from November to March in Annapolis. Small crews bunched together in the cockpit discussing every scenario, every tactic, every sail trim. The races are short and intense with constant feedback between everyone onboard. After 20 years with the same group, you can’t help but learn.
Q) Tell us a little bit about your sails. When did you first start using North Sails and do you think they help the boat’s performance? Would you recommend North to other sailors?
A) All of the race boats that I have crewed on throughout the years have had exclusive North Sails inventories so I am very experienced with your product. Ive known Jonathan since I first moved to Annapolis and he has helped me get rides on competitive boats. When I analyzed my boats past performances, boat speed was the issue. Jonathan outfitted Island Girl with a fully battened NorDac Main and NorDac Radian cut 135% furling genoa. Island Girl is equipped with a Selden bowsprit and I use a North Sails asymmetric spinnaker with a sock. The spinnaker really gets the boat moving. I have the spinnaker system rigged so that I can drop the sail from inside the foredeck hatch a significant safety issue when shorthanded sailing. The new sails had the boat moving at target speeds in both light and heavy conditions. I had no issues despite seeing over 30 knots sustained for significant periods of time on four occasions. I was able to furl the genoa to around 40% many times while driving the boat. This is significant because it kept me off the foredeck and prevented me from having to change to a storm jib. Other boats had sails tear, problems reefing, and even maintaining control of the boat in heavy conditions. Boats split their sails on the way to Bermuda and one lost their rig on the return trip. I would definitely recommend North Sails. After 1,500 hard ocean miles (including delivery) the sails still look brand new and have lost zero performance..
Q) What else do you have planned for this season? Will we see the Island Girl doing more solo races this year?
A) I purchased a NorDac Radian cut 155% genoa for racing on the Chesapeake Bay (lighter winds, one crew). My wife Lisa and I plan on doing some double handed point-to-point races on the Chesapeake this Fall. Since the Bermuda One-Two takes almost a month to complete, from the arrival in Newport June 1 for safety inspection to the awards June 27, I have to go back to work so there wont be time to do any other solo races. The boat is still in Rhode Island, though, and we are going to try to sneak in a quick trip to Nantucket prior to returning to Annapolis sometime in August.
The North Sails team congratulates Brian on his success in the this years Bermuda One-Two and wishes him much luck in 2017.
FULL RESULTS CAN BE FOUND ON THE BERMUDA ONE-TWO RACE WEBSITE