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Bermuda and back - Sun Fast 3300 again proving itself on the ocean

by John Burnham 30 Jun 10:57 BST June 25, 2022
Team Alchemist in the Newport Bermuda Race included Glenn and Darren Walters, James Harayda, and Ryan Novak-Smith. © Trixie Wadson

Team Alchemist sailed first in the 52nd Newport Bermuda Race with a crew of four—Darren and Glenn Walters, Ryan Novak-Smith and James Harayda.

Then beginning on Sunday, June 26, in the Bermuda Short-Handed Return Race to Newport, Alchemist was crewed by a double-handed team of professional female racers—Sara Stone (UK/US) and Cat Hunt (UK).

Here's their story, which is still unfolding.

Alchemist Team starts fast, finishing second in class and third overall in Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division

Starting on June 17 with the Newport Bermuda Race, Alchemist turned in an impressive performance, covering the 635-nautical-mile course in less than 80 hours, finishing second in its class and third overall in the highly competitive Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division.

The race got off to a slow and wet start when a violent thunderstorm sucked the wind out of the area. After a 40-minute postponement, the race began in torrential rain, large seas, and light winds.

Alchemist handicapped itself immediately by crossing the starting line a couple seconds early, which meant a 30-minute penalty after the race. But the crew soon settled into the groove and race conditions steadily improved during the evening and overnight with the wind slowly building. By Saturday evening, Alchemist was ripping along in the high single digits to low teens and had overtaken the back half of the fleet. From then on, the wind continued to build, and by Sunday the wind was blowing in the mid to high 20s with a full day of perfect surfing conditions.

"Sunday was a ripping day," reported Glenn Walters, owner of Alchemist and Bluenose Yacht Sales. "We had the A4 up all day and consistently saw speeds into the low 20s. The boat handled well and was always in control. It was a fun and safe experience.

With about 70 miles to go, the wind started to lighten up and it was a race to finish before the wind shut down completely. Even in the lighter winds, Alchemist held its own against much larger boats and glided across the finish line just after midnight on Tuesday morning.

"We are shocked and ecstatic to finish second in class and third in our division. The competition was really good, and fortunately we had a great team and a boat that excelled in the conditions.

"Alchemist was the smallest boat in its class and division, proving you don't need a multi-million dollar boat and all-professional crew to win one of the most prestigious ocean races in the world."

Bluenose Yacht Sales sponsors all-female team for New Bermuda Short-Handed Return Race

Bluenose Yachts recruited the doublehanded team of Sara Stone and Cat Hunt to race Alchemist in the inaugural Bermuda Short-Handed Return for single- and double-handed crews.

With over 20 boats entered for the race and boats ranging in size from 32ft to 53ft, the race got under way on Sunday, June 26. With a smaller crew, lighter winds, and more changeable conditions than the Newport Bermuda Race, the Bermuda Short-Handed Return has presented Sara and Cat with some difficult and, at times, frustrating challenges.

Fortunately, the Sun Fast 3300 is well setup for doublehanded sailing, and the team has excelled in the fickle conditions. After starting on Sunday, Alchemist had sailed some 470 miles by Wednesday afternoon and was sitting 3rd in Class and 3rd in Line Honors on the water. In the last day, the team successfully navigated the wind shifts and Gulf Stream eddies to clock the second fastest 24-hour distance traveled for the entire fleet. (See race tracker.)

Sara Stone? is a professional sailor with experience racing on a wide variety of boats ranging from 49ers and M32s, to TP52s and Class 40s. She just completed the 2022 Newport Bermuda Race as coach/navigator with the MudRatz Youth Sailing team on Spitfire, the first youth boat to cross the line.

Prior to becoming a professional sailor, Sara trained and worked as an epidemiologist and risk manager, and has extensive experience with emergency medical care, provisioning, and project management. Sara is a mentor with The Magenta Project, a group dedicated to developing pathways and creating opportunities for women in sailing. Sara's previous athletic experience includes rowing competitively at Division I level at Dartmouth College in the United States.

Cat Hunt is a 22-year-old British shorthanded offshore sailor. She holds the World Record for the fastest circumnavigation of Ireland by two people, a 2nd place in the 2019 RORC Transatlantic Race, 3 Fastnet Races (1 double-handed), and a 4th place in the Ocean Race Europe Tour with The Austrian Ocean Racing Project. She campaigned a Figaro III double-handed last season and is now aiming to race in the short-handed Class 40 circuit.

"Bluenose Yachts is excited to sponsor Sara and Cat, two up and coming double-handed sailors," said Glenn Walters. "It's important to give back to the sport and we're happy to support women's competitive sailing and double-handed racing."

"We are really excited for the opportunity to sail Alchemist in the doublehanded race back to Newport, which will be our first race together as a team," said Sara before the race. "The forecast is looking markedly less thrilling than it was for the race down! Quite a bit lighter and flukier at the moment, so it should be a good challenge. Thank you to Glenn and Bluenose Yachts for the amazing opportunity to race such a great boat, the Sun Fast 3300!"

Race updates from onboard Alchemist:

(First night): "We are well on our way out here. First boat off the line in our start and happy with that, especially never having sailed together or on this particular boat before! Sailing downwind in 9ish knots of breeze from the south with the A1.5 up. Very dark night here with lots of cloud cover. Cat sleeping now. Both of us trying to coax Iridium Go into working with expedition as it is being quite temperamental for pulling grib files. Seems to be ok for email though! More updates along the way."

(Tuesday afternoon): Plenty going on out here with lots of cloud action and rain squalls all through the night and morning. The sun came out a few hours ago and the breeze came forward, putting us solidly into the Code Zero with the genoa staysail up inside. Had a frustrating few hours with 2kts of current in our faces but seem to be out of that for now. Definitely has us wishing for more accurate gulf stream info!! Yes, expedition is working ok now, a little finicky but making it work. Looks like more tricky wind shifts into tonight and then crossing the main gulf stream. Hoping to get some miles back on Groupe 5!"

Visit here for more information about the race or to read an earlier story about the boat ("Sun Fast 3300, Alchemist, Seeks Edge in Performance, Control, and Handling").

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