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Short-handed Racing to Bermuda on the Jeanneau Sunfast 3300

by Newport Bermuda Race 8 Dec 2021 15:55 UTC June 17, 2022
Ken Read and Suzy Leech aboard the Sunfast 3300 Alchemist. © Bermuda Race Media

Over the last few years, double- and short-handed racing has gained significant popularity. Double-handed classes have been added to major races like the Rolex Sydney Hobart, and the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race had 91 DH entries.

The Newport Bermuda Race was ahead of this curve, adding a dedicated class in 1994, and next year's race could see 20-plus boats registered in this class, with 15 signed up already.

Those registered include a Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 (Sea Bear) with another Sunfast 3300 (Alchemist) registered to sail short-handed in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division. Purpose-designed boats such as the Sunfast and others have supported this rise of short-handed sailing, especially as our new Covid environment amplified the recognition that large crews were unnecessary. It's always easier to find a crew of one to three, rather than eight or ten.

Bluenose Yacht Sales in Newport is pleased to financially support the Bermuda Race as the exclusive sponsor of the race's YB trackers. As a Jeanneau dealership, the company has two more Sunfast 3300s arriving at the end of 2021 in time for the race, available for sale and charter.

Glenn Walters, avid sailor for over 50 years and founder Bluenose Yachts, promotes the Sunfast 3300 and owns one himself. His Alchemist has been extraordinarily successful in the racing scene over the last two years sailed by Ken Read with Suzy Leech or Brad Read. Alchemist has 10 first-place wins in 11 races and regattas, mostly double-handed. (For more from Ken, including his love for double-handed racing, check out this North Sail's blog and Ken's Double-Handed Debrief video below.)

We asked Glenn why the SF3300 is well suited for a race such as the famous "Thrash to the Onion Patch" across 635 miles of ocean—notorious for high Gulf Stream waves and hammering winds—despite being one of the smallest boats in the fleet. He said, "The Sunfast 3300 was designed for transoceanic and long-distance races, with a high-volume reverse bow and full-length chines. In the Fastnet Race and many others, 3300s have always done well—the boat is built for offshore performance."

Specific to short-handed sailing, Glenn says, "It's a manageable size and the sail controls are readily at hand and easily adjusted. The sails are relatively lightweight, the sheet loads are modest to low, and it's reasonably comfortable for that size boat. And it's fast! While fast is fun, safety is also important, hence a purposely designed and engineered boat for short-handed racing is key."

Glenn says he enjoys participating in this type of racing because he's more engaged and focused on working as a tight team. "You have to be in the moment at all times. Sending a SF3300 to as much as 20 knots of boat speed with a Code Zero and full mainsail challenges all of your skill sets."

"It's more intense and you are reliant upon one to three other people to sail the boat. That level of 'in-the-moment' intensity is what I find fun," Glenn explains, then adds, "it requires effective communication with your crewmate(s) in order to complete sail changes, maneuvers, and planning to race fast, safely." Glenn stresses the "safely" part, just as the race organizers do. "Safety first," he says. "There's as much prep that goes into meeting the race's safety requirements as there is preparing the crew to know the boat and to handle it in a safe fashion."

Walters is participating in the 2022 Newport Bermuda Race on Alchemist alongside his son, Darren Walters, and two other crewmembers. "I'm no longer in a place in life where I'm looking to prove something to myself," he says. "I've done a Bermuda race double-handed before and am now looking forward to racing with an accomplished, short-handed crew. The camaraderie and teamwork required for this Bermuda Race is an important component to my life and pursuit of this passion, especially with my race-experienced son. Darren has multiple Bermuda races behind him, plus a Transatlantic race, so I am in good hands."

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