Champagne moment for ‘humbled’ Christopher Sheehan after Lighthouse trophy double

The vast majority of the 186-boat fleet in the Newport Bermuda Race have arrived, with the provisional divisional leaders all confirmed as winners in this year’s 52nd running of the “Thrash to the Onion Patch”.

Winning the largest division in the race, the St David’s Lighthouse Division with 108 boats, was Illusion, a Cal 40 owned by Sally and Stan Honey from Palo Alto, California.

Illusion’s victory is the fourth time a Cal 40 has won this division, following on from Vincent Learson’s Thunderbird in 1966 and Peter Rebovich Sr’s Sinn Fein in 2006 and 2008.

Racing with 1984 Olympic gold medal-winner Carl Buchan, from Seattle, fellow Cal 40 owner Don Jesberg, from Belvedere, California, and multitasker Jonathan “Bird” Livingston, from Richmond, California, as bowman, Illusion completed the 635-nautical-mile course with an elapsed time of 87hr 1min 33sec, good for a corrected time of 51:02:13 and a decisive victory of more than two hours over Zig Zag, the J122, skipper by Andrew Clark, from Greenwich, Connecticut.

Callisto, a Pac52 captained by Jim Murray, from Lake Bluff, Illinois, was the divisional line honours winner, finishing third, just 15 seconds astern of Zig Zag on corrected time.

Sally and Stan Honey have sold Illusion to Stan’s nephew, and so this was their “final hurrah” after 33 years with the boat.

“The conditions were perfect for our boat, and we had a pretty good navigator on board,” said Sally, referring to her record-setting husband.

“Stan chose a really good course, and the conditions were just what the boat loves — heavy-air reaching. We got into a Gulf Stream eddy and stayed in it for about seven hours. That gave us a good boost. We managed to stay in the wind most of the way down. We had a couple of light spots, but nothing like the later boats.”

Sally Honey said that they hit a top speed of 22 knots with Buchan on the helm on Saturday night. She woke up the sleeping crew with hoots and hollers of excitement, but otherwise spent most of the race with the wind on the beam.

“We didn’t have that much water on the deck,” she said. “When reaching, the boat heels right over and the more wind you get, the faster she goes. Really, it was a dream trip, fabulous. I wouldn’t change anything.”

In the 38-boat Finisterre Division for cruisers, New York native Dudley Johnson’s Tripp 65 Prevail earned first place, beating Masquerade, the Baltic 47 skipper by Andrew Burton, from Newport, Rhode Island, by a little more than 25 minutes. The division was split into three classes, with Prevail winning Class 9, Masquerade Class 8, and Class 7 going to Toujours, a Tartan 37-2 captained by Brian Bush, from North Chatham, Massachusetts.

“Our plan from the start was to crack off and get east of the rhumb line and sail as fast as we could to keep up with the front,” said Adam Klyver, a 55-year-old from Fairfield, Connecticut, who sailed his second Newport Bermuda Race but first as a navigator. “But the front was elusive and we kept running into the trough.

“In the Gulf Stream, we had Warrior Won pass us Saturday morning, so we felt like we were doing something right. We tried to stay in the middle of the stream and found a five-knot current pushing us southeast. We probably had favourable current for close to 90 per cent of the race.”

The overall line honours winner, Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo, finished late Saturday night, marking the historic first Saturday finish in the 116 years of the race. Argo set a course record of 33 hours, at an average speed of 19.24 knots.

“It’s the most significant race close to home for us,” said the 44-year-old Carroll, who cofounded Hudson River Trading in 2002. “It’s amazing because only recently multihulls have been allowed in the race. It’s exciting. It’s the race people around New York City and Newport know the best; to be the record holder is cool.”

In the high-performance Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division, Warrior Won, Christopher Sheehan’s Pac52, captured first place not only on corrected time but also elapsed time, earning monohull line honours and the Corporation of Hamilton prize as the elapsed-time winner of the combined St David’s Lighthouse and Gibbs Hill Lighthouse divisions.

Warrior Won’s elapsed time of 56:43:34 corrected out to a win of nearly 37 minutes over Alchemist, a Sunfast 3300, which was one of the smallest boats in the division, and which was skippered by Darren Walters, from Boston, Massachusetts.

In 2016, Sheehan won the St David’s Lighthouse Trophy with his Xp44 of the same name. Now, after Saturday’s prize-giving ceremony, he will become the first owner to take home a Lighthouse trophy as winner of both Gibbs Hill and St David’s.

“It’s very humbling,” said the man who last year won the Transpac Race and in February the Caribbean 600. “I’d been thinking about it before the race. I had a ton of confidence in my team and my boat that we’d have a shot at the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. There are so many wonderful records and legendary sailors in this race.”

In the Spirit of Tradition Division, the Bermuda Sloop Foundation’s sail-training vessel Spirit of Bermuda, captained by Alexander Peacock, from Newmarket, New Hampshire, completed the course in 92:25:09. It was the fourth time the three-masted schooner designed by Bill Langan has sailed the race.

In the Open Division, Charlie Enright’s Mãlama, of the 11th Hour Racing Foundation, finished in 41:28:43, good for the fourth-fastest elapsed time in race history. In the Superyacht Division, Martin Sutter’s 141ft steel-hulled Columbia finished in 87:07:34.

In the Double-Handed Division, Zachary Doerr, a 20-year-old Webb Institute undergraduate from Butler, Pennsylvania, and 53-year-old Vladimir Shablinsky, from Glen Cove, New York, sailed Class 6 winner Groupe 5 to a nearly five-hour victory over James Hammitt’s Reveille, which won Class 5.

“It was a lot of fun as my first real offshore race,” said Doerr, who paired with Shablinsky, his North East Keelboat Alliance sailing coach. “A lot of it had to do with our comfort with the boat, especially on the second night when it was blowing 30 and we were going 20 knots with the A2 spinnaker up. I feel like most boats in the double-handed class didn’t push as hard, and we just kept pushing and made a lot of miles that night. It was different than anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

• Visit the Newport Bermuda Race website for full results