High Noonby John Rousmaniere

As the fleet rushes to the finish line on Monday night, a boat with a crew of youth sailors stood first on corrected time in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division and fourth in the fleet on elapsed time. This surprising boat, High Noon, was expected to finish early Tuesday.

High Noon starts the race with her young crew on the rail. (John Rousmaniere) High Noon started the race with her young crew riding the rail. (John Rousmaniere) The Tripp 41 was loaned by her owners, Steve and Heidi Benjamin, to the Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team, at American Yacht Club (Rye, NY). “This Bermuda Race will be the culmination of at least three years of work by these juniors,” said Peter Becker, one of the project’s leaders. “First they did overnight distance races, then weekend races, and then they looked for opportunities to sail offshore.”

The young sailors underwent hands-on safety training and worked closely with the navigator, skipper, and watch captains to gain experience in leadership roles. Some of the sailors helped deliver boats home from Bermuda and Hawaii. They are committed to the project, and so are their mentors. “I’ve sailed 16 Bermuda Races,” Becker said. “My first race was when I was 15 or 16. I was the kid on the boat, up on the bow changing sails. I’m trying to give these kids the same passion and experience I was exposed to when I was young and sailing with older sailors. Every junior on the boat is there because they’re competitive and they want to win the race.”

But it’s not all about winning, said Becker. “The kids are resonating with this. They love big boats. It’s challenging, it’s social, and it’s really inspiring. You get out there and you see the stars overhead and you think, ‘the land is really far away.’”

The Stephens Brothers Prizes

The High Noon project is one of the stimuli for two new Newport Bermuda Race awards, the Stephens Brothers Prizes. Yacht designers Olin and Rod Stephens were youngsters when they launched their ocean racing careers. The many boats they designed include 14 Bermuda Race overall winners and the yawl Black Watch, sailing in the 2016 “Thrash to the Onion Patch.”

Sailors ages 14-23 are eligible for the Stephens Brothers Society and may receive through their skippers a Stephens Brothers Society pin, pictured here.Stephens Brothers SocietyPin

The Stephens Brothers Youth Division Prize will be awarded to the best-performing boat with a qualifying Youth Crew entered in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division or the Cruiser Division. To qualify, at least 50% +1 (rounded down) of the crew must be ages 14 to 23, inclusive, as of June 17, 2016, and the crew’s average age must be 17 or older. The race’s Cross-Division scoring system will be used.