August 16, 2009-Condor of Bermuda (update)
Condor of Bermuda, Phuket, Thailand
Some boats are iconic. Condor of Bermuda is one of those: beautiful dark mahogany and with yellow trim and condor on the transom; you can't mistake this vessel from any other and even of you've only seen it in photos you never forget it.
I spotted Condor of Bermuda in Yacht Haven the first day I arrived there. The boat is sitting quietly on B dock under a full cover, still stunning and still memorable.
It is one of the more famous racing boats from the IOR era.
Condor of Bermuda was designed by John Sharp for Bob Bell, who still owns her, and was built in the late 70's. It was an awesome and powerful yacht and it was successful right from the early days.
Condor of Burmuda, at Fastnet Rock
In 1979 Bell entered Condor in the Fastnet Race. Peter Blake was steering and with a crew of mostly Kiwi's they had high hopes. Their main competition were Jim Kilroy's Kialoa and Ted Turner's Tenacious and with a new rig on Condor, 10 feet taller than previous, they were eager at the start to compare their speed with the other two, but it was the weather that year that presented the biggest challenge.
Fastnet 1979, as we know, was a brutal race with a deadly and unexpected weather system which hit the fleet sailing across the Irish Sea. It wreaked havoc on the fleet, tossing boats like toys, breaking masts and rudders, and killing sailors; 15 lives were lost and several boats were abandoned or sank.
But on board Condor of Bermuda they were focused on dealing with the severe conditions in which it took all of their seamanship to be able to keep pushing the boat and push they did. Condor was first to finish in the 1979 Fastnet Race and the crew celebrated, ecstatic to have survived the carnage on the Irish Sea and to have finished first.
“We yelled and and danced, shook hands and slapped backs and laughed and smiled. Line Honours – The Record – beaten Kialoa. Perhaps even first on handicap. We put it all aside and began to stow the sails. Our time – 71 Hours 37 Minutes and 23 Seconds. We had beaten the previous record by over seven hours.” Chris Windley
Here is a quote from Sports Illustrated:
BOATING—In the most tragic race in yachting history, CONDOR OF BERMUDA, skippered by Bob Bell of Bermuda, set a course record for the Fastnet leg of the Admiral's Cup. The 77-foot sloop finished in 71:25:23, nearly eight hours faster than the old mark. TENACIOUS, with Ted Turner of Atlanta at the helm, won on corrected time in 79:52:22. Fifteen sailors died and 23 of the 306 boats in the race either sank or were abandoned when heavy rains, 75-knot winds and 40-foot waves battered the southwest coast of England.
Click here to read the rest of the story from on board by Chris Windley.
Next Condor headed down under. Peter and his new wife Pippa sailed the boat to the South Pacific as sort of a honeymoon cruise and in 1982 Condor of Bermuda entered the Sydney to Hobart race.
In the closest Hobart race ever in 1982 Condor of Bermuda beat Apollo by 7 seconds, finishing in 3 days and 59 minutes 17 seconds. They came back in 1983 for another first-to-finish in 3:00:50:29 and again in 1986 they were first in an even faster 2:23:26:25.
In 1986 they travelled to the Atlantic and sailed in the Newport to Bermuda Race and again took line honors.
After 1986 Condor of Bermuda dropped out of the international limelight a bit, but the boat continued to sail. There were other episodes including an encounter with a reef in French Polynesia and a subsequent rebuild.
Somehow, after all these years, Condor of Bermuda wound up in Phuket Thailand, still sailing, and still beautiful.
Click here for Wikipedia about Condor of Bermuda.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket
PS: A later "Condor" designed by Ron Holland and built out of Carbon, Kevlar, and balsa at Kiwi Boats Penryn UK, (sort of an odd international combination, I agree, but that's what the available information says) was the first sloop rigged maxi IOR boat. At 77 feet, with a tall four spreader rig and huge sail area, and is now sailing in the Whitsundays.
Condor of Burmuda, Sailing at Hamilton Island race week, Whitsundays, Australia
Maxi yacht Condor of Bermuda sailing in the Whitsunday Passge, 1985Location:Whitsunday Passage, QueenslandDate:April 1985Creator:Gale,Ngaire