Bitter End Yacht Club sponsors the first all-female youth team to compete in the Newport Bermuda Race. As published by SAILING WORLD Magazine.
The idea to compete in the Bermuda Race started off as kind of a joke, something that was seemingly impossible. After all, as some of the girls pointed out, it’s a huge race; the word “crazy” was used. But the seed had been planted.
The young sailors, made up largely of teenagers, had been racing with the Collegiate Offshore Sailing Circuit in summer 2021. Their final race, the Ida Lewis, was canceled thanks to Hurricane Henri, so they were figuring out what to do next over pizza when the following summer’s Newport Bermuda was thrown into the mix.
“It was [our coach] Richard Feeny who ended up saying, ‘That’s not completely out there,’ and it put this idea in our heads that we could do it,” team member Milla Clarke says. “And we did it!” And that’s how the country’s oldest organized ocean race got its first-ever all-female youth team at its 52nd edition this past June.
The team is made up of seven students from the Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island, ages 16 to 18—Milla Clarke, Sophia Comiskey, Callie Dawson, Gigi Fischer, Elizabeth Gardner, Phoebe Lee and Olivia Vincent—plus Sarah Wilme, age 20, a boatbuilding student at IYRS in Newport, and four female coaches. They not only “did” the race, but they did very well, finishing 27th overall out of the 187-strong fleet, and placing eighth in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse division of 18, which comprised mostly professional crews.
Bitter End Yacht Club became their title sponsor when its President, Kerri Quinn Jaffe, was reading about them in Newport This Week over her morning coffee and realized that one of the girls had gone to preschool with her daughter, which really brought it home for her exactly how young they were.
“That had me daydreaming about being a mother of one of these brave youth sailors, and how I might feel if my daughter came home and told me she wanted to compete in the 635-mile offshore race, considered one of the more challenging offshore races in the North Atlantic,” Jaffe says. “From there I started thinking about the face of sailing and our industry, and how Bitter End has always been a training ground for youth sailing, and the importance of us continuing that tradition as we evolve our next chapter.”