Darien boaters help sailing team win class in Bermuda race

Members of the Gadzooks, a sailing team named after its boat, from Rowayton Yacht Club, made plenty of waves on the water this summer. Gadzooks was the little boat that could, and did, in the Marion-Bermuda Race, as the team won its class and raced to a seventh-place overall finish among 50 finishers (including mostly larger boats) among four class sizes in June.

Gadzooks, a 37-foot, 6-inch sloop, won the Class C title. A team of eight experienced racers completed the 640-mile, five-day journey at sea from Buzzards Bay off Marian, Mass. to Bermuda in 111:54:53.

One other boat in the class actually came in with a faster time but Gadzooks, because of its handicap from being one of the smallest boats in the class, took the title. The seventh-place overall finish is particularly impressive considering only Class D had smaller boats and there were two classes -- A and B -- of bigger, theoretically faster boats in the competition.

The team is comprised of skipper and boat owner Geoff Beringer of Darien, watch skippers Larry Mead from New York City and Mike McGuire from Darien, navigator Richard Marsh from Clinton, helmsmen Tim Walsh from Rowayton, along with crew members Lisa Jewett and Hank Sagman of Rowayton and Maryne Robin from Stamford.

Competing boats were not allowed to get outside help by contacting people on shore, and had to deal with a lightning storm, tough waters, and winds that forced them to change sails accordingly. As Gadzooks approached the finish line, the team members began to recognize that the other boats were all larger, and in different classes.

"We were quite surprised," the 47-year-old Beringer said of winning the class.

More Information
Fact box

A majority of the boats, because of what team members were hearing from changing forecasts, went west of the direct run line to avoid tough conditions. But members of Gadzooks were among the few to venture east of the line because of a report Marsh heard.

"Our navigator did a great job," Beringer said of Marsh.

Gadzooks may be equipped with plenty of newer parts, but it's an old boat from 1977 which has spent its share of time on the water. Beringer, perhaps half-jokingly, said he was a little nervous about it when the conditions got tough.

"It was quite an adventure," Beringer said.

"We had big seas, especially toward the end of the race," said Beringer, adding that winds reached 40 knots at times. "It was really blowing at different parts of the race. We've been racing it for years. They knew the boat well. We had a fair amount of experience on board."

McGuire, 50, has done nine Bermuda races, including the Newport-Bermuda race which he's done several times.

"It was really something because, first off, we're a small boat and small boats are slower," McGuire noted. "For me, personally, this is probably one of the most satisfying ones. It was a great group of people to go sailing with."

McGuire had raced on a variety of boats, including a 90-footer. He enjoyed the experience of doing so well in the smaller boat this year.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "The boat handled really well."

McGuire and Beringer go back several years on and off the water.

"Geoff and I were neighbors way back," said McGuire, referring to his days in Rowayton. "I've been sailing with Geoff probably since 1999."