Gadzooks!--Sailing team wins Class in Marion-Bermuda race

It may not have been a very big boat, but there was an abundance of experience on board and members of the Gadzooks--a sailing team named after its boat, from Rowayton Yacht Club--won its class in the Marion-Bermuda race earlier this summer.

Gadzooks, a 37-foot, 6-inch sloop, won the Class C title and raced to a seventh-place overall finish among 50 challengers (including mostly larger boats) among four class sizes.

A team of eight experienced racers completed the five-day, 640-mile journey at sea from Buzzards Bay off Marion, 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 and theoretically faster boats in the competition.

The team comprises 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.

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," he explained.

"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."

"It was really challenging at the start," Walsh added. Walsh, who has been sailing since he was a child, is 48 years old. He pointed out that it took great teamwork as groups of four rotated to manage the boat throughout the race.

"We've been racing it for years. They knew the boat well," Beringer said. "We had a fair amount of experience on board."

Jewett, 51, grew up in Darien and has always been on the water, sailing with her family when she was younger. Jewett says she's been on boats since she was "in the womb" and added, "I don't ever remember not sailing." She has plenty of fond memories of sailing and this most recent race stands to be a memorable one for a long time. "It was really exhilarating. We were thrilled," Jewett said.

Beringer and Jewett sail together through the Rowayton Yacht Club and the common thread for all of the Gadzooks team members is that they are all members of the Corinthian Sailing Club.

McGuire, 50, has competed in 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 has 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."