Crossing the finish line of the Newport Bermuda Race.

On Tuesday June 25th, at 05:43 in the morning, Phil Haydon and co-skipper Alex Kraebel crossed the finish line of the Newport Bermuda Race. They sailed Fearless, a Jeanneau Sunfast 3300, for 663 nautical miles from Newport, RI to Bermuda, with a corrected time of 3 days 4 hours 22 minutes and 47 seconds to win their class and the overall double-handed division by a mere 4 minutes and 11 seconds.

Sailing down Narragansett Bay. Photo: Adam Himber Photo.

The race brought many challenges, including thunderstorms at the start and sporty upwind conditions that Phil has described as sailing in a washing machine on turbo charge. The co-skippers had devised a navigation strategy before the start and decided that they were not going to look at the boat tracker during the race. Instead, they focused on believing in themselves, their preparations, and sailing the boat to the best of their abilities. Their entry point into the Gulf Stream proved to be well chosen, giving them up to 5 knots of an additional push for over 150 miles. A wind shift at the very end of the race was a key moment and resulted in them being on one tack from the exit of Narragansett Bay all the way across the finish line.

Not only was this a victory for the crew onboard, but it was a resounding win for the epilepsy community. Phil brought along over 580 Virtual Shipmates for the voyage, who have all committed to living fuller lives, despite having a disability. Phil sails the oceans of the world, with the necessary safety measures in place. He challenges everyone to consider – what can you do, that you haven’t done before?

During the race, Phil took a break from napping, steering, and downloading weather information to make a video feature one of his Virtual Shipmates, Heather. Heather loves to cook but since developing myoclonus (sudden, brief involuntary twitching or jerking of a muscle or group of muscles) she has been nervous about being in the kitchen. However, she has decided to enroll in cooking classes starting in July and we applaud her bravery! Heather’s mom Jennifer shared the impact of the video:

“We were absolutely bowled over to receive the inspiring video message you produced for Heather, the budding chef from Sarasota. Words cannot properly describe the joy you brought to her from so many miles away. It is truly one of the most endearing gifts Heather has ever received and we both send to you our heartfelt thanks.

There is poetry and power in what you are doing for those whose trials you have known. The beauty is that having overcome, you have not forgotten those still living the challenges of epilepsy. Drawing them to focus on a different challenge of their own creation – great or small – and supporting it in a voyage on the high seas is brilliant – a way to share what courage looks like.”   

When Phil got to shore, he was overwhelmed by the comments and support from the epilepsy community during this race.

“I’m so proud to represent our family of people with epilepsy. And I’m excited to report back to you that people are listening. Listening to the struggles that we go through and becoming more understanding of our disability. It’s great to connect with so many people outside of the community to educate them about epilepsy. It’s inspiring that we have so many new followers that have a new understanding of our struggles.

I will continue to go offshore pursuing my passion of sailing, with my safety guardrails in place. And I’ll be thinking of our Virtual Shipmates and the ways that they are all finding ways to live a fuller life.”

Next Voyage

Phil is spending the a few days resting and making some minor repairs to Fearless. His next voyage begins on Sunday, June 30th, when he will compete in the 2024 Bermuda Short-Handed Return. Be sure to follow this voyage on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and on our website, sailforepilepsy.org.

The start of the Newport Bermuda Race. Photo: Bill Shea Photography

3 thoughts on “Fearless Sails to Victory in the Newport Bermuda Race

  1. Well done Dr. Haydon and Alex! Congratulations on your wonderful victory and on carrying so many hearts over the finish line with you! Loved the comment about your “focus” – such a valuable lesson for all of us. Thanks for sharing your triumph and the great photos!. All best wishes for Sunday’s race. We will be cheering for you! Please stay clear of any washing machines!

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