What’s a nice guy from landlocked Carmel, Indiana, doing in a yacht race like this? For Chris Palabrica the answer is simple – it’s the chance to fulfill a lifelong sportsman’s dream, and to share it with a sister who is now in remission following several bouts with cancer.
The competition in question is the 47th Biennial Newport Bermuda Race, a 635-mile thrash from Newport, Rhode Island, across the Atlantic Ocean to Bermuda. Palabrica, 46, will pilot the first-ever craft from Indianapolis to enter the famous race that’s been held every other year in mid-June since 1906.
“My sister Theresa had talked about a sailing cruise through the Mediterranean,” explained Palabrica. “But in short order we agreed that taking on this nautical challenge was more to our liking. I’m very proud of her adventurous spirit. We can’t wait to sail!”
Palabrica’s home port is the Indianapolis Sailing Club at Geist Reservoir, although he keeps his boat, Sailor Bandido, on Lake Michigan, where final pre-race preparations are underway. The sailboat takes its name from Palabrica’s son, Sayler.
The crew of six includes two other Indy area residents, Mike Crowell and Bob Solomon, as well as longtime sailing friends from Chicago and North Carolina.
The Newport Bermuda race typically takes three to six days of nonstop sailing, most of the time out of sight of land. It is the longest race by distance and the oldest yacht race in North America – an expensive undertaking, and not for the faint of heart.
“I’ve been sailing for 36 years and this always was a goal. The Bermuda Race is one of the top four international sailing races. There is an element of danger, but we’re fully prepared,” said Palabrica.
Sailor Bandido will leave Newport on June 18, part of an armada of more than 180 crafts navigating the treacherous, unpredictable waters of the mid-Atlantic. Their tactical challenge will be navigating the Gulf Stream while clipping along at speeds of four to five knots per hour.
“I’ve been researching previous races, the various courses taken, and am confident that while we’ll be among the smallest craft taking part in the race, we’ll not be the slowest,” said Palabrica.
Indeed, he and the crew are confident of a good showing in their division, the St. David’s Lighthouse Group (for amateur sailors). Trophies will be awarded at an elegant ceremony at Government House, the residence of Bermuda’s governor.
Palabrica has teamed with the American Cancer Society and Indianapolis-based Little Red Door. The goal is to secure sponsorship dollars to offset expenses and for donation toward cancer treatment and prevention research. On Saturday, April 17, a fundraising event will be held at the Indianapolis Sailing Club where well-wishers and benefactors can sign one of the sails that will be hoisted aboard the Sailor Bandido for the race.
More information about the Newport Bermuda Race is available at www.bermudarace.com.