The Spirit of the Bermuda Race

Ideal weather for the 2012 race produced record breaking speeds for the entire fleet over the 635-mile course from Newport, Rhode Island to St. David’s Head, Bermuda. But, for the crew of Angel it had a very special meaning



For dedicated blue water sailors, there is no greater source of inspiration, satisfaction and occasional frustration than the biannual “Thrash to the Onion Patch,” as the Bermuda Race has been referred to by generations of yachtsmen. The undulating Gulf Stream and variable weather patterns make it especially interesting and the sine qua non of ocean racing. Sailors, forgetting past discomforts, are lured to return to the challenge time and time again, and with faster and faster boats. A badge of merit for ocean racers is the number of Bermuda Races they participated in.

The conditions for the 2012 race were incredibly ideal. A stationary low trough prevailed over the entire course producing northeasterly winds ranging from 18 to 35 knots. The fleet was able to reach all the way to Bermuda on port tack, most of the time under spinnakers, with nary a tack or a jibe. As a result, new records were set for elapsed times not likely to be broken for many years. For some this was a very special race for another reason. It was a commemoration of Bill Langan, one of yachting’s most outstanding yacht designers and a much admired and beloved devotee and contributor to sailing and yacht racing.

Bill had a special love affair with the Bermuda Race. He sailed his first Bermuda race at age fifteen with Oivind Lorentzen, of Greenwich on Froya. At age seventeen he crewed again for Lorentzen in the 1972 race—one well remembered by those of us who participated in the giant seas and gale-force winds that caused many boats to withdraw with broken masts and swamped hulls. Bill continued as regular crew on Froya for many races and didn’t miss a single Bermuda Race until 2010, when he was hospitalized with leukemia. It would have been his twentieth. “Bill was bitterly disappointed that he couldn’t make it,” says Candy, his wife and partner of thirty years, who did the interior design for many of her husband’s yachts. Still, he held out hope of recovering in time for this year’s race, but it was not to be. He lost his long battle with leukemia in December 2010.

When he realized the end might be near, Bill had some very specific requests: Half his ashes were to be spread in Newport Harbor and half at the finish in Bermuda. Ed Anderson of Boston was a close friend of Bill’s. They had sailed often together, and Ed’s seventy-one foot sloop, Angel, was the last yacht off Langan’s drawing board. On hearing the news, he called Candy to offer condolences, and what could he do to help? “You don’t know it,” she told him, “but you are going to play a big part.” Then Candy asked him to take Bill’s ashes aboard Angel for the Bermuda Race, and to put together a crew of family and friends who would commit his ashes to the waters of Bermuda.

The crew, most of whom had never sailed together before, consisted of Bill’s son, Tom and brother Steve; Candy’s brother Crofty Register; Ed’s brother, Ty (current commodore of Riverside Yacht Club); and Ty’s son, Jay; plus good friends and experienced offshore sailors Eric Kreuter and Steve Munger of Riverside, and Dan Sullivan of Darien.

After a wild and fast passage of two days, fourteen and a half hours in which they averaged over ten knots, Angel crossed the finish line at St. David’s Head in the early morning as an overcast sky gave way to bright sunshine. They dropped their sails and for the next forty-five minutes held an informal service comparing their memories and stories about Bill. His ashes, in a special biodegradable container, were then lowered over the side. It was an emotional time for all. Behind them, there was no other boat in their division in sight. They were first to finish among thirty boats in the Cruising Division, winner of the Herbert L. Stone Trophy, and Third in Division on corrected time. It was a fitting tribute to Bill Langan and the quality of the yachts he designed— and, a posthumous fulfillment of his goal of twenty Bermuda Races.

Bill grew up in Greenwich where his parents Mike and Kay Langan still reside. Kay recalls her son’s early fascination with boats and sailing. All summer from age ten he spent sailing at the Belle Haven Club, and “all winter,” says Kay, “he would draw boats on his drawing board in his bedroom until lights out.” His best sailing buddy, according to Kay, was Stevie Hicks. “Bill never used ten words if he could use two. Stevie was the same way,” she recalls. “So, their conversations on board a boat consisted of ‘Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?’”

In college he was witness to a sailing tragedy. A boy was hit with a boom and died in Bill’s arms. He was the one who had to tell the boy’s mother. Thereafter, the two most important things about boats for Bill were safety and speed, and safety always came first.

Legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens appointed Bill chief designer for Sparkman Stephens. Bill later founded his own firm, Langan Design, and he was the creative genius responsible for dozens of famous yachts of all sizes at both firms (see sidebar). He created a special legacy for Bermuda in designing the Spirit of Bermuda. Ralph Richardson, past commodore of the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, says, “One of the things Bill was most proud of was this three-masted sloop modeled after the traditional Bermuda-built sailing ships of the early nineteenth century. Spirit of Bermuda, owned and maintained by the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, is the official training ship for Bermuda sailors and has become a Bermuda icon. Over dinner one night Bill told Richardson that there were not going to be any tall ships on the ocean that could beat her. Richardson adds, “Spirit did live up to all the promises he made, including safety.”

The 2012 race was over so quickly it reminded Steve Langan of when his older brother Bill recruited him at age nineteen for his first Bermuda Race. It was an exceedingly slow race, and after about four days he kept asking Bill, “When are we going to get there?” Finally, Bill, with an edge of slight annoyance, replied, “You just don’t get it, do you?” Son Tom Langan confirmed that for his father, “The whole race was his passion. He wasn’t concerned about the competition; it’s the sail down that is so great, every minute to be enjoyed.”

Bill Langan’s legacy is not just as a visionary who designed so many fine yachts from 12 meter to mega-yachts. In the words of Paul Fagan, a good friend and Angel’s skipper, “Bill was one of the best sailors I knew and a wonderful ambassador of the sport. He was a great teacher, willing to share everything he knew. There are so many people touched by him, and his designs will be participating in this race for years to come.”    

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • TREEHOUSES: Look Who's Living in the Trees!

    2014.06.21
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Saturday, June 21 - Monday, September 1 Hidden in the leaves, snug in the trunk or burrowed under the roots, what types of animals actually...

  • Greenwich Harbor Sunset Wine Cruise | Greenwich, CT

    2014.06.05
     @ Delamar Hotel Dock

    The boat "Prudence" departs from the Delamar Hotel Dock on 500 Steamboat Rd. All the wine is sponsored through VALS with food...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Exclusive Tour of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery

    2014.09.09
     @ Yale University Art Gallery

    Join JCC Greenwich for an exclusive tour with museum curator Elizabeth Manekin. The collection is noteworthy for exemplary works from the...

  • Understanding the Gaza War: Strategic & Political Implications

    2014.09.09
     @ Greenwich Library, Cole Auditorium

    Dr. Efraim Inbar is a Professor in Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its renowned Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic...

  • Bruce Museum: Look and See - Into the Deep

    2014.09.10
     @ Bruce Museum

    A program especially designed for children ages 3-5 years and their adult caregivers, who will explore the Museum’s exhibition through...

  • College Admissions Boot Camp | Greenwich, CT

    2014.09.13

    College Prep 360 will be offering two college admissions “boot camps” in their Greenwich office over the summer. The first workshop...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Greenwich Area Newcomers Annual Lobster Fest

    2014.09.14
     @ Tod's Point Clambake Area

    This is our kickoff event each year-held at Tod's Point Clambake area. The event is scheduled for Sunday September 14th starting...

  • Information Fair

    2014.09.16
     @ YMCA

    Our Annual Information Fair - This event showcases non profits , community businesses, schools and  services in the Greenwich...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • SoulCycle GWCH for Make-A-Wish CT

    2014.09.20
     @ SoulCycle

    Make-A-Wish Connecticut is thrilled to be partnering with SoulCycle's Greenwich location for a charity ride on Saturday, September 20th!...

  • Wall Street Tennis Challenge

    2014.09.20
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    The goal of The Wall Street Tennis Challenge is to support the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts while spreading awareness...

  • Arts & Crafts on Bedford

    2014.09.20
     @ Bedford Street

    Shop at over 100 craft and artisan boutiques on Bedford Street, which will be closed to traffic for the weekend. Dine in our extended sidewalk...


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