For the love of sailing

Steamboat man competes in

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The 635 nautical miles from Newport, R.I., to Bermuda are home to one of the biggest races in the sport of sailing.

Every two years, hundreds of yachts set sail off the coast of Newport headed to the finish line at St. David's Head, Bermuda. The journey between the two points seems simple enough, but sailors must be able to cross and use the Gulf Stream along the way. They also are confronted with tricky winds that run along the coast and test the best sailors. Navigators must use all the elements to plot a course that allows their boat to compete the journey in the shortest amount of time.

For Robin Craigen, who calls Steamboat Springs home, the waters provided the adventure of a lifetime last month. He was invited to be a part of a nine-man crew aboard the 48-foot Ace that finished second overall in the race.

"This experience sums up why I love to sail," Craigen said. "It was a dream come true."

The yacht, which is owned by Fred Stelle, completed the course in four days, two hours and 31 minutes. Stelle's yacht led the event for most of the way but surrendered the trophy to a yacht named Alliance, which made a bold move at the finish to win the race.

"Nobody on board slept in the final 12 hours of the race," Craigen said. "It was a talented crew, and nobody wanted to give up at the finish."

But the Ace's strategy to protect the lead in the final stretch of the race backfired. The crew of the Alliance elected to sail farther east to catch more favorable winds to the finish. It was a bold move, but Craigen said the opposing boat had a lot to gain and very little to lose by gambling.

Despite having the top trophy stolen in the final moments of the journey, Craigen said his experiences during the four-day period are among the highlights from a lifetime of sailing.

"Coming across the Gulf Stream was a dream ride," Craigen said.

The yacht reached speeds up to 15 knots, often crashing through waves.

"The crew was screaming and yelling," Craigen said. "That's what sailing is all about -- that kind of experience."

It was a magical race for the sailor who grew up on the south coast of England and learned to sail. Craigen has taken part in many of the classic races including the Sydney to Hobart off the coast of Australia, and Fastnet, which is held in the waters off England.

Craigen grew up on the deck of a boat and ran a charter yacht in the Carribean before moving to Steamboat several years ago.

Craigen said he moved to Steamboat because he thought it was a more appropriate place to raise his daughter than on a yacht.

But it didn't mean that Craigen planned to give up sailing. These days, he plans his vacations around sailing, and when he gets a chance to race, he jumps at it.

He said his reputation earned him an invitation to join the crew of the Ace and take part in this year's Newport-Bermuda race.

While he loves to sail, Craigen said Steamboat's active lifestyle and its friendly community keep pulling him back.

When he isn't traveling to a race or sailing, he can be found mountain biking and skiing.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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