Perseverance Pays Off for Newport-Bermuda Winners Mike and Connie Cone

Mike and Connie Cone with crew aboard ACTAEA. Photo courtesy of Connie Cone.
 
Twenty-five years ago, Mike and Connie Cone bought a Hinckley Bermuda 40, ACTAEA, to go off-shore cruising. When a friend suggested racing, they thought they’d give it a try. In 1995 they entered their first race, the Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race, and they were hooked. Last month they won their first Newport-Bermuda race, where they walked away with nine trophies.
 
The Cones entered their first Newport-Bermuda race in 1996. “We did terribly in our first race,” said Mike. “I was horribly discouraged and thought it was a mistake that I would never repeat.” That year’s winner, however, gave a speech on perseverance, so the Cones decided to try again.
 
They continued racing, but it wasn’t until 2008 that they started thinking about winning. “That year was a difficult race for us, the conditions were really inappropriate for our boat, yet we got into Bermuda in less than five days and placed in the middle of our class,” said Mike. “That woke me up. We’d gotten our boat to a place where she could perform really well.”
 
Their winning streak began in 2010 with the Chesapeake Bay Governor’s cup. “We won our class quite handily,” said Mike. “Since then, we’ve entered seventeen medium-long distance races and have won or placed in sixteen of them.”
 
The Newport-Bermuda race, however, evaded them until this year. Not only did they win the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy, they won eight additional trophies. Mike said it was his crew’s determination that propelled them to victory. “When we arrived in Newport, we were determined to do as well as we possibly could. The least experienced crew has sailed 3,000 miles on this boat, so even though our sail combinations are incredibly complex, everyone knew what to use when.”
 
He attributes much of that knowledge to the service he’s received from Quantum Sail Design Group. “In our first Marion-Bermuda race, we used other sails, and the last one didn’t arrive until the night before the race. I immediately went over to Quantum. Tad Hutchins and the designers and naval architect Jim Ryan have spent a lot of time working with us, tweaking the designs of the sails. Because of the nature of ACTAEA, we can fly five sails at once, so it’s important that they work together.”
 
In addition to creating the perfect sails for ACTAEA, Hutchins also provided on-board training for the crew. “Tad’s been out on the boat numerous times,” said Mike. “He spent nine hours with us one day working on tension, setting sails, and on and on. It was enormously helpful, and one of the reasons we won. We are very happy Quantum customers.”
 
Next up for the Cones is the Governor’s Cup in August, where they’ll defend their title, before preparing for the Baltimore City Yacht Association Baltimore Harbor Cup in October. Until then, Mike and Connie continue to sail and hope to encourage others the same way they were encouraged.
 
“In 1996, ACTAEA and I finished last,” he said, “but what I learned was that perseverance and examination of past performances can help you learn from past mistakes, and your losses can become your victories.”
 
The crew of ACTAEA, winners of the St. David's Lighthouse Trophy. 
Photo courtesy of Connie Cone.
 
 
ACTAEA Trophy List, 2014 Bermuda Race
 
St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy: Corrected time winner, St. David’s Lighthouse division
 
Class 1, ORR fleet: 1st place
 
Corinthian Trophy: Best Performance by an all-amateur crew, St. David’s Division
 
Eastern Ocean Racing Championship Prize: Best combined performance between current Newport-Bermuda race and the prior Annapolis-Newport Race
 
George W. Mixter Trophy, St. David’s Division: To the navigator of ACTAEA, Stan Sneath
 
William C. Finley Trophy: Yacht older than fifteen years with the best corrected time, St David’s Lighthouse Division
 
Dorade Trophy: Best corrected time by a vintage yacht (older than twenty-five years)
 
Cruising Club of America Bermuda Station Trophy: Best corrected time by a vessel skippered by a CCA or Royal Bermuda Yacht Club member
 
Chesapeake Station of the CCA Memorial Trophy: Best performance by a vessel from the Chesapeake Region
ACTAEA races toward Bermuda. Photo by Daniel Forster.
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