Editor’s Note: Brian Barmmer is the owner of Viper 92 “Adrenaline” out of Marblehead, Mass.

I am relatively new to sailboat racing. My first race was less than 5 years ago. Last year I purchased the first boat of any type I have ever owned…..a Viper . Everyone who participates in close quarter racing in sailboats harbors at the back of their mind the fear that one day that close crossing will be a bit closer and their pride and joy will take a hit.  At the Viper New England Championship this year in Newport, my worst fears were realized but I learnt something about the Viper fleet and my fellow owners that you just cannot buy in a brochure.

“Starboard!!!!!!” “Starboard!!!!!!” *BAM!

viper 92 newport 2012

Brian Barmmer and Team Adrenaline (dark blue hull) leading the fleet to the windward mark in an earlier race at the 2012 New England Champs. Photo courtesy Cory Silken / Bacardi Sailing Week.

This was a full on high speed collision. In any other class I think both boats would be struggling to stay afloat but Vipers are “built tough”. The news from my crew was not reassuring though. We had a big hole in the side of my Viper 640 at the deck joint. After we got a few expletives out of our system, we tenderly sailed back to the crane.

There may be people who have been through this before, I had not.   I did not know what the next step was. What happened next was an amazing experience.

The rest of the Viper fleet came out in full support.  One group of my fellow owners focused on the repair logistics reaching out and finding Ben Parker from the builder and looking for materials to see if a temporary repair could be made. Several owners worked on their cell phones reaching out to other area Viper owners on our behalf to find us a replacement hull to finish the last day of the 3 day regatta. The boat that hit us graciously offered his boat for the next day if other plans fell through. Most importantly, some dedicated Viperers were keeping us well sauced with rum while we packed the boat up and repaired the emotional damage. The packing complete, made short by the long list of Viper volunteers, (its amazing how quickly a dozen experienced Viperers can fold up and pack a boat), it was time to finish the recommended course of medication at the Bacardi tent party. I’m not sure how much was fueled by the mojitos, but, the outpouring of support continued, even a few boats offered to make room for the three of us, just so we can get back out there.

The starboard tacker’s lament. Viper 92 post collision

Perhaps the most altruistic showing came from one of the newest Viper owners. Paul Scott from California purchased hull #110 just 6 days earlier and had never even used his new baby. He had driven out to Newport from SoCal to pick it up and happened to be there during race week. He said the boat is packed up tight for the trip but we were welcome to use it and get back into the fray; he even showed up early the next day to help us rig and tune.  Alas, it was not to be, slight differences in the rigging prevented us from using our stick on his hull and by the time we got his mast rigged, we would have missed the first race. We decided to call it a weekend and beat the rush to the tent. But the generosity of the offer will not be forgotten.

I’m writing this story not because the effort put forth by the fleet to get us back out there is unusual, but because it is par for the course. No one needed be rallied, convinced, bribed, or blackmailed to lend a hand. They did so just because that is that way they do things in the Viper fleet.  From before I even purchased the boat, the encouragement and assistance of everyone in the fleet has been nothing short of spectacular.  The camaraderie off the course is a strong as the competition on the course. Other owners and crew are always available to help with rigging, tuning and techniques and the proper ginger beer to Goslings ratio for every situation – the answer seems always to be ‘heavy on the rum’.

Forum boards, bar room stools, and dock side tables are lousy with discussion of which boat is the fastest, coolest, grow to the largest OD fleet, or will be the proverbial killer-app for modern sailing bringing in hordes of new racers. There will always be new designs and materials that push the limits of engineering or new concepts claiming to be the perfect answer for all the wants and needs of every racer. However, it isn’t the boat that drags my hung-over ass out of bed regatta mornings, it’s the people. The Viper is a very slick boat – athletic, simple, fast (current downhill record is over 23 kts btw), but the fleet’s on the water competition and off the water camaraderie is what keeps me coming back for more.

Editor’s Note
The Viper one design insurance with Gowrie and WhiteCap composites combined to get Brian back out on the water with a fully repaired boat in under 2 weeks for racing at the Marblehead NOOD. Brian and his team will be at the North Americans at Marblehead September 6-9.