JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin resident Tyson Garvin was one-half of a two-man crew that recently reclaimed the record in the Bermuda Challenge.
Garvin, 38, said the record in the 17-year-old challenge is considered the holy grail of endurance powerboat racing.
In August 2012, Garvin served as throttleman for Capt. Chris Fertig on a 37-foot powerboat that made the New York City-to-Bermuda run in just over 21 hours, knocking nearly an hour off the old record.
However, that was reduced to 17 hours and 6 minutes by an Italian team led by Fabio Buzzi a few weeks later.
Last winter, both Garvin and Fertig, who lives in Virginia, began raising money and soliciting sponsors in an attempt to retake the top spot. On Aug. 21, the two men did it in 15 hours and 48 minutes, becoming the first team to hold the record twice.
“Our plan was to beat the record by more time than he beat us,” Garvin said Monday, after he returned to the United States. But 60 miles offshore they broke the main propeller, forcing them to rely on spares that were of inferior quality and slowed them down. They broke a second propeller at the 500-mile mark.
Garvin explained that propellers used for endurance races are custom made, designed to handle the strain of a boat traveling 70 to 80 miles per hour and carrying, in this case, more than 5,000 pounds of fuel. The propellers they switched to were ones they had brought along to bring their 40-foot boat back to the United States after the race.
“We could go a lot faster than we did, and we were going a lot faster until we broke the propeller. Our plan was to do it in 12 hours,” said Garvin.
What makes the Bermuda Challenge more difficult than other endurance boat races is the fact that it goes much further out to sea — in this case 780 miles offshore, or nearly a quarter of the distance to Africa. Because of that, rescue is problematic and sometimes not even possible. Boaters are effectively on their own, relying on their wits to solve problems. In 2011, Fertig and others attempted the Bermuda Challenge but were set back by rough seas and mechanical problems.
Garvin and Fertig met four years ago at a Miami, Fla., boat show where Garvin had one of his engines on display. Garvin, co-owner of Apex Manufacturing, a Joplin machine shop, brings mechanical expertise to the challenge, something Fertig wanted. Fertig had served in the U.S. Coast Guard, running fast boats and piloting ships on drug-interdiction missions.
Garvin also has tackled similar, but less risky, races in the past. In 2010 and 2011, for example, he was half of a crew that won the Bimini Ocean Challenge, which leaves South Florida and swings around Bimini in the Bahamas before returning. It was not held in 2012. He also attempted the Key West to Cancun challenge this past February, but a propeller broke on that race, too.
Garvin doesn’t think the Italians will try to retake record, but he knows others will.
“We have heard there are some other people trying to build boats to beat it,” he said.
Tyson Garvin and Chris Fertig are planning a challenge to any competitors who want to break their New York City-to-Bermuda record: Give the two men a one-month heads-up and they will line up at the starting line in New York City to begin the race with anyone who wants to try it. Garvin also said it would be safer for everyone if they raced at the same time.