Bill Berardelli & Mermaid


By – Nancy Terrell   (Nautical Scene - 2002)


Bill Berardelli first came to the British Virgin Islands in 1977.  He bought a boat in ’82 and four boats later he finds himself as the winner, for the second year in a row, of the CORT Series (Caribbean Ocean Racing Triangle) – the most famous racing regatta in the Caribbean.  This season he won 19 races out of 23 for this premier event. He has also won 2nds and 3rds in the series numerous times and in the minds of most of us Mermaid II is considered the premier racer of the BVI.


Bill’s love of sailing was first expressed in chartering when he used to bareboat from CSY in Tortola.  It was here that his interest in sailing & cruising turned to racing making him a prime enthusiast for Caribbean racing throughout the last two decades.  As the owner of two winning race boats, Mermaid I & Mermaid II, Bill has probably had more champion BVI crew than any other racer in our waters. He tells me, “Isaac Fonseca, who helmed in the BVI Spring Regatta, has been with me since the beginning.  We have known each other for twenty years. Most of the competitive BVI sailors have raced on Mermaid at one time or another, for the most part some 50 or 60 sailors.”


Hailing from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, as the oldest of four sons, Bill was always interested in sports and holds a Masters Degree in Physical Education.  As a youth he was an All American swimmer two years in a row.  The high school wrestling and football teams that he coached, during his 14 years as a teacher, were always involved in championships of some sort - both on the state and regional level.   In 2000 he was elected to the Hall of Fame in his hometown, an honor that is rare for any graduate.


Bill has put back more into his community than he has taken from it.  Mermaid Swim and Golf Club, which he owns in Blue Bell, is a large recreational facility located 22 miles west of Philadelphia on sixty-five acres of manicured rolling hills.  For the community, as well as tourists, it offers four swimming pools, including one the east coast's largest, and a multitude of other sports/entertainments such as golf, tennis, volleyball, basketball and baseball, etc. It is easy to visualize why this guy is known as “Captain Recreation”.  On break from all of this he lives in the BVI on his mothership Mermaid I with his love Carol Lee and participates in many Caribbean regattas on Mermaid II.


I caught up with him after the completion of the CORT Series at Nanny Cay Marina, the host of the final regatta and locale of the Awards Ceremony.  When I ask him about his racing history in the BVI he relays that 1993 was actually the first year he participated in CORT on his Beneteau First 51 Mermaid 1.  “In 1997 I purchased Mermaid II, a J/N 40 that is a custom racer, to use in future regattas.  The people that I have surrounded myself with, in these races, are really good.  I am not the greatest of sailors but everyone works along with me.  We try to pick good people and always stay in the present – not looking at past mistakes or concentrating on future efforts but to remain calm in what we are doing now. It’s like in coaching - you never think of what you did last week and you never think of what you’re going to do next week – it’s what this week is - you have to concentrate on what is happening now.”


This year the only problems we faced during the Series was getting and keeping crew.  You have to be both flexible and dedicated to take four long weekends off from work in order to participate in CORT.  It is a lot of hard work and we are just lucky we have reaped the reward of winning.  The series this year involved the St. Croix International Regatta (8 wins), The Puerto Rico Heineken International Cup (9 wins) and the BVI Spring Regatta (2 wins – the regatta was shortened due to lack of wind).  The Rolex International Regatta in St. Martin was on it’s own but we still chose to participate. Mermaid II is a great boat.  It’s won about everything you can win both in the Caribbean and in New England.”  


Carol adds that this is one reason Bill is so highly regarded among his peers.  “Other sailors really respect Bill and that is very rewarding for me.”  When I asked her what she enjoyed most she replied “I really like the way everyone comes together as a team and at the end of the day, when everyone is relaxed and enjoying the win and the party, all of the work is worth it.  Bill’s crew is very loyal to both him and the boat.  A lot of people have stood by him throughout the years and that is really nice to see.”  


Bill adds that Carol is “the greatest when it comes to crew support and does a lot to help out everyone.  As far as the sailing scene in the Caribbean is concerned I just like being around it and I enjoy being around the people that are associated with it.  I also like being able to provide the opportunity for others to enjoy it.”  When I ask him what the future holds he looks at me with a knowing smile, “Well, I’m not going to say I’m never going to race again.  I’ll be around it and I’m sure I’ll be involved with racing here in some way but – there’s a lot of the Caribbean to see and maybe its time to go cruising!”


Members of Mermaid II’s crew are as follows: Isaac Fonseca/Mark Ploch- helmsman; Guy Eldridge – main trim; Terry Merrigan – cockpit/tactician; Martin Van Houten – running backstay; Kerry Klein, Mercedes Tech  & Eric Groenenberg – pit; Leo Voorneveld – mast; Paul Beaudin – bow/tactician; Kathy Oberman – spinnaker trim.

4511114037.jpg 4511114051.jpg

Bill's superfast racer, Mermaid, at left.  Bill & Carol win their weight in

Coors Beer after winning the Coors

International Yachting Championships in St. Croix, USVI