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August 1, 2013

A Bed Race rivalry and a record

Six years removed from only Bed Race appearance, Pirates of Merrimack still holds record

It’s been six years since the Pirates of the Merrimack won the Bed Race in a record 1:02, and like every year since, Newburyport resident Hans Schonemann hears the threats that the record will be broken.

“This is the year, Schonemann. Enjoy it, because on Thursday, you’re going down. Guaranteed. You got lucky and you know it.”

Schonemann, who formed the Pirates, smirks and shrugs his shoulders. The threats and taunts, mostly from his friend and neighbor Kevin Winn, have become a ritual this time of year. Winn calls himself the team captain of Simply Sweet Bed Racing Team, and has won the Bed Race four years.

Team Simply Sweet is, simply, the Celtics, the Yankees, the Manchester United of the Bed Race world.

“Most teams go for speed or a theme,” Winn said. “We’ve won both categories.”

Most folks enter the Bed Race to promote community groups, local businesses or raise awareness. It is a unique race, at times nervy for spectator and competitor, and the staple of Yankee Homecoming Thursday that draws hundreds to line both sides of Federal Street.

The event, sponsored by the Newburyport Lions Club, has gone from six beds in 2004 to 26 in 2012. All the proceeds go to the Lions Club charities such as eyeglasses for the needy and its annual Thanksgiving dinner for the less fortunate.

Very few groups enter the Bed Race for competitive fun. So when Schonemann’s Pirates set the Bed Race record in 2007, their only appearance, it did not go over well with the competitive folks. And, Schonemann likes to point out, he entered the bed race on a false pretense.

“Every year we’d walk up to the parade,” Schonemann said. “And every year I’d see Kevin Winn on a float. I just assumed you had to win the Bed Race to get into the parade.”

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