175 miles to go for Speedboat

The going gets light in the Newport-Bermuda Race

Sunday June 20th 2010, Author: John Rousmaniere, Location: United States

More photos at www.danielforster.com

The lead boats in the Newport-Bermuda Race entered the Gulf Stream at around sunset on Saturday, heading upwind into a moderate southwesterly wind with as much as 4 knots of favourable current in the long, hot meander that they have been steering for since the race start on Friday afternoon. Alex Jackson's Speedboat, at 100ft the largest yacht in the fleet, was making more than 12 knots over the bottom. The earlier 'champagne conditions' were behind them as they pounded into big, square, confused seas.

iBoattrack positions at 11 AM EDT Sunday showed Speedboat averaging almost 11 knots with 175 miles to the finish. At this rate she is behind the 48-hour elapsed time race record for cant-keel, Open Division boats - she has to average 13 knots for the whole race to beat this time.

Niklas Zennstrom's Rán was 38 miles back. Following close on her heels in the Gibbs Hill Division were Titan XV, Beau Geste, Bella Mente, Rambler, Il Mostro, Vanquish and Genuine Risk. This tightly bunched pack of eight has been separated by only a few miles since the start.

By this morning the ‘big boat’ leaders were clear of the Stream and entering the 250-mile stretch of often confused wind and currents between the Gulf Stream and Bermuda. Race veterans wryly call this 'Happy Valley', for it is where the race is often won and lost.

Chris Museler, on Titan XV, filed this report just before midnight: “Now this is what we came for! The boat is literally crashing into waves close reaching onto the Gulf Stream and the water temperature has leapt into the 80s. It’s getting darker and the Aramid rigging has been humming and groaning, and the deck bounces from each loud crack when a sheet or the traveler is eased. This wild ride comes from being in a positive eddy heading south, straight into it! (Wind and current collide to stack up the seas that the boats are crashing into.) This is getting to be fun after losing a bit to competitors this afternoon. The bright sun and the flat water sailing are gone. Can’t write anymore, quite hot and uncomfortable down here. So I’m on watch and will be seeing you in the morning. Knew I wouldn’t want to sail a Bermuda Race without a proper ‘thrash,’ as Mr. Rousmaniere calls it!”

The Smaller Boats

By dawn today, Rán was out of the Stream, and the team was speculating in their blog whether the smaller boats - a hundred miles astern, and just entering this zone - have had consistently more wind than the big ones.

In Class 1, the St. David’s Lighthouse Division class for boats of about 40 feet, Sinn Fein, the two-time defending St. David’s champion, has chosen a course well to the right of the fleet leaders, and her close class rivals sistership Gone with the Wind and the Tartan 41 Aurora, and charting a route 50 miles west of the rhumb line.

In the Double-Handed Division, two of the light-displacement Class 40s, Dragon and KamoaE, have a healthy lead on elapsed time, but Richard du Moulin’s Lora Ann remains in contention.

The Cruiser Division leader is the 56-foot Clover III, well ahead of the bigger boats in this Division.

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