The 2012 Newport Bermuda fleet of 166 yachts is on its way to the sunny isles. First to start was the Bermuda Sloop Foundation’s sail-training vessel the Spirit of Bermuda. She was the sole entry in the new Spirit of Tradition Division. She went off a half hour before the next start Class 1 in the St. Davis’s Lighthouse Division.
The final group, one 6-boat class in the Open Division, headed south at 3:30. Some Gibbs Hill Lighthouse boats expect to finish in about 43 hours. That would slash about 10 hours off of the record set in 2002 by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket. This was the first spinnaker start since the 2002 record setter.
Winds at the start were 15-17 knots out of the northeast and with the tide coming in a short chop set up winds against current. But this is nothing like what the boats that hit the Gulf Stream Friday night will encounter.
With 17 ktnos of northeast wind against the 3-4 knot Gulf Stream coming from the southwest, the waves will stack up like walls. The big boats will be hitting 17 to 20+ kts and flying off the big waves. Like Disney did in 2002, they might have to slow down to keep from damaging the boats.
Peter Isler, navigator of George David’s Rambler thought they would finish in that 43-hour time frame, but was concerned about the Bermuda High filling in around the island might make the wind go light and shifty. The last 50 miles in the approach to Bermuda is always tricky. Commenting on the first part of the course for Rambler, Isler said, “I thought about going out and buying some warm clothes for the first part of the trip, but we will be in the warm Gulf Stream tonight and probably stripping off layers.”
“Sailing the course to Bermuda is like sailing in my backyard", Isler added. “Newport Bermuda is a great race because the destination is great, usually sunny and always warm.”
Mark Watson, skipper of Bermuda’s Team Tiburon, sailing Wizard, said they expect to be home by Sunday morning. He also stressed the fact that weather forecasting is a prediction and that conditions can change. “Right now it looks like the weather will favor the big boats. We should be able to finish Sunday morning and I’ll spend Father’s Day with my children.”
Boats that had particularly powerful starts included Rives Potts Carina, Simon and Steve Frank’s Gracie and Lenny Sitar’s Vamp. Carina won the St. David’s Lighthouse Trophy and the North Rock Beacon Trophy in 2010.