Slow boats to Bermuda

Shockwave still leading the charge in the Newport-Bermuda race

Sunday June 22nd 2014, Author: Talbot Wilson, Location: Bermuda

For many of the 1500+ sailors on 162 boats on course to Bermuda in the 49th Newport Bermuda Race, yesterday’s Summer Solstice must have seemed like the longest night ever. Shockwave, the line honours leader at noon Saturday then 438nm from Bermuda, was still 336nm from Bermuda at 02:00 Sunday.

The 2012 Gibbs Hill Lighthouse winner was averaging a velocity made good to Bermuda of 8.3 knots, compared to 9.2 knots up to noon Saturday. At 02:00 Shockwave was doing 10.3kts making a good course of 152º toward Bermuda.

For those 14 hours, Shockwave had averaged 7.2 knots. George David’s Rambler had averaged 16.1 knots on the way to smashing the record in 2012. Rambler sailed the entire course in 39hrs 39min. The mini-maxis are well beyond that now, so no record will fall in 2014.

The 02:00 sched showed the back of the fleet taking a hard right turn. Hard in the sense that it is a 90º turn to the west, but harder still insomuch that these boats are sailing a bad tack to Bermuda or just drifting at less than 1kt. Dock talk in Bermuda will be stories about no wind or a big bad windshift during this long Summer Solstice night.

Christopher Dragon, estimated to be in the lead for best corrected time at Noon Saturday, still held that position. Then she was 477nm from Bermuda. At 02:00 she was 396nm out, making only 81nm in 14hrs, averaging 5.7 knots She was reported as doing 8.2 knots heading 141º.

Carina, winner of St. David’s Lighthouses in 2010 and 2012, was 457nm away reported doing 2.1 knots steering 138º and just out of the pack drifting west. Carina had covered only 33nm toward Bermuda in 14 hours but appears to be breaking out of the drifting pack at 02:00.

The big difference between the faster, leading boats and those further back is the Gulf Stream. Carina and Christopher Dragon, two of the leading boats on corrected time, are nearby and in the axis of the Gulf Stream which is flowing west to east. The current may actually be making wind for them, giving them additional apparent wind to sail with.

At 02:00 today, the leading mini-maxis had reached the southbound cold core eddy, and were picking up a free ride toward Bermuda. The slower boats in the drifting conditions are north of the current and will suffer till the wind builds today, maybe this afternoon.

At noon Saturday, Sinn Fein, the other two-time St. David’s Lighthouse winner (2006-2008), had been in second place based on estimated corrected time. She was 458nm out at noon Saturday and by 02:00 was sailing at 1.9kts heading at 124º.

Selkie, sailed by Sheila McCurdy, past Commodore of the Cruising Club of America, was stuck in the back half of the fleet in a drifter doing a painful 0.3 knots and drifting at 249º. Newton Merrill’s Finess a J/42 just west of Selkie was doing 1.1 knots at 90º drifting painfully the other direction.

Joe Harris in Gryphon Solo2, a double hander, was just picking up a breeze and the eastbound current. He was doing 7 knots at 158º. See his full report below.

Weather Update: Commanders’ Weather
1) We have a front lying close to 35-35 30n
a) Weak ripples of low pressure will move E along the front today and Mon

2) Satellite imagery shows a band of showers/squalls/t-storms from 34-36n

a) The cells are moving mainly from W to E, or a shade N of E

c) There may be some gusts to 40 kts near some of the heavier t-storms along the frontal boundary along with lots of lightning

3) In general, increasing ENE and E winds to the N of the front, nearing 36-37n (with a rather narrow band of 20-30 kts) and also a band of 20-30 kts of SW flow a little S of the front

4) Flow then settles to the SW closer to 14-20 kts further S
a) seas building to 7-8 ft thru the southern part of the Stream later today-tonight and 5-7 ft further S
5) Winds will diminish a few kts on both sides of the front Mon aftn-night

6) Front settles further S, closer to 34n Mon night-Tues
a) Lighter SW winds Mon night and Tuesday

7) Flow may be under 10 kts Tues-Wed

Joe Harris reports from Gryphon Solo

We are in day 2 of the 2014 Newport-Bermuda race and while there has been some really nice sailing at times, we are currently "parked up" as the saying goes, waiting for the "re-start". We are about 200 miles out from Newport and only about 38 miles from our target entrance to the Gulf Stream, the river of hot, fast water within the ocean that crosses at nearly a right angle to the rhumb line course from Newport to Bermuda. We were expecting to be there tonight but our journey has been delayed by the complete absence of wind , which is a necessary component to this mode of transportation. My co-skipper Rob Windsor and I have been duking it out with our fellow Class 40 Pleiad Racing and I think we have exchanged the lead four times and remain within spitting distance of them at the moment. So our Class 40 battle within the double-handed class rages on, however we read that Mike Dreese on his new "Toothface 2" retired from the race (don’t know what happened but the report said everyone was OK), so that just leaves three of us to battle for the Bermuda Race Class 40 title.

We can see at least 20 other boats with sails slapping and the boats drifting on the glassy calm water. We had a nice interlude of fast sailing earlier today and were really looking forward to the warm water and interesting marine life in the Stream, but at this point we are simply part of a lovely sunset still life painting. It is tempting to take the sails down and take a nap, but the paranoid, neurotic instincts keep one glued to the tiller, trimming flapping sails and searching in vain for that next wind line.

Hopefully my next report will be a bit more exciting.


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