Please select your home edition
Edition
navathome 728x90

Newport Bermuda Race - Tough choices ahead for skippers

by Talbot Wilson on 19 Jun 2014
Latest forecasts suggest that spinnakers will not be flying at Friday's start. © Talbot Wilson / PPL
Tacticians, navigators and skippers in the Newport Bermuda have decisions to make in determining the fastest route to Bermuda. The straight — rhumb line— course is the shortest distance between two points, but it may not be the fastest. Two choices could determine victory or defeat. Will the wind on the course or Gulf Stream current be more important? That choice must be made before the race starts. The 164-boat fleet sets off Friday, June 20 from Newport Rhode Island.

For more than forty years Frank Bohlen has studied ocean and near-shore currents. Since 2002 he has prepared detailed analyses of the ocean between Newport and Bermuda in the months prior to this race. In his recent online tutorials on the race website, he has described Gulf Stream development using images from NOAA and other sources. Click here to view them.

How will the Gulf Stream current flow?

Ocean Currents from altimeter data June 18, 2014

Dr. Bohlen commented on the Gulf Stream choices this week. 'The Gulf Stream in the vicinity of the straight line Newport to Bermuda route (the rhumb line) has been dominated by a deep meander. The meander has remained nearly stationary and deepened causing the direction of the flows in the main body of the Stream to rotate clockwise to a nearly northwest to southeast flow essentially paralleling the rhumb line for a distance of about 180 nautical miles.'

'The few shots of surface sea water temperatures that have been obtained recently suggest that the meander is the process of 'pinching off' favoring formation of a cold core ring south of the main body of the Stream, increasing the development of the warm core feature north of the Stream near the edge of the continental shelf and redirecting the main body Gulf Stream flows to a southwest-northeast course crossing the rhumb line approximately 240 nm from Newport.'

'If this remains unchanged, the Gulf Stream will have little direct influence on optimum course selection. At the moment the warm feature north of the Stream favors a near rhumb line course from Newport to south of 39o N with a slight bias to the west to accommodate some amount of easterly set through the main body of the Stream. The Stream near the rhumb line is approximately 60nm in width with flows proceeding south to north east of the rhumb line.'


'To the south, the westerly edge of the cold core ring presently centered to the east of the rhumb line is in close contact with the rhumb line. This favors a direct course to Bermuda. The ring is expected to drift slowly (2-3 nm/day) to the west so that some additional course alteration to the west may be necessary to take full advantage of the ring currents.'

Bohlen concluded, 'The combination of these Gulf Stream current features favor a course west of the rhumb line, with exact details dependent of boat characteristics and wind speeds and directions.'

Which way will the wind blow?
When considering how long-term wind shifts, happening over three or four days, will determine their course to an island 635nm away, a racer’s mantra is ‘sail fast to the new wind’. Ken Campbell of Commander’s Weather shared his insights on wind with the Bermuda Race Organizing Committee as of Tuesday morning, four days before the start.

'For 2014 there are similarities to the 2002 race.' Campbell wrote. That year, a strong Gulf Stream meander ran into the face of a similar strong wind, creating very rough seas.

'Strong southwest winds are expected late Sunday night and Monday which will cause very rough conditions on the Gulf Stream. This should primarily affect the smaller yachts. The larger yachts will probably be in the strong SW winds, 20-30+ kts, for a shorter period of time and should be generally out of or getting out the Gulf Stream by then. It will be a very active weather pattern for late June'

'For the start day, sunshine and light north winds Friday morning will glass off [decline] in late morning and then fill in with a lightsouth-southwest sea breeze during the afternoon.'

There are two low pressure systems coming, Campbell noted. Looking at the lows from Tuesday morning, he predicts the first should reach the coast Saturday morning and then move out to sea and pass south of much of the fleet. Winds should become east to northeast. The strongest winds should be late Saturday and Saturday evening, when 15-30kt wind is possible for the larger yachts in the fleet. The very northern tip of the Gulf Stream will be rough, but the southeast meander will be perpendicular to the wind, so not that rough.

Sunday should be the transition day from the northeast to east winds to strong southwest winds. The second low pressure should move off the New Jersey coast Monday morning. Strong southwest winds should spread from west to east and southwest to northeast across the fleet. Southwest winds 20-30+ kts on Monday could impact the smaller half of the fleet the most. If they are still in the Gulf Stream,it will be a rough ride for the smaller yachts.

'Southwest winds should back and diminish for the approach into Bermuda for the smaller yachts on Tuesday and Wednesday,' Campbell concluded.


Skippers make their choices
With a current that favors west of the rhumb line and weather coming from the west, tacticians, navigators and skippers look at their choices. The race to Bermuda is in four parts— Newport to the Gulf Stream, the path through the stream, the exit from the stream to about 50-70nm from Bermuda and the final approach through the often fickle ’happy valley’ to the Bermuda finish.

This discussion was based on the current and wind observations and a forecast on Tuesday. All could change by the time the racers make their final commitment. Which way will winners go?

Follow them starting Friday afternoon on Pantaenius Race Tracking — here to see if your choice is a winner or not.

Twenty-nine of the two Newport Bermuda Lighthouse Divisions’ entries are also sailing the 25th Onion Patch Series, a tough triathlon of offshore racing. These Onion Patch racers have just sailed the NYYC 160th Annual Regatta presented by Rolex in Newport and will form the core of the June 27nd RBYC Anniversary Regatta which now has 32 entries. The RBYC Anniversary Regatta is open to all IRC or ORR rated yachts over 25 feet in Bermuda. Anniversary Regatta entries close at noon on June 25th. Information is online at Onion Patch Series and at www.rbyc.bm.
Event website

Collinson and CoSailutions - SeldenSailFremantle to Bali Race 660x82

Related Articles

Best pictures of the first 4 Acts of the Extreme Sailing Series™
An influx of fresh talent have all added to the hype, but the greatest evolution is the replacement of the Extreme 40. An influx of fresh talent, new venues and a revised race format have all added to the hype, but the greatest evolution is the replacement of the Extreme 40 by a smaller, faster catamaran: the flying GC32.
Posted on 25 Aug
Return to Russia for the Extreme Sailing Series™
Joining the fleet as the season heads into its second half is Gazprom Team Russia, led by WMRT champion, Phil Robertson. With one week to go, the fleet returns to St Petersburg for the fifth Act of the season, presented by SAP, 35 of the world’s best sailors are getting their heads in the game and preparing for the one of the trickiest venues of the season so far.
Posted on 25 Aug
Championship momentum builds at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week
Three windward/leewards for the two Rating Series divisions on the eastern course area started out in 10-12knot ESE wind Three windward/leewards for the two Rating Series divisions on the eastern course area started out in 10-12 knot ESE winds under overcast skies and as the day progressed the breeze turned SE and faded to 8-9kts.
Posted on 25 Aug
Audi Hamilton Island RW - Whales steal the limelight on Day 3 + Video
With the IRC class racing postponed ashore, the cruising classes were sent to an eastern course in search of breeze. With the IRC class racing postponed ashore, the cruising classes were sent to an eastern course in search of breeze. The only action in the racing area came from the whales rolling around without a care for the yachts that surrounded them.
Posted on 24 Aug
Hamilton Island Race Week - Supermaxis battle on Day 2 + Video
Photographer Michael Chittenden is on the water at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week Photographer Michael Chittenden is on the water at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, and provided this gallery of images on a day when the supermaxi Scallywag beat Wild Oats XI for the first time. Bob Killick and Warwick Rooklyn commentate the video of Race Day 2
Posted on 23 Aug
Mid-week weekend at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week
Layday came early for the AHIRW fleet despite best efforts by the race committee to get some divisions racing out 2016 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week - Layday came early for the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week fleet despite best efforts by the race committee to get some divisions racing out on the Eastern course area, in the Turtle Bay vicinity.
Posted on 23 Aug
AHIRW Day 3 - Audi Hamilton Island Whale Watching Week
Day three saw no racing for any of the 252 entries at AHIRW, but there was plenty of people and whale watching 2016 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week - Day three saw no racing for any of the 252 entries at Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, but there was plenty of people and whale watching to be done for the media! I have to say it is the best postponement I have had in my 20+ years of sailing!
Posted on 23 Aug
AHIRW - Day 2 - Ichi Ban and Concubine in the Tavern
Another gorgeous day on Hamilton Island, but breeze was not entirely on board with keeping the on-water action up to par 2016 Audi Hamilton Island Race Week - Another gorgeous day on Hamilton Island, but the breeze was not entirely on board with keeping the on-water action up to par with the off-water activities!
Posted on 23 Aug
Infiniti 46 features Doyle Sails BR0 - Blast Reaching Zero - Video
Video of the Infiniti 46 at speed using Doyle Sails including a fore-sail that measures as a jib and is used for blast r Video of the Infiniti 46 at speed using Doyle Sails including a fore-sail that measures as a jib and is used for blast reaching. Designed by DSS-creator Hugh Welbourn the Infiniti 46 is 14.10m LOA, with a beam of 3.90m and a 3.35m draft. Her displacement is listed at 5300kg. She is full carbon construction.
Posted on 22 Aug
A magnificent fleet gathers in Cowes for Etchells World Championship
58 teams from all over the world have entered the championship, hosted by the Royal London Yacht Club. Twenty teams are from Great Britain and a dozen each from Australia and the United States of America. Four entries are from Hong Kong and as far afield as: Bermuda, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
Posted on 22 Aug