Please select your home edition
Edition
Naiad/Oracle Supplier

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

Related Articles

Sailing in the Olympics beyond 2016 - A double Olympic medalist's view
Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. Gold and Bronze medalist and multiple world boardsailing/windsurfer champion, Bruce Kendall takes a look at what he believes Sailing needs to do to survive beyond the 2016 Olympics. A key driver is the signalled intention by the International Olympic Committee to select a basket of events that will be contested.
Posted on 29 Apr
From Olympic flag to Olympic Gold and maybe another
The Sydney Olympics was a Sailing double 470 Gold event for Australia. Having won the 420 World Championship in 2000, the feeder class to the 470, while still at school in Australia young Matt Belcher was given the honour of carrying the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Posted on 28 Apr
The Road to Rio now 99 days short
The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win. The Road to Rio 2016 still has a few curves, bumps and potholes for teams battling to win in Hyeres, at some World championship events and Weymouth World Cup but for many crews: 'It's 106 miles to Chicago we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.' Whoops wrong movie.
Posted on 28 Apr
America's Cup - Oracle Racing win in Court but with collateral damage
Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Oracle Racing have had another claim against them by a former crew member dismissed. Mitchell focussed largely on the circumstances of the matter and introduced into the public arena some interesting documents to support his claims.
Posted on 23 Apr
An interview with Jake Beattie about the 2016 Race to Alaska
In 2014, Jake Beattie and a few friends envisioned the Race to Alaska. Now, it’s time this wild race’s second edition. In 2014, Jake Beattie-the executive director of the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend, Washington, and a few friends hatched the bold idea of a human-powered race to Ketchikan, Alaska, took flight. They decided that their human-powered race would start in Port Townsend, Washington and run to Ketchikan, by way of the inside passage between Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Posted on 14 Apr
Children of the Internet, Rio and Hong Kong
I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. I have four daughters, the youngest, who in her mid 20's is a true child of the Internet. The kind of conversations I have with her run along these lines.... In the olden days we did not have television until I left school and they had a thing called print magazines, that reported events between two weeks and four months after they happened. And her sceptical response... Hoh! Daddy, Hoh!
Posted on 14 Apr
Go fast girls - 49er FX sailors Paris Henken and Helena Scutt
Paris Henken and Helena Scutt will be representing the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which will be their first Olympiad. American’s Paris Henken (20) and Helena Scutt (23) recently won a berth to represent the USA at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the high-performance 49er FX skiff, a goal that the team has been working on for almost three years. While this is their first Games, writing them off as Olympic newbies would require ignoring their recent results and their strong teamwork.
Posted on 13 Apr
World Sailing Cup V3 - A Dead Rat in a Shoe or Spring Daffodils?
While a host of major sailing events go from strength to strength, the Sailing World Cup has very major issues. Last night my Irish better half was sitting beside me on the sofa watching an Australian version of the popular TV Cooking Program My Kitchen Rules on a tablet with her headphones while I was watching Diehard II for the seventeenth time (it’s a boy thing) on TV. She suddenly spluttered and laughed, took off her headphones and motioned for me to mute Diehard. (Seriously!!)
Posted on 9 Apr
Volvo Ocean Race appoints stadium racing pioneer as new CEO
Sail-World forecast the appointment of Mark Turner as Volvo Ocean Race CEO a month ago. We profiled Turner at that time. Sail-World forecast the appointment of Mark Turner as Volvo Ocean Race CEO a month ago. We profiled Turner at that time. Today his appointment has been confirmed.
Posted on 31 Mar
Large spectator fleet heading north for boat watching season
I’m absolutely not going to lay claim to the phrase, but it is insanely apt and hilarious all at the same time, however. I’m absolutely not going to lay claim to the phrase. It is insanely apt and hilarious, all at the same time, however. Well then, boat watching season is definitely upon us once more. The whales will soon be gathering again off the coast of Queensland to observe all manner of racing and cruising craft as they head North for a Winter in the sun.
Posted on 29 Mar
NaiadBarz Optics - San Juan Worlds Best EyewearKilwell - 5