Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars - North Technology

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

InSunSport - NZNorth Technology - Southern SparsNewport Boat Show 2016 660x82

Related Articles

Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup - Lone bullets for the Brits
Despite three more inshore races being held on day five France Blue leads with a similar 11.5 point margin to yesterday 2016 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup - Despite three more inshore races being held on day five of the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event for three boat teams with Corinthian crews, France Blue leads with a similar 11.5 point margin to yesterday, but Flanders North Sea is now the team that has relieved France White of second place overall.
Posted today at 2:10 am
Supermaxi Scallywag has her first outing on Sydney Harbour
Scallywag is a 100' Super Maxi Yacht (ex Ragamuffin 100) owned by a HongKong Business man. Scallywag is a 100' Super Maxi Yacht (ex Ragamuffin 100) owned by a HongKong Business man. Yesterday the boat took it first sail on Sydney Harbour in preparation for this weekend's start of the CYCA Land Rover Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race
Posted on 28 Jul
Extreme Sailing Series– Oman Air sneak early lead despite bump on nose
Hamburg’s River Elbe in the HafenCity area was transformed into the ultimate test in Stadium Racing today Hamburg’s River Elbe in the HafenCity area was transformed into the ultimate test in Stadium Racing today, with the narrow river, passing traffic, high walls, shifty light winds and strong currents challenging the fleet on the opening day
Posted on 28 Jul
52 Super Series – Puerto Portals Week – Quantum Racing top of the pops
Quantum Racing stand on the threshold of their third regatta win of the season after sailing to their fourth win today. The Bay of Palma lived up to its one way traffic reputation for most of the time. The risk-reward equation for those pressing for the pin end launch was high. But significantly both of today’s race winners – Quantum Racing and Bronenosec– favoured the lower risk mid line starts where they had a better chance of coming away from the gun at maximum speed by staying clear of the jousting and jostling
Posted on 28 Jul
Debriefing the 2015-16 Clipper Round The World Race with Huw Fernie
Sail-World talked with Huw Fernie of Visit Seattle to learn more about a Clipper Round The World Race skipper’s life. Skipper Huw Fernie and his Visit Seattle crew took top honors in the Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge, marking their second podium finish during the 2015/16 Clipper Round The World Race. I recently caught up with Fernie to learn more about Visit Seattle’s success in the Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge, and to learn more about the life of a Clipper Round The World Race skipper.
Posted on 28 Jul
Oman Air quick to master light airs on Day 1 of Extreme Sailing Series
Last year’s wild and gusty winds gave way to light simmering airs but the Oman Sail was quick to master the conditions. The compact River Elbe race course, bordered on all sides by cargo containers and all the handling equipment associated with one of the busiest ports in the world, was expected to be tricky for the GC32 fleet even though the race area had been expanded.
Posted on 28 Jul
Finale of Clipper Race global series starts in The Netherlands
The 198nm race to London is going to be one of the most nail-biting yet with just six points separating the top teams After a Departure Ceremony from Willemsoord Marina and a Parade of Sail in the presence of Dutch Royal Navy ship ZrMs Luymes, the fleet started the final short sprint to London off the Dutch coast.
Posted on 28 Jul
Thousands of spectators expected to welcome home Clipper Race fleet
Hurricane winds, giant waves, freezing conditions, battered boats and tragedy fail to quell fighting spirit of the crew. The tenth edition of the famous biennial race for novice sailors led by professional skippers is regarded as the most challenging on record after the event endured the most extreme conditions it has ever faced in its 20-year history.
Posted on 28 Jul
Trans-Atlantic record- Comanche sets new monohull record
Comanche has crossed the virtual finish line off the Lizard, England in her attempt to set two new world sailing records Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark's supermaxi Comanche has crossed the virtual finish line off the Lizard, England in her attempt to set two new world sailing records. She finished at 11:45 UTC on Thursday July 28,2016, having left New York on Saturday July 23, 2016.
Posted on 28 Jul
Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup - France Blue blasts back
The Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup race course took on a different complexion today. The Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup race course took on a different complexion today. A front passed through early morning leaving behind it a lumpy sea, further kicked up by a strong eastbound tide.
Posted on 28 Jul