Please select your home edition
Edition
Wildwind 2016 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

Zhik ZKG 660x82Mackay BoatsPredictWind.com

Related Articles

H.H NOOD Regatta - Local sailors make waves on Tampa Bay during Day 2
Michael Zonnenberg, of the Lightning division, is currently one of only two local skippers leading a class. With sailors from across the country and beyond in town for the annual Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta this weekend, stand-out local skippers were a highlight of Saturday's competition. Michael Zonnenberg, of the Lightning division, is currently one of only two local skippers leading a class.
Posted today at 3:27 am
Krabi waters deliver a spectacular Day 3 of the Bay Regatta 2017
Opting for just two starts each day – monohulls / multihulls – has proven a successful strategy for 2017 The Bay Regatta Opting for just two starts each day – monohulls and multihulls – has proven a successful strategy for the 2017 The Bay Regatta, getting the boats off early and enjoying the good breeze and eye-candy that is the Andaman triangle of Phuket-Phang Nga-Krabi.
Posted on 18 Feb
Amedeo writes his own Vendée Globe story
Parisian political journalist turned solo ocean race Fabrice Amedeo secured 11th place when he crossed the finish line Parisian political journalist turned solo ocean race Fabrice Amedeo secured 11th place when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne at 09 hrs 03 m UTC this morning Saturday 18th February.
Posted on 18 Feb
Vendee Globe - Under a square head jury rig and storm jib - Day 104
Conrad Colman updates from the Atlantic as he makes 6.2kts under Jury Rig with 488nm remaining to sail Conrad Colman updates from the Atlantic as he makes 6.2kts under Jury Rig with 488nm remaining to sail to reach the finish line of the Vendee Globe. The single handed sailor is attempting to become the first competitor in the eight editions of the solo non-stop round the world race to complete the course using only natural energy. He has 200nm under the makeshift rig
Posted on 18 Feb
Amedeo writes his own Vendée Globe story - 11th place
Fabrice Amedeo secured 11th place in the Vendée Globe when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne Journalist and solo ocean race Fabrice Amedeo secured 11th place in the Vendée Globe when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 09 hrs 03 m UTC this morning Saturday 18th February. His excellent finish represents the culmination of a dream to take part in the famous solo ocean race around the world. Sailing Newrest-Matmut Amedeo's elapsed time for the course is 103 d 21h 1 m.
Posted on 18 Feb
EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour - Douillard avenges upset with victory
French sailing star Thierry Douillard avenged shock last-minute defeat in opening stage of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour French sailing star Thierry Douillard avenged a shock last-minute defeat in the opening stage of EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour by snatching victory in round two of the Gulf classic on Friday.
Posted on 18 Feb
2016 Community Sailing and Training Award winners recognized at NSPS
2016 Community Sailing and Training Award winners were celebrated as part of 2017 National Sailing Programs Symposium The 2016 Community Sailing and Training Award winners were celebrated on Thursday night as part of the 2017 National Sailing Programs Symposium (NSPS) at the Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol in Austin, Texas.
Posted on 18 Feb
Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta - Day 1
Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design Regatta Series kicked off its first event of year today in St. Petersburg, Fla The Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta Series kicked off its first event of the year today in St. Petersburg, Fla. Although light winds delayed racing until mid-afternoon, most of the 13 competing fleets were able to complete two races on the first day of the weekend-long event.
Posted on 18 Feb
Phaedo^3 finishes first in the Antigua 360 Race
Today Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3 took part in the second edition of the Antigua 360º Race Today Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3 took part in the second edition of the Antigua 360º Race which was a 52 mile anticlockwise circumnavigation of Antigua. Organized by the Superyacht Challenge committee, entry is exclusively reserved for boats entered in the ninth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 offshore classic.
Posted on 18 Feb
J Class to race its first ever World Championship this year
Just over one hundred years on from the advent of the Universal Rule, the J Class will get to race World Championship. Just over one hundred years on from the advent of the Universal Rule, to which they were originally built, the J Class will this year get to race its first ever World Championship.
Posted on 17 Feb