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Newport Bermuda Race record assault continues

by Talbot Wilson and John Rousmaniere on 17 Jun 2012
2012 Newport Bermuda Yacht Race. Shockwave - USA 60272 PHOTO CREDIT: Daniel Forster/PPL PPL Photo Agency - copyright http://www.pplmedia.com
The assault on the official, 10-year-old Newport Bermuda race record continued into Saturday night. The big boats in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division— ‘Rambler’, ‘Bella Mente’, ‘Shockwave’ and ‘Team Tiburon’— continued to blast down the course toward Bermuda. Their ETA of early Sunday morning seems to be holding up.

Open Division boats ‘Indio’ and ‘Med Spirit’ are assaulting their own 8-year-old record. The boats had passed through the Gulf Stream doing about 21kts and continued south of the stream in the high teens through Saturday evening. ‘Med Spirit’, a Welborn 92 skippered by Michael D’Amelio, leads that group in Class 16. ‘Indio’ is a Frers designed Wally 100 owned by Mark Fliegner.

At 4:30 EDT Saturday ‘Rambler’ was 195 rhumbline miles from Bermuda sailing straight toward the islands at 14 kts. She was followed by ‘Shockwave’ and ‘Bella Mente’ who were within a mile of each other, some 16 miles back.


Smaller boats may have a tough time with winds as they approach the botom part of the course. Forecasters predict that the strong NE winds in the Gulf Stream will gradually abate south of the Stream, with light air developing south of 35ºN for most of the fleet Sunday.

Forecast issued at Saturday June 16, 16:00 EDT
Northeast winds 25-35 kts diminish to 20-30 kts in the Stream and 15-25 kts south of the Stream– squally showers in the Stream
Sunday, June 17 –Northeast winds diminish to 10-15 kts during the day and less than 10 kts at night - wind directions becoming Notyhwest to west by Monday morning. Few squally showers especially near Bermuda during the day becoming more settled at night.
Monday, June 18 – winds become light and variable – no squalls
Tuesday, June 19 – very light winds probably northwesterly then northeast at Bermuda – no squalls

A Mariner’s Musings - By John Rousmaniere

With a good, strong boat in your favor, and a little cleverness in the bank, you might just win the toughest sprint in the history of the Newport Bermuda Race.

When the six-hour delay came off the tracker on Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t as though the doors to Sailing Reality were suddenly thrown open. There’s been plenty of Reality to spare for the sailors over the last day – and also for those of us who happen to be on shore this year, who have been in such conditions, and who can easily imagine the mixed pleasures and challenges and anxieties of sailing so close to the edge.

When Chris Museler tells us of the risks of racing in this weather in the Class 40 ‘Dragon’, and still assures us 'we are still racing,' he reminds us at the other end of the tracker road that we are not simply watching. We sailors who are temporarily land-bound are, spiritually, in these boats with those women and men who are having the time of their sailing lives. They are sailors, and they are racers, and we feel their anguish and their joys (as few of the latter as there may be).

A glance at the tracker brings this all even closer to home. ‘Rambler’—180 miles (at 17:00 EDT) from the finish, on Saturday afternoon no less— may have a slightly larger lead than she enjoyed 24 hours ago, but the back and forth between ‘Bella Mente’ and ‘Shockwave’ (less than a quarter mile apart) in the big boat’s wake means the Ramblers had better keep their foot on the pedal.

Work your way northwest along the tracker’s rhumbline toward Newport and you come upon what seems to be an immense school of dolphins of many colors running parallel, mile after mile, in their Technicolor glory. I’ve been keeping up with a few boats back there and see that they’re doing a lot more than merely sprinting down the rhumbline.

The Newport Bermuda Race is usually a strategic race, with Lighthouse trophies going to the crews that take the biggest risks to one side of the Gulf Stream or another (the reason why tracking has time delays early in races is so these decisions aren’t copy-catted). But this year, the race has gone tactical.

In the pack of 40-footers about halfway back, cagey Pete Rebovich and his Raritan gang in ‘Sinn Fein’ have positioned themselves (Pete fashion) on the western edge of the pack, leaving themselves free to pounce to the west at the first sign that the easterly is fading. Larry Huntington may be thinking the same thing because ‘Snow Lion’, a little ahead of ‘Sinn Fein’, is also along the western wall, with her bow just ahead of ‘Gracie’.

This race is tactical, and it’s also the fabled Thrash to the Onion Patch. It’s a very demanding, tough experience right up there with the fabled poundings of 1960, 1972, and 2002. What this means is that the biggest advantage probably lies with the crews who have the most experience, who are fittest, and who (especially) have most assiduously prepared their boats.

I am reminded of the wisest words that I’ve ever heard about preparation, straight from Larry Huntington: 'If the preparation is as good as you can get it, then your mind’s free to think about how you can sail the boat and where you can take the boat. When shortening sail is no longer a safety question, it becomes a boat speed question.'
Think of it: a Lighthouse trophy may ride on taking in (or shaking out) a reef at precisely the right moment. With a good, strong boat in your favor, and a little cleverness in the bank, you might just win the toughest sprint in the history of the Newport Bermuda Race.

Records
Average speeds:
15k = 42.33 hours
14.5 = 43.8
14 = 45.36
13.5 = 47.037
Best time (Lighthouse), Pyewacket (2002) Roy Disney, 53:29:22, 11.8 knots (new record)
Best time, Demonstration/Open Division, Morning Glory (2004), Hasso Plattner (Germany), 48:38:31 13.066k


Website Bermuda Race

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