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One Girl's Ocean Challenge Winning the Bermuda 1–2 Mini style

by Diane Reid/Nick Sellars on 1 Jul 2011
One Girl’s Ocean Challenge going to weather SW
Gotta love it when a plan comes together! Winning the Bermuda 1 – 2 Mini style
Leg 2 – double handed from Bermuda to Newport

Early afternoon…June 15, 2011. St. George’s Sport and Dinghy Club. Upstairs, the lights were off and it was quiet. Perfect for our purpose. We had done the tourist thing; explored caves, swam in aqua coloured ocean where the water was the temperature of soup and buzzed through tiny streets by scooter. The boat prep was done, done and re-done. We were itching to go racing.

The final and most important step remained. We had to solve the puzzle of The Gulf Stream and build our plan. Racing to and from Bermuda has always been known as a navigator’s race. There are people who make their entire living as navigators or routers for yachts in Bermuda races, and there’s a good reason for it. The race course crosses the Gulf Stream. Most people think of the Gulf Stream as a benign warm current that flows up the east coast of the US and then across the Atlantic to dump rain on the UK. Well, yes it does, but in its course, it meanders very much like a snake negotiating rocky terrain. This meandering is a result of the Stream brushing up against the cold, south bound Labrador current. It will double back on itself ‘pinching’ off loops of current and sometimes reaching speeds of 5 knots. These giant eddies can wobble around in the ocean for up to two years in some cases.
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The other major factor is a by-product of these two currents. Weather systems pass over the cooler side of the stream and pick up momentum, then when they hit the heat of the stream their energy can explode like hitting a brick wall creating some very volatile storms. Knowing what the currents and the weather were going to do and when was paramount for any serious attempt to win this race.

With a single light on over the pool table we set up shop to find the answers and build our plan. We spread out our huge plotting chart of the race course. A single, straight line was printed on it joining Bermuda to Newport, Rhode Island. The rest of the table was covered with dividers, protractors, erasers and other paraphernalia of navigation and, very importantly, the laptop. We logged in and studied various scenarios. Most of the yachts have full access to the Internet while racing through either single-side band (SSB) radios or very good satellite phones. We did not. Minis do not. Our sole connection to the outside world was an obsolete sat phone that gave us voice only for very brief and unpredictable moments. So we printed off our weather predictions in four hour increments. During the race we would simply looked at our watch, turned to the appropriate weather chart and looked up for verification.

Next came the Gulf Stream. Lying about two hundred miles South of Newport Rhode Island, the Stream was crossing the rhumb line at almost ninety degrees. It then made a giant right turn South that paralleled the course before turning east once more. At its narrowest point it was about sixty miles wide...

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