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2020 Online Newport Bermuda winners declared

by John Burnham 23 Jun 15:29 PDT
Sailonline Newport Bermuda Race 2020. © Newport Bermuda Race

A large fleet of virtual sailboats completed the 2020 Online Newport Bermuda Race off the east end of Bermuda between last night and this morning in a gradually lightening southwest breeze, and winners were decided in four divisions.

Utilizing navigation-simulation software provided by and in partnership with sailonline.org, more than 300 boats (of 500+ registered under the flags of 50 nations) crossed the finish line having sailed the 635 nautical miles from Newport in less than four days. Racing was often close, and in one division, the St. David's Lighthouse group sailing Dehler 46s, the difference between first and second place was seven seconds.

The sailors covered many miles in the first and last 24 hours, reaching in southwesterly breezes, but in between, very light and unstable winds challenged the sailors to choose the fastest route. Using NOAA GFS model forecast and actual winds modeled across the course, Sailonline's nav-simulation was so realistic that many top sailors equipped with their usual onboard routing software sailed 100 miles to the east in search of stronger winds on Saturday. But the next day, the winds were light everywhere and those who chose the more direct route emerged closer to Bermuda when the winds returned.

Sailors in each division competed on a one-design basis, racing in a boat model chosen by the race sponsor for that division. The winners and their boat names were as follows:

St. David's Lighthouse Div.—Dehler 46, sponsored by Dehler Yachts/ McMichael Yacht Yards & Brokers:

Seven seconds separated first and second, with Michael O'Donnell, sailing his first online race, crediting his own clumsiness for an accidental double tack on the approach to the finish. This iconic racer/cruiser division attracted a larger number of entries who were planning to sail the 2020 IRL (in real life) race.

1) Michael O'Donnell/Modonnellaw (US)
2) Scott Bearse/SlideRule (US)
3) Joseph Gordon/QSail (Qatar)

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Div.—Xp 55, sponsored by X-Yachts/X-Yachts USA

"Disregarding his router" due to the instability of the weather forecast, Juan Barclay sailed to a westerly position relative to the fleet yet close to the rhumbline; when the breeze filled, he had the best reaching angle for the last day to Bermuda and won by a quarter mile. This division featured some of the top Sailonline.org sailors, competing for line honors, all were pleased to see so many Bermuda Race sailors trying their hand at Sailonline.

1) Juan Barclay/rafa (Peru)
2) Ilpo Jarvinen/ij (Finland)
3) Robert Schön/robert1 (Sweden)

Finisterre Cruiser Div.—Italia 14.98, sponsored by Italia Yachts/David Walters Yachts:

If you're going to change your strategy from east to west, be decisive. That was the message from Cesar Garcia, who referenced a "critical moment on the second day when he lost confidence in the easterly forecast and decided to go the other way. In second place, Derek Joubert, who admits he usually finishes "stone last" when racing his Dart catamaran, was sailing only his second Sailonline race.

1) Cesar Garcia/GREATSKUA (Spain)
2) Derek Joubert/Maximus (South Africa)
3) Jan van der Puil/bonknhoot (Netherlands)

Double-Handed Div.—Jeanneau Sun Fast 3300, sponsored by Jeanneau North America:

The front-runners in this class sailed a similar course to those in Gibbs Hill, with Tony Phillpot finding a westerly position and better, faster angles to overhaul Sloan Burns, a real-life Bermuda Race navigator trying his hand with Sailonline for the first time. Burns said, "it was the most comfortable offshore race I've done—though the fact I attempted to pour my midnight coffee into an upside down coffee cup is probably an indication I got no more sleep than an actual race."

1) Tony Phillpot/midnightexpress (UK)
2) Sloan Burns/SloanBurns (US)
3) OscarBoteco1 (Brazil)

Results available at SailOnline.org Leaderboard.

First to finish in all divisions, Juan Barclay/rafa, is a regular Sailonline sailor and explains why he likes it so much: "The Sailonline platform simulates amazingly well real life sailing. The difference, besides not getting wet, is that the game allows for more time to concentrate on strategy and tactics as we don't have to contemporaneously worry about capsizing, hitting other boats, going aground and real things like that."

Sailonline.org is a non-profit organization with a small team of volunteers around the world handling software development, race committee work, and marketing. Their team pulled out all the stops to host the Bermuda Race with its four-division format, putting in extra development time, as well, on its new html5 client. "Sailonline.org was a terrific platform for us," said Somers Kempe, Online Newport Bermuda Race Chair, who raced Smokin in the Gibbs Hill Division. "People were super easy to work with and very accommodating to create the class splits to mirror the IRL NBR."

According to Jay Gowell, the 2020 Newport Bermuda Race Chair and skipper of TemptressJG in the Finisterre Cruiser Division, "The platform gave veteran NBR sailors a very true-to-life simulation of wind conditions, shifts, highs and lows, and all the judgment calls that go into routing strategy for this iconic offshore classic."

Sloan Burns, second in the Double-Handed Division, echoed Gowell's thoughts, saying: "This was a great idea to substitute [for the cancelled race]. I was so mentally and physically prepared to work hard and win this race. I was going to be navigator on Jeff Kennedy's Italia 13.98 Artemis, and this allowed me to nerd out as I have been looking forward to. I raced with Nanuq in 2018 and am looking forward to 2022!"

Prize-Giving hosted by Goslings Rum will be at 1700, Saturday, June 27; details forthcoming.

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