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The Marion Bermuda Race - it's never too early to start preparing

by Marion Bermuda Race 6 Aug 2022 08:48 PDT June 16-24, 2023
Marion Bermuda Race © Marion Bermuda Race

Two-time skipper and four-time racer, Mark Gabrielson, shares his insights on what you can do now to prepare for June 2023!

"A few weeks ago, my wife and I sailed our Sabre 38 sloop from Newport to Block Island. I share the boat with Steve McInnis, another Blue Water Sailing Club member. It's an older boat with reasonable accommodations and good windward ability. The sail to Block was dead into a fresh southwesterly. We managed to keep our SOG at 6 knots or better with the apparent wind at less than 40 degrees off the bow through each of our four windward legs. We were pleased.

On starboard tack, our heading made good was 180 degreesM. I couldn't help but think how well the boat would sail if I fell off to 165 degreesM, the rhumb line from Nomans Island to Bermuda; or even to 170 degreesM to build in a little westing from the line. I began to believe that we could do well in the 2023 Marion-Bermuda Race with this 40-year-old performance cruiser!

I also thought about what the aspiring 2023 Marion-Bermuda skipper could do even now, eleven months in advance, to get ready for the starting gun.

First things first. "Who will be in my crew?"; the most important thing to get right and perhaps the most difficult. I'll need good sailors who can handle steep Gulf Stream seas without going green in the gills, and who can commit to a 10-day block of time in June of next year, plus a few practice day sails in the spring.

Next is "What safety gear do I have, can I trust it to be 100% operational, and what else do I need to rent or buy?". I've sailed in 4 Marion-Bermudas before, but I'll need to go to the race website to refresh my memory on what gear is required and recommended.

Then, it's "How's my rigging?" I don't have the data to prove it, but my hunch is that apart from crew issues, rigging failures are the most common cause of ocean race withdrawals. I'll need to plan to pull the mast this coming off-season and have a competent rigger go over every spar, fitting, swage, and wire rope to ensure soundness.

Finally, at this time of the pre-race year, I need to simulate sailing like a Marion-Bermuda competitor; practicing making the boat go fast on all points of sail, particularly upwind. On my summer and fall sails, I'll pay more attention to sail selection, trim, and helming like I mean it. What I practice and learn now can be shared with my 2023 race crew in shakedown sails early next season."

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