(Newport RI)– Despite the foreboding weather forecasts, virtually every J/Crew registered for the Newport Bermuda Race went sailing, confident their fast and seaworthy boats would make the most of whatever Mother Nature threw at them. As it turned out, the forecasts were nowhere close to being accurate, with many boats reporting winds that never exceeded 25 kts, even in minor squalls crossing the notoriously fickle and monstrously choppy Gulf Stream. In fact, because of an unusual high pressure ridge, the one that the superyacht COMANCHE blew through to establish a new race record of 35+ hours, the 130-odd teams that ventured forth into the unknown had a basic choice- breeze or current. The divergent strategies meant the overall outcome quickly became a “two-track” race; those who stayed close to rhumbline and east of the fleet, or those who strayed way west and lost out on a lot of breeze. You can see the results of those choices by re-running the race on Yellow Brick Tracker here- http://yb.tl/nb2016.
The Storm Trysail Club Chair for the Bermuda Race, AJ Evans, was sailing aboard Len Sitar’s beautiful J/44 VAMP. His commentary on Tuesday was, “we had a spectacular evening of sailing here on a gentle sea with a decent breeze under a full moon and stars. Nights like these sell the next race. A most excellent sail so far, especially this year. Following last night, it’s been a typically beautiful morning with sun and those puffy soft yellow/purple/gray clouds dancing across the skies, breeze just a gentle 10-15kts from the WSW. Sure glad we went for it!”
This year’s Newport Bermuda Race was the 50th running of the biennial offshore race and had one of the largest entry lists it had seen in history. However, over 50 boats dropped out before the start, including all the “hot boats” in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division- like Maxi 72s, TP 52s, Ker 47s, etc- in fact there was no award since nobody sailed- a first for the race!! Imagine that, now that’s a serious footnote to consider, isn’t it?! Presumably, the owners felt their boats may not be seaworthy enough to sail through a gale!??
The action started on-time at 3:00PM EDT Friday, June 17 from Newport, Rhode Island. The 635nm adventure “is not a race for novices,” that is certain. The race demands good seamanship, great care, and a boat that is both well-built and properly equipped. To that end, most of the J/Teams sailed with confidence, sailed fast and were top contenders in many classes!
Most noteworthy was the complete sweep of SDL Class 5 by three J/Teams. Winning was the J/37 CARINA skippered by Will Passano from Gibson Island Yacht Squadron; winning by just 5 minutes on corrected time over Eliot Merrill’s J/42 FINESSE. Taking third was yet another J/42- Roger Gatewood’s SHAZAAM from Davis Island YC about an hour further back on corrected. While most of this class virtually all went due south, west of rhumb for the first 48 hours, it was CARINA and SHAZAAM that stayed much further east along the rhumbline, with SHAZAAM hanging furthest east.
The only “one-design” division in the entire event was the J/120s in SDL Class 6. Needless to say, as a class, they all pushed each other quite hard and there were few “strays” on the race course. Seemingly, all six boats that raced (out of the nine originally registered) were all strung out on a rope, virtually tied together, for the first half of the race. At that point on Monday 1400 hrs, Stephen Besse’s APRES from Vineyard Haven YC was leading with Jim Chen’s CHAOTIC FLUX running neck-and-neck with them down the race course, Greg Leonard’s HERON just astern. Sitting in the “cheap seats” were VAMOOSE, HERON and DEVIATION. However, the next 24 hours must have produced a lot of drama and consternation for the various J/120 navigators. Either no one believed their “grib” downloads, or they weren’t getting them. In either case, Richard Born’s WINDBORN from Annapolis YC and Canadian Stu McCrea’s DEVIATION from Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron made a significant gamble (“calculated risk”) and headed much further east, across rhumb relative to the rest of the fleet. Ultimately, it was a brilliant move in their 635nm chess match. Both boats closed rapidly on the race leader APRES, moving DEVIATION and WINDBORN into 2nd and 3rd, respectively just 50nm from the finish. Then, it was “game-on” all over again Tuesday at 1530 hrs as the fleet experienced a big windshift from the SSE and all bets were off as the boats started beating to windward for several hours. APRES anticipated the change nicely and became windward boat while HERON slid back into second place astern and to leeward. By Tuesday midnight the breeze had swung quickly into the SW, so it was a quick fetch into the finish for the westward boats. APRES won her class, followed by HERON in second. However, behind them there was a wholesale re-ordering of positions again, with Bob Manchester’s VAMOOSE roaring in from the west on power beat/tight reach while others caught east of rhumb (DEVIATION, CHAOTIC FLUX, WINDBORN) got caught outside on the shift and having to tack to make the finish!
The three J/122s had strikingly diverse strategies for the race in SDL Class 7. For the first 24 hours into Saturday evening, John Gregg’s TARAHUMARA from Corinthian YC inn Boston, MA simply took off from the start and doggedly headed south and west from the rhumb. Dan Heun’s MOXIEE took a left turn instead and held east of rhumb until late Saturday. Then, Jim Shachoy’s AUGUST WEST started just left of rhumb then slowly meandered back just west of rhumb, leading the entire class boat-for-boat at that point. From Saturday night to Sunday midday, the “wheels fell off that shopping trolley” fast, like lightning quick! TARAHUMARA persevered on staying west. After moments of indecision, MOXIEE made a radical move back west and surely regretted that move from that point forward. AUGUST WEST was flipping and flopping just west of rhumb but never made the winning move back east that so many other boats had done in other classes. As a result, both the F40 ZOE and the F44.7 VALKYRIE headed much further east of the J/122s, and flew down rhumbline to beat their class. Consequently, Shachoy’s AUGUST WEST settled for 4th in class and MOXIEE 8th and TARAHUMARA 9th.
Again, it was a tale of two cities in SDL Class 8 for the one-design fleet of J/44s and the lone J/111. However, in this case it turned into group suicide by most everyone in the class; virtually every boat except, that is, for Chris Lewis’ J/44 KENAI from Lakewood YC in Seabrook, TX. After taking a southerly routing after the start, just about the entire class was well west of rhumb. The first boat to make a break for it to the east was the F395 OLD SCHOOL, around 24 hours into the race on Saturday evening. At the time, KENAI was leading the class boat-for-boat. However, 24 hours later the OLD SCHOOL crew had sailed much farther east but were still around 30nm west of rhumb, but steering directly at Bermuda at 145 deg and built an unassailable 90nm lead over the class! Meanwhile, KENAI made a prophetic move east themselves, first 30nm, then 50nm, further east than their colleagues. For this class, virtually everyone that stayed west of rhumb got hammered overall. However, relative to one another, you could just about assign your place in class based on how far west you were of rhumbline between 24-48 hours into the race. Lewis’ KENIA took second followed by Len Sitar’s VAMP in 4th, Dan Kitchens’ J/111 SKULL CRACKER from Chicago YC in 8th and the Noahs (Shanghai) Sailing Club on SPIRIT OF NOAHS in 9th place.
The J/133s acquitted themselves in SDL Class 9 after starting off on the wrong foot, like the stories above- headed more south and west than their class. Both Mike & Dale Mcivor’s MATADOR from Pequot YC and the Nova Scotians, Ray & Andrea Rhinelander’s BELLA J, clawed there way back into contention for their class and it took until late Tuesday afternoon where they were able to play the new southwesterly correctly to take 3rd and 5th in class, respectively. Like a bad movie for those navigators caught on the wrong side of the coin flip, the class winner, the XP44 WARRIOR WON, split from their class on Saturday morning and from 8:30am to 11:30am sailed at right angles, literally, to the rhumbline course to Bermuda. Prior to that tactical move, the two J/133s were neck-and-neck for the class lead on elapsed time! However, the move paid off big time for WARRIOR WON, sailing down rhumbline for 75% of the race and finishing 17 hours earlier than either J/133, winning the coveted St Davids Lighthouse Trophy overall.
For Brian Prinz’s J/125 SPECTRE, the same scenario played out as it had for many other J/Teams. The class winner HIGH NOON, sailed by the American YC Young American Junior Big Boat Sailing Team, started out on the eastern side of their class, stayed there and split further east towards rhumbline late Saturday evening and simply aimed their boat at 145 deg towards Bermuda— not deviating much at all from rhumb all the way into the finish line off St David’s Light. Meanwhile, the J/125 SPECTRE sailed off to the south and west of rhumb and not until Monday night did they make their way into better breeze just on the west side of rhumb on Monday afternoon. Despite that self-imposed handicap, SPECTRE still took 4th in class.
In Double-handed I Class, the class winner KIVA sailed east of the rhumbline for two/thirds of the race and hardly deviated, other than going a bit westabout in the first 48 hours in the race, crossing east over the rhumb Sunday noontime. Taking 2nd and 3rd, respectively, were Steve Berlack’s J/42 ARROWHEAD and Hewitt Gaynor’s J/120 MIREILLE; both stayed west, sometimes way west of rhumb and paid the price. Conversely, Sharon Winkler & Noel Sterrett’s J/130 SOLARUS sailed 15-20nm west of rhumb until halfway through the race and was leading the entire division boat-for-boat until late Monday afternoon; at that point KIVA overtook them in the stronger breezes to the east. Unfortunately, SOLARUS got too far east coming into the finish and had to tack back to the finish line in the new sou’wester breeze to take 5th in class.
In the Cruiser Division, Brad Willauer’s J/46 BREEZING UP from Prouts Neck YC simply crushed it! They had the winning formula right from the start, were east-most boat of their class when it mattered most in the first 24-36 hours of the race. From there on end, it was a game of chase by giant 55 to 84 footers trying to catch the “little” J/46 leading their class boat-for-boat by a substantial margin for the first 72 hours. The big Frers 84 finally caught them on Monday evening, then the Alden 63 by Tuesday morning. As the smallest boat in a class of giants, it was an impressive race for the Willauer family- very experienced long-distance sailors in their own right! For more Storm Trysail Club Newport to Bermuda Race sailing information
Originally posted as Sleeping in the Great Outdoors, September 4, 2012
My family did a lot of camping when I was young. Every summer we hitched our pop-up trailer to the big red van, and toodled around the great campgrounds of Southern Ontario. When I was a little older, I was introduced to the joys of a damp sleeping bag when I was sent to a summer camp in Algonquin Park. This was a canoe trip kind of camp, and we girls were sent out for a few days at a time to paddle the lakes as the blackflies buzzed and the mosquitoes whined. After a long day of paddling a canoe and acquiring a mild sunburn, occasionally punctuated by a tiring portage, our counsellors would guide us to a campsite. As the sun went down, we would coax the wet sticks we found into a fire and try to cook something before falling dead into our drippy canvas tents. (Note to the interested: Kraft pizza mix is a superior camping meal. Wrap the dough around a stick, cook it in the fire, then dip the dough stick into the tomato sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Cést magnifique. I only had this once during my camping career, and still remember it clearly almost thirty years later.) As a parent, I see how wise it was to tire out a quartet of nine-year-old girls in this way. Although I didn´t care for camp as a whole (too much rigidly-scheduled cheerfulness), I have fond memories of gliding across still lakes, listening to the birds overhead, and eating charred, sticky marshmallows at the end of the day.
The years went by and I encountered My Dear Spouse. It should surprise no one reading this blog that Erik is keen on camping. But Erik was a proponent of La Vie Sauvage in a way I could never be. For example, winter camping. True, there are no bugs to worry about, but actually choosing to sleep outdoors during a Canadian winter only begs the question: why? Nothing he said abut the crisp beauty of the thing fizzed on me at all. There I draw the line.
Happily, there is a middle ground between trailers and snow forts. When we travelled around Europe during university, we slept in a two-man tent Erik bought in Compiegne. In the years that followed, out little Jamet took us through the mountains of Switzerland, climbing in New Hampshire, hiking in Maine, and into our own backyard when Stylish was young. And while I never developed an antipathy to camping, I thought my days of sleeping on the cold, hard ground were over.
We recently celebrated Erik´s birthday in the atoll of Makemo. After a day spent snorkelling around reefs with a fish population to put the world´s finest aquarium to shame, we decided to camp out on an uninhabited motu for the night. After a dinner of fish grilled over the fire, we laid out a bed of palm fronds on the coral rubble, pitched our old friend the Jamet, and crawled inside when the sun went down.
|Just a baby swimming by.|
It is crucial when camping up north to hoist your food. Otherwise, critters from racoons to bears will get into it, no question. We also had to hang our food at night on the motu... because of the hermit crabs. The hermit crabs here are the size of my fist, and they are wonderful cleaners. Anything left out at night will be gone by morning, and one can hear the clack-clack of shells sliding over the coral rubble all night long. The hermit crabs were especially fond of the plastic Ikea forks we´d brought, and we had to retrieve these well-chewed items from all sorts of far-flung and unlikely places.
Reaction: June 2014
The Tuamotus sit high on our list of places we would love to go back to. It is quiet; most atolls don't have an airport, and only see a handful of boats each year. Some of the atolls are essentially uninhabited, or have a village so far away that certain passes never see people - or, more importantly, fishing. There were times I feared we were visiting the world's last healthy reefs. Sadly, I didn't have a good underwater camera at the time, but here are a few photos to give you an idea of why we liked it so much. This is the upside of cruising in a nutshell.