Newport Bermuda Race Start 2014 (Photo by George Bekris)

Newport Bermuda Race 2014 (Photo by George Bekris)

By John Rousmaniere,

 June 16, 2016 — As nearly 1,700 sailors who will soon race to Bermuda make their preparations, loading food and gear into their boats and lining up to pre-clear Bermuda customs and immigration, all of them have one question in mind: “What will the weather be?” And one answer:  “I just hope it’ll favor my boat.”

Sailors don’t agree on much.  Some prefer big boats, some small. Some like light displacement, others heavy. Yet this question and answer can be counted on whenever two or three of us are gathered together. We all talk about the weather, and talk and talk. The weather is our obsession.

On land, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” to quote Mark Twain (or his friend Charles Dudley Warner — the sources disagree).  But on water, we can do something about it.  We trim or shorten sail, we change course, and we look around for better weather.

Newport Bermuda Race 2014 (Photo by George Bekris)

Weather is the deep concern of the 2016 Bermuda Race fleet of 184 boats. There has been some attrition, some due to boat damage during deliveries and in a race. One withdrawal is the Maxi 72 Bella Mente, a frequent candidate to be first to finish that is not sailing this time out of her owner’s weather concerns.

Over the past three days, conflicting weather forecasts have stirred up concern about the conditions that will confront the fleet after the start on Friday. One forecast seemed to indicate a high wind at the start, another suggested a hard blow down the course, and a third offered the specter of rough going, with a hard north wind.

That last weather alert has attracted a lot of attention because of the Gulf Stream. The body of water running northeast is Benjamin Franklin’s “River in the Ocean.” It’s more like a drifting octopus—a complicated patch of moving water turning in every which direction and greatly affecting the state of the sea.  To quote the race’s Gulf Stream expert (and multi-time navigator), oceanographer Dr. Frank Bohlen, “Wind blowing against the current results in a significantly larger wave amplitude and shorter wavelength than what appears when wind blows with current or when there is no current.”

Click here for Frank Bohlen’s analysis of this year’s Gulf Stream.

Newport Bermuda 2010 Start (Photo by George Bekris)

Newport Bermuda 2010 Start (Photo by George Bekris)

History marks two postponements

Despite more than 100 years of excited sailor talk about the weather in 49 races, only two Bermuda Race starts have been postponed a day or longer. The 1968 start was delayed for one day out of concern about an early-season hurricane.  Then in 1982, the race committee, chaired by James A. McCurdy (father of Selkie skipper Sheila McCurdy), postponed the start for two days because of a storm in the Western Atlantic. Once the weather settled down, the then-record 178 starters got off the line quickly on a spinnaker reach.

Carina (Photo by George Bekris )

Carina (Photo by George Bekris )

There’s another, quite startling weather story about the 1982 race.  Carina (today owned by Rives Potts) was sailing almost directly toward Bermuda when her owner-skipper, Richard Nye, poked his head up through the companionway and took a look upwind around just as a lightning bolt flashed down to the water.  “Tack,” Nye ordered. The crew looked at him incredulously. They were only 10 degrees off the layline to the finish. “Tack! There’s lightning to windward. There’s warm water up there. The Gulf Stream’s up there.”

Carina tacked, sailed on the “wrong” tack for a couple of hours until she was well into hot water, tacked back, and with a 3-knot current on her stern, charged toward Bermuda at 10-plus knots over the bottom. She won her division by a comfortable 34 minutes.

That’s one good reason why we obsess about weather.

Newport Bermuda Race 2016 Entries

Click here for more facts about the Newport Bermuda Race.

Newport Bermuda Race 2014 start (Photo by George Bekris)

Watch the start and follow your favorites to Bermuda

Coming alive for you on BermudaRace.com … join Livestream 2PM-5PM on Friday June 17 for live video and commentary on the start. Commentator Andy Green will be host the program from the Inn at Castle Hill overlooking the starting line. With cameras on the hill and on the water, he’ll get close to the action bringing live sailing directly to you. Audio also airs on Newport radio FM 105.9.

Virtual spectators will watch the story unfold as their favorite yachts, skippers, or crew members in this 635-mile ocean classic tack and gybe their way through the Gulf Stream and hunt for the wind in the ‘happy valley’ north of Bermuda. All boats in the 2016 fleet will be tracked by YB satellite trackers as live as it can be on Pantaenius Race Tracking — www.pantaenius.com/NBRtracking — your link to all the action in the race.

Spirit of Bermuda Starts off the Race for 2014 (Photo By George Bekris)

Spirit of Bermuda Starts off the Race for 2014 (Photo By George Bekris)

 

Dorade present and past. (Photos courtesy of Dorade “Return to Blue Water”)

Dorade present and past. (Photos courtesy of Dorade “Return to Blue Water”)

NEWPORT, R.I. (June 4, 2015) – In late June, one of sailing’s most celebrated yachts will attempt to retrace the steps of her first, and most significant, victory. The 52-foot yawl Dorade, owned by Pam Levy and Matt Brooks (Tiburon, Calif.), will join 40 other boats competing in the Transatlantic Race 2015, which starts off Newport, R.I., and finishes off the southwestern coast of England. The race is organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club.

Dorade, the seventh design from the Sparkman & Stephens design shop, was barely a year old when Olin and Rod Stephens and a crew of five sailors, including their father, started the 1931 Transatlantic Race off Newport, R.I., bound for Plymouth, England, 2,800 miles away. The trip took just over 17 days. Dorade was the first boat to finish and the race’s overall champion on corrected time.

For the Stephens brothers, it was a transformative moment: in the coming years, they would each take on primary roles in the development of the sport.  Dorade would make her own wake as well, stringing together an impressive, unparalleled for the time, series of victories on the East and West Coasts of the United States and in Europe.

After a series of significant re-fits, the boat was returned to original condition a few years ago by Levy and Brooks. Perfect for installation in a museum, many said, or for civilized day racing on the classic yacht circuit. But Levy and Brooks had other plans, namely to take the grand dame of ocean racing and repeat all of the races it won in the 1930s, including the Transatlantic Race, Newport Bermuda, Transpac and Rolex Fastnet.

“Everyone said we were proposing something that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility,” says Brooks of Dorade’s four-race “Return to Blue Water” campaign. “Now we’re coming up to the last two races—the Transatlantic Race 2015 and the Rolex Fastnet Race—and no one is questioning that the boat can do this.” (Two years ago, Dorade won overall, corrected-time honors in the Transpac Race, beating a host of the latest carbon-fiber rockets; in the 2014 Newport Bermuda Race, she took first in her class under IRC.)

“Olin and Rod designed one hell of a boat,” says Brooks. “I haven’t met anyone who has sailed on her who doesn’t learn to love her and trust her. She’s very strong, very dependable; she just needs to be treated right. With wood boats, you’re always in refit mode. But we’re racing and sailing this boat 10,000 miles a year and she absolutely responds to that.”

Winning silver with this historic yacht requires a comprehensive commitment. Brooks, Levy and their team are constantly maintaining and refining the yacht. This past winter, says Brooks, getting the bottom as smooth as possible and improving sail design were two areas of focus. Sailing the boat also requires a specific touch.

“If you are trying to muscle the boat into submission at the helm it is never going to happen,” says Levy. “It will win. Having a balanced helm is critical.”
Onboard video of Dorade’s winning 1931 Transatlantic Race performance; she completed the course in 17 days, one hour, 14 minutes.

For the Transatlantic Race 2015, Brooks and Levy have set as their first goal to beat the 17 days, one hour and 14 minutes it took Dorade to sail the course in 1931. Modern technology, including synthetic sail fabric, should give this year’s team an edge; however, the course in 2015 is likely to be quite a bit longer than it was in 1931 due to an extreme number of icebergs in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The fleet will be required to sail east for a while before turning north for the Great Circle Route, which takes advantage of the earth’s slightly oval shape to shave critical miles off the passage between the United States and Europe.

Whether or not they can match the boat’s pace in 1931, Brooks and Levy couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of this legendary yacht coming full circle to its first significant accomplishment.

“Of all the races we’ve done, the Transatlantic Race is the one that makes our heart go pitter patter, because it was Olin and Rod’s first big victory, and it’s what launched them in business in yacht design,” says Levy. “We know from talking to Olin’s family and from what he has written that he had a real affection for the boat. It gives us a lot of pleasure to do well with her.”

More about the Transatlantic Race 2015

The Transatlantic Race 2015 charts a 2,800-nautical-mile course from Newport, R.I., to Lizard Point, South Cornwall, England. The race is organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club. Pre-start activities will take place at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, while awards will be presented at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Cowes Castle clubhouse on the Isle of Wight. Three separate starts – June 28, July 1 and July 5 – will feature 40-plus boats ranging from the newest designs of 2015 to those going as far back as 1915.

For a list of entrants and their respective race starts, visit http://bit.ly/1BDPZcm

Follow the Transatlantic Race on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TransatlanticRace

 

Comanche before its record-breaking run at the 70th Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race. Photo by: Randy Tankoos.

Comanche before its record-breaking run at the 70th Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race. Photo by: Randy Tankoos.

The 70th edition of the Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race yielded winners in ten classes – four IRC (including one for Double-hand), four PHRF, J/44 and Multihull – and a place in the record books for Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark’s new 100-foot Maxi Comanche. Fifty eight boats started the 185 nautical mile race (from Stamford Yacht Club in Connecticut, down Long Island Sound, around Block Island, R.I. and back to Stamford) on Friday afternoon (May 22) of Memorial Day Weekend, with Comanche finishing exactly one second after 2:50 a.m. the next morning, giving her an elapsed time of 11 hours 25 minutes and 01 second.

“Each year I ask the fastest boat in the fleet to give me a call when they are abeam of New Haven on the return,” said Event Chair Ray Redniss about Comanche’s call that came in at 0024 Saturday morning. “This was the earliest one yet, and a new record was established!”
Comanche before its record-breaking run at the 70th Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race. Photo credit: Randy Tankoos. Available to download in high resolution by clicking the photo above

Redniss said that to be precise, this year’s race was one mile shorter than that on which the 90-foot Rambler’s 2013 record of 13 hours 15 minutes and 55 seconds was set. “After 15 years of being at the entrance to Stamford Harbor, the finish line was moved out to the The Cows (Red Bell “32”) in order to allow enough water depth for Comanche to compete; with a draft of 22 feet, only a high tide would allow her to finish in the harbor,” he said. In 2013,Rambler completed the 186 mile course with an average time of four minutes and 17 seconds per mile.  Comanche’s completion of the 185 mile course this year was with an average time of three minutes and 42 seconds per mile. “Speed-wise, this translates toComanche averaging 16.2 knots and Rambler averaging 14 knots.”

Comanche, which won her IRC 4 class, took home the Governors Race West Trophy for best elapsed time in the IRC Fleet; the William Tripp, Jr. Memorial Trophy for best corrected time in the IRC Fleet; and the self-explanatory Harvey Conover Memorial Overall Trophy.

“If I could have drawn the weather map, I think it is what I would have drawn,” said Comanche’s Navigator Stan Honey. The favorable conditions included winds of 15-27 knots and outgoing/incoming tides at all the right times, especially at “The Race” and “Plum Gut,” two notoriously difficult passage choices for exiting and re-entering Long Island Sound.

For Greg Gigliotti (Stamford, Conn.), owner of the 62-foot Gunboat Tribe, which won the first-ever multihull class, nothing could have been more perfect than averaging 20 knots of boat speed and reaching in flat water from The Race to Block Island in a short six hours, then fetching the finish line after returning through Plum Gut. “Everything tipped in our favor; it was a big part of getting a good time (finishing as the second boat, three and three-quarter hours behind Comanche). We had eight adults and three Opti sailors, all sons of fathers onboard. It was their first overnight, so we spent most of the race explaining that most races aren’t like this; normally you are on the rail and normally you’re not moving along at 18-20 knots. They were very lucky to be part of something special.”

Repeating its PHRF class (3) victory from last year was American Yacht Club’s J/105 Young American, another entry with junior sailors, but in this case, the kids were the majority onboard with Peter Becker serving as the team’s single adult safety officer and coach. “Last year, we won our class and finished third overall, which was a huge moment,” said Becker. “This year, we were first in PHRF division and first overall in PHRF, so we bested our performance by a big margin. The kids are on fire; they love it!”

The Young American team was pressured up at the start for their spinnaker run in 25 knots. When the tack of their chute blew out, they switched to a spare and were surfing down Long Island Sound at 15 knots.  “We were all hiking off the stern and hanging with the big boats and double-handed boats.  They started the double-hands, then small to large classes in order, so Comanche was the last start. It was really cool when it went whizzing by us doing 18-20 knots.”

Had Comanche not competed, Andrew and Linda Weiss’s (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) Sydney 43Christopher Dragon would have won overall. The team started ahead of Comanche in the third-to-last start (for IRC 3) and finished the race in a little under 23 hours.  “It’s the fastest race I’ve ever done, and I’ve been competing in this since the mid-1970s,” said Andrew Weiss.  “We got to 1BI in nine hours and were the second monohull around Block Island behind Comanche. Then, coming up the Sound, Snow Lion and Temptation passed us. They normally pass us before Block Island.  We’ve never won overall before; this was the closest we’ve ever come, but Comanche…it’s a different kind of boat, so we still feel like we won!”

Chairman Redniss said this was a tough year for getting boats prepared for the Block Island Race, which was a week earlier than usual. “It was quite cold and harbors were frozen; yards were simply weeks behind.  Overall, we had 68 entries; however eight notified us before race day that they weren’t going to make it, and another two did not make the start. Conditions for the race were near perfect, but of course, another 10 or 12 degrees warmer would have been nice!  We were cold on the Committee Boat overnight; I can imagine there was a lot of shivering on the rail!”

The Block Island Race was first held in 1946 and is a qualifier for the North Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the Double Handed Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF), and the Gulf Stream Series (IRC). The Block Island Race is also a qualifier for the Caper, Sagola, and Windigo trophies awarded by the YRA of Long Island Sound and the ‘Tuna” Trophy for the best combined IRC scores in the Edlu (40%) and the Block Island Race (60%).This year’s Tuna Trophy was won by Christopher Dragon with first place finishes in both events.

Storm Trysail Club 70th Block Island Race
May 22, 2015 – Top-Three Finishes
Place, Yacht Name, Type, Owner/Skipper, Hometown, Results, Total Points

IRC 1 DH (IRC – 8 Boats)
1. Mireille, J 120, Hewitt Gaynor , Fairfield, CT, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Alibi, J 120, Gardner Grant , Westport, CT, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Pegasus, Beneteau First 36.7, Hartmut Ludwig , West Windsor, NJ, USA – 3 ; 3

IRC 2 (IRC – 8 Boats)
1. Carina, Custom 48, Rives Potts , Westbrook, CT, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Talisman, Farr 395, John Bailey , Darien, CT, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Red Sky, J 122, John Pearson , Setauket , NY, USA – 3 ; 3

J/44 (IRC – 4 Boats)
1. Kincsem, Joerg Esdorn , Katonah, NY, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Vamp, Leonard Sitar , Holmdel, NJ, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Kenai, Chris Lewis , Houston, TX, USA – 3 ; 3

IRC 3 (IRC – 10 Boats)
1. Christopher Dragon, Sydney 43, Andrew & Linda Weiss , Mamaroneck, NY, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Soulmates, Custom Goetz 40, Adam Loory , Mamaroneck, NY, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Warrior Won, Xp 44, Christopher Sheehan , Larchmont, NY, USA – 3 ; 3

IRC 4 (IRC – 6 Boats)
1. Comanche, Maxi 100, Jim Clark/Kristy Hinze Clark , Newport, RI, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Temptation – Oakcliff, Custom Ker 50, Arthur Santry , Newport, RI, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Snow Lion, Ker 50, Lawrence Huntington , New York, NY, USA – 3 ; 3

PHRF 1 DH (PHRF_ToT – 4 Boats)
1. Weegie, Columbia 32, Richard Fleischman , Setauket, NY, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Six Brothers, C-32, Chris Kramer , Rye, NY, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Max, Pogo 10.5, Moritz Hilf , New York, NY, USA – 3 ; 3

PHRF 2 (PHRF_ToT – 6 Boats)
1. Argo, Catalina 400, Boris Keselman , Brooklyn, NY, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Inisharon, F&C 44, Jim Murphy , Rye, NY, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Audacious, Frers 33, Robert Farnum , Oxford, CT, USA – 3 ; 3

PHRF 3 (PHRF_ToT – 11 Boats)
1. Young American, J 105, AYC Jr. Big Boat Team – Becker , Rye, NY, USA – 1 ; 1
2. That’s Ridiculous, Beneteau First 36.7, Francis Nilsen , Sound Beach, NY, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Milky Way, Dufour 40, Alexander Natanzon , Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA – 3 ; 3

PHRF 4 (PHRF_ToT – 2 Boats)
1. Sundari, Farr 400, Barry Gold / Scott Florio , Mamaroneck, NY, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Brigand, Custom 50, Sean Saslo , Branford, CT, USA – 2 ; 2

Multihull (NEMA) (ToT – 3 Boats)
1. Tribe, Gunboat 62, Greg Gigliotti , Stamford, CT, USA – 1 ; 1
2. Fault Tolerant, GB 60, Robert Alexander , Rye, NY, USA – 2 ; 2
3. Infidel, Dragonfly 32, Daniel Galyon , Binghamton, NY, USA – 3 ; 3

OVERALL TROPHIES

GEORGE LAUDER TROPHY – Best performance by a Vintage boat (25 years old +): Kincsem,   Joerg Esdorn

COMMODORE’S GRAIL TROPHY – Best corrected time by a Multihull: Tribe,Greg Gigliotti

GOVERNORS RACE WEST TROPHY – Best elapsed time in the IRC Fleet: Comanche,Jim Clark/Kristy Hinze Clark

WILLIAM TRIPP, JR MEMORIAL TROPHY– Best corrected time in the IRC Fleet: Comanche, Jim Clark/Kristy Hinze Clark

 TERRAPIN TROPHY– Best corrected time in PHRF: Young American, AYC Jr. Big Boat Team

 GOVERNORS RACE EAST TROPHY – Best elapsed time – PHRF: Sundari,               Barry Gold

GEROLD ABELS – Best Performance Double-Handed: Mireille, Hewitt Gaynor

 RODDIE WILLIAMS TEAM RACE TROPHY: Storm Trysail White, Carina/Sundari/Talisman

 TUNA TROPHY – Best IRC combined scores in the Edlu (40%) and the BI Race (60%): Christopher Dragon, Andrew & Linda Weiss

 COMMODORE’S TROPHY – To the boat that has won a handicap class by the smallest margin of time over the 2nd and 3rd place boats: Carina, Rives Potts

 HARVEY CONOVER MEMORIAL OVERALL TROPHY – Awarded to the boat that has won her class and, in the judgment of the Flag Officers and Race Committee, had the best overall performance: Comanche, Jim Clark/ Kristy Hinze Clark