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)

George David"€™s 90ft maxi Rambler has smashed the 635 mile Newport Bermuda race record, clipping a massive 14 hours off the previous best time set 10 years ago by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket.  The new record now stands at 39hr, 39 minutes, 18 seconds (subject to ratification)  - an average speed of 16knots(Photo by Barry Pickthall/PPL)

George David"€™s 90ft maxi Rambler has smashed the 635 mile Newport Bermuda race record, clipping a massive 14 hours off the previous best time set 10 years ago by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket. The new record now stands at 39hr, 39 minutes, 18 seconds (subject to ratification) - an average speed of 16knots(Photo by Barry Pickthall/PPL)

Dateline: 07:09:18 ADT Bermuda: George David’s 90ft maxi Rambler has smashed the 635 mile Newport Bermuda race record, clipping a massive 14 hours off the previous best time set 10 years ago by Roy Disney’s Pyewacket. The new record now stands at 39hr, 39 minutes, 18 seconds (subject to ratification) – an average speed of 16knots.

A delighted George David said. “These were perfect conditions. The most exciting moment was when we hit 26 knots. I’m so pleased with our performance. We have reduced the record by 25% – Not bad for a boat that is now 10 years old. This Rambler is the best boat I have ever owned!”

Rambler not only slashed the race record, her crew also spanked their rivals, with Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente crossing the lighthouse line 1 hour 43 minutes behind, followed 3 minutes later by Shockwave skippered by George Sakellaris.

On corrected time however, Shockwave beat Rambler by 33 minutes, followed by Belle Mente in 3rd and Team Tiburon 4th. Two yachts in class 10 are still racing.

 

The Bermuda Sailing Foundation’s sail-training schooner Spirit of Bermuda will join the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race fleet, sailing as the sole entry in the new “Spirit of Tradition” Division. Because of Spirit of Bermuda’s three-mast schooner rig, she is unable to be fairly and officially rated for competition against the modern design boats that make up the rest of the fleet, and so will sail in a class by herself. Her “Spirit of Tradition” Division will highlight both her traditional design and the prevalence of the schooner rig in yachts racing in the early years of the Newport Bermuda Race. http://www.bermudasloop.org/)  (Photo by John Wadson)

The Bermuda Sailing Foundation’s sail-training schooner Spirit of Bermuda will join the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race fleet, sailing as the sole entry in the new “Spirit of Tradition” Division. Because of Spirit of Bermuda’s three-mast schooner rig, she is unable to be fairly and officially rated for competition against the modern design boats that make up the rest of the fleet, and so will sail in a class by herself. Her “Spirit of Tradition” Division will highlight both her traditional design and the prevalence of the schooner rig in yachts racing in the early years of the Newport Bermuda Race. http://www.bermudasloop.org/ (Photo by John Wadson)

By Fred Deichmann

Spirit of Bermuda enters Newport Bermuda Race in a Class of Her Own 
The Bermuda Race Organizing Committee is pleased to announce that the Bermuda Sailing Foundation’s sail-training schooner Spirit of Bermuda will join the 2012 Newport Bermuda Race fleet, sailing in the new “Spirit of Tradition” Division. Her participation is expected to provide a demonstration of her sailing prowess in the spirit of the seafaring traditions of the Islands of Bermuda. 

Because of Spirit of Bermuda’s three-mast schooner rig, she is unable to be fairly and officially rated for competition against the modern design boats that make up the rest of the fleet, and so will sail in a class by herself. Her “Spirit of Tradition” Division will highlight both her traditional design and the prevalence of the schooner rig in yachts racing in the early years of the Newport Bermuda Race. 

Spirit of Bermuda is a purpose-built sail-training vessel owned by the Bermuda Sailing Foundation (www.bermudasloop.org) and based on civilian Bermudian-type schooners built in Bermuda by blacks and whites between 1810 and 1840. The original hull shape was adapted from the Bermuda-built Royal Navy “Shamrock” class: fast dispatch/patrol vessels that ran from the Royal Naval Dockyard northwest to Halifax and southwest to Jamaica to contain the rebel colonies. 

In nearly six years of operation since September 2006, Spirit has provided a character development program based on experiential learning to over 2,600 young people and has sailed over 38,000 miles in overseas voyages to 17 ports in 10 countries. 

Alan Burland, Chairman of the Bermuda Sailing Foundation, said, “The opportunity to participate in the Newport to Bermuda Race will help us to achieve our goal of providing experiences that instill Bermuda pride in our youth. We are honoured to be launching the new Spirit of Tradition Division.”

Spirit of Bermuda was designed by noted naval architect Bill Langan of Langan Design Associates of Newport, RI, built by Rockport Marine in Rockport, Maine and launched in 2006. Built to American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) standards and operating to United Kingdom regulations under the Bermuda flag, she is 86 feet on deck and 118 feet overall including her bowsprit, and displaces 230,000 lbs.

The “Spirit of Tradition” Division in the 2012 race is an invitational demonstration division developed to experiment with the re-introduction of traditional schooner rigged vessels to the Newport Bermuda Race. Whether this Division will be present in future races will depend on the experience of Spirit of Bermuda in 2012 and the likelihood of developing enough interest to provide competition and to warrant development of a suitable rating system for such vessels.

Malabar VII, sailed by her designer John G. Alden, won the 1926 Bermuda Race sailed in that year from New London CT. She took the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Bermuda Race Trophy as her prize. This was the first year the Cruising Club of America teamed up with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club as co-organizers. In 1936 the starting line was moved to Newport RI and the race became the Newport Bermuda Race as it is known today.  (Photo courtesy of Alden Yachts)

Malabar VII, sailed by her designer John G. Alden, won the 1926 Bermuda Race sailed in that year from New London CT. She took the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Bermuda Race Trophy as her prize. This was the first year the Cruising Club of America teamed up with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club as co-organizers. In 1936 the starting line was moved to Newport RI and the race became the Newport Bermuda Race as it is known today. (Photo courtesy of Alden Yachts)