Saturday, 26 June 2010

Newport-Bermuda Race: Final Wrap

The Media Editor for the Newport Bermuda Race website looks at the race conditions, lists tactics that worked, introduces some valuable people, and discusses editorial policy

The iBoattrack showing the courses taken by Sinn Fein (yellow), Carina (dark yellow) and Speedboat (orange).

by John Rousmaniere

Doing it right. “That’s the way it should work,” said a sailor who heard about one of these incidents of owner-stimulated reverse redress.

(1) When Scott Bearse saw his Slide Rule listed as Class 4 IRC winner, he advised race chairman Bjorn Johnson that something was wrong, saying, “I sailed a good fourth-place race, not a first-place race.” Scorer Brin Ford found a typo in the rating certificate and Slide Rule slid to third.

(2) Erwin Wanderer was so certain that his Ocean Wanderer 1 finished 33 minutes later than the finish line committee believed that he insisted that the recorded time be changed at the cost of a position in the Double-Handed Division.

Champagne conditions. Rán’s blog had this representative rave: “We have a calm sea and an endless horizon. Nothing else in sight, just blue water, perfect temperature, beautiful sunshine. What else could we ask for?” Adding to the enjoyment was the spectacular wildlife. Navy midshipmen in Invictus counted a tuna, some sharks, many dolphin, lots of Portuguese men of war, and a sea turtle. Other boats saw whales, sometimes in pairs.

Turning point 1. A hole on Day 2 left boats in the middle doing doughnuts while a few crews on the sides found new breeze. Carina improvised a quick escape that navigator Patricia Young must have had in mind when she told Thursday’s Navigator’s Forum, “Carina’s iBoattrack’s movie file looks a great deal more even than what we experienced.” The boat’s navigator for many years of high finishes, Clark is the first woman to win the race’s George W. Mixter Trophy as navigator of the winning boat.

Turning point 2. Did everybody sail in the same Gulf Stream? “We didn’t see as much of a boost as we expected,” said many navigators, yet Aurora carried favorable current for 100 miles. The big boats had easy weather through the Stream, with no need to reef, yet smaller ones had heavy squalls (Rives Potts in Carina counted seven.) No wonder oceanographer Frank Bohlen describes the Stream as “more variable than neatly deterministic.”

Turning point 3. Oceanographer Jenifer Clark hit the nail on the head when she opened her pre-race briefing, “The 2010 Newport Bermuda Race should be a dynamic event this year with respect to ocean currents.” The area between the Stream and the island has acquired the ironic nickname “Happy Valley” because so many dreams of glory have been shattered there. Dorsey Beard of Esmeralde described its currents: “Some from the east, some from the south – but foul every which way.” There was less chaos near the rhumb line.

Swinging for the fences. Generally speaking, east was best. First to finish Speedboat went pretty straight near the rhumb line, as did Carina and Clover III, top boats in the St. David’s and Cruiser Divisions. But one high-finishing boat did a bold end run to the west.

Peter Rebovich early on was faced with a choice: Should Sinn Fein cover the other Cal 40s – Doug Jurrius’ Belle Aurore and Bill LeRoy’s Gone with the Wind? Or should he observe Richard Nye’s “swing for the fences” rule?

A faint heart had not won Pete two straight Bermuda Races. He ventured 50 miles west of the rhumb line and reached down to the finish at 8 knots under his big asymmetrical over a staysail while the boats to the east were under Code Zeros or genoas. Despite half a knot of foul current for the last 90 miles, Sinn Fein ended up second in Class 1 and seventh overall.

To appreciate the options, go to iBoattrack and select boats at Boat Mapper.

Amazing Repair 1. Powering out to the start, Dan Epstein discovered that his Swan 51 Blue’s centerboard cable had snapped. Notifying the race committee that he’d be starting late, he went to Newport Shipyard, where the boat was hauled and the yard owner’s son spliced a new cable. Blue sailed out, crossed the phantom starting line two and a half hours late, and did the race. Said Epstein, “We were definitely the winners.”

Amazing Repair 2. Seven minutes after the start, Snow Lion’s new mainsail blew out, making the sail unusable unless a reef was tied in. Larry Huntington’s crew closed the rip with tape and reinforced the sail by sewing in sail stops radiating out from the clew. Dozens of man hours went into the repair using old-fashioned sailmaker’s needles, waxed twine, and palms (they had two of them because Steve Lirakis always carries a palm in his seabag). Snow Lion ended up second on corrected time in the Gibbs Hill Division.

Band of brothers. Double-handers John Ryan of Bolands Mills and Michael Hennessey of Dragon greeted each other with a warm hug after match-racing for 635 miles.

Editorial policy. Unlike a newspaper or magazine, an online publication can easily influence the event it’s covering. Providing outside assistance that’s not available to others is a violation of Racing Rule 41. After the 75-footer Titan XV exited the Gulf Stream, crew member and website reporter Chris Museler sent us an email passing on navigator Peter Isler’s surprise that there was little southeast set in the Stream. While repeating this tidbit online surely would have entertained armchair tacticians, just as surely this would have been welcomed – and used – by at least some navigators in the 180 boats trailing Titan. So we cut it from the story, and saved it for now.

Newport-Bermuda Race