At 0800 EDT Saturday, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division scratch boat Rambler had 447 miles to go to Bermuda, making her locked in a virtual dead heat with Puma Racing’s Open Division entry Il Mostro. Il Mostro skipper Ken Read has a “friendly little bet” going with Rambler’s owner George David, who usually has Read on the helm of Rambler.
These two boats will be hard-pressed to catch Open Division leader Speedboat, which is the biggest, fastest boat in the fleet by a substantial margin. At 0800, Speedboat had opened a 19-mile lead on her closest elapsed-time rivals.
In the amateur-helmed St. David’s Lighthouse Division, scratch boat Shockwave V, recently purchased by Australian Andrew Short, has a nine-mile edge on closest rival Hexe, owned by Germany’s Norbert Plambeck.
In the Cruiser Division, the Erling Kristiansen’s Swan 56 Mensae was living up to her scratch boat credentials, making 8.5 knot towards the finish line some 520 miles away. Among the Double-Handed Division boats, John Van Slyke’s J/120 Dragon has a narrow boat-for-boat lead over his competitors, with most of that division tightly-packed within 10 miles of the leader.
Friday night saw the southerly winds of the start veering more southwesterly for most of the fleet, but going substantially lighter. Winds are expected to clock further west Saturday, leading to some interesting decisions. The key to success on the first night is constant attention to sail trim and helming, particularly for those boats trying to work to the west to take advantage of the warm eddy north of the stream.
Just as predicted, overnight Friday night into early Saturday morning saw the southerly winds of the start veering more southwesterly for most of the fleet, but going substantially lighter. On Friday night, boats usually experience local micro-winds that oscillate constantly in both direction and velocity, making it hard work to keep the boat moving at top speed.
An email from Bruce and Dorsey Beard’s Double-Hander Esmeralde at 0130 Saturday reported easy sailing in flat water. Estimated speed reports from across the fleet showed much lighter winds than during daylight hours, with the wind down to the low double digits and high single numbers, veering more westerly.
Almost across the board, boat speed reports suggest winds of around 9-11 knots in the early morning hours, with unpredictable zones of slightly higher or lower wind speeds. This is typical of a first night with a weak high-pressure gradient, with winds going lighter as the boats pull away from the influence of the thermal sea breeze.
The wind forecast for Saturday is for winds out of the west to southwest, still in the 8-14 knot range. Overnight tonight, winds are predicted to back into the SW, continuing to back as we move towards Sunday. Winds should continue to back into the south and even south-southeast later on Sunday as they increase in velocity, with southerly winds of 15-25 knots possible for the main part of the fleet on Monday, by which time all boats should be south of the Gulf Stream.
The Tucker Thompsom video and commentary of the start of the Newport Bermuda Race is on www.t2p.tv/ and you can follow the race through commentary by Race Chairman Nick Nicholson on the race website www.bermudarace.com and through the iBoattrack official web site found at www.iboattrack.com/racetracking.html