“wind is like a ketchup bottle...
none’l come, and then a lot’l”
(with apologies to Ogden Nash)
After 36 hours of near-perfect sailing, Mother Nature did what she does best: upset the applecart. An email Saturday night from Puma Racing skipper Ken Read said simply “drifting in the Gulf Stream”: an exaggeration perhaps, but not by much. His Volvo 70 Il Mostro is a rocketship with almost any breeze, but even the fastest boats in the world need some wind to keep moving at a rational pace. Read reported the course to Bermuda as 175 magnetic, and the wind direction as 175—when it registered. This is a deadly combination when the windspeed is in single digits, and shrinking.
Alex Jackson’s Speedboat was faring little better, and the two fastest boats in the fleet went from looking extraordinary to looking like just another couple of sailboats struggling hard to get from point A to point B.
What Read did manage to accomplish was get past his old offshore ride, Rambler, to go one-up for now on his bet with her owner/skipper George David.
At 1600 EDT on Sunday, Speedboat was making 10 knots, with 143 miles to go. Il Mostro lurked only 34 miles behind, and had a 25 mile lead over Rambler.
The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division is a showcase of new boats this year, and they seem remarkably evenly matched. The new 69-foot Bella Mente was only four miles astern of the 90-foot Rambler, and she seems to excel in the light going. Just behind, Numbers, Blue Yankee, Rosebud, and Moneypenny were all less than 30 miles behind Rambler, which seems a little underpowered in the light stuff with her relatively small headsails. All these big boats average eight to nine knots over the last two-hour reporting period.
Ashore in Bermuda, the Puma shore team viewed the situation with mixed emotions. It meant a quick turnaround of the boat to return to their heavy training schedule for the 2008-2009 Volvo Ocean Race, but it also meant that they might actually have time for a cold beer before going back to work.
For boats further back in the fleet—and that means almost everybody—Bermuda seems little more than a distant dream. When you see more than 350 miles to go—and all of them dead upwind—that first dark n’ stormy is a long, long time in the future.
Ken Campbell’s forecast calls for light winds from to S to SSE in the vicinity of Bermuda Sunday night, with winds increasing the further up the course you go, and veering back into the SSW at 20-25 knots north of 35N on Monday. This could bring the smaller boats home in a big rush, making for another small-boat corrected time year. Well up the race course, the smallest boats in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division are licking their chops at the potential opportunity to stick it to the big boys on corrected time for two races in a row.