Bermuda Race 2008 – The Wrong Way Fast

Ok, no need to dwell on the obvious. We didn’t do well. Here is the short version of what happened.

First, we won the start!!! Very port end favored with a big ebb sweeping the fleet up to the line early.


We hit the pin at the gun and tacked on to port crossing the entire fleet!!

Should have called it a race right there! Actually, that’s not true. We enjoyed one of the best days of big boat racing that I can remember as our group of three NYYC 42s were stuck together like glue between the start and sunset. Lot’s of hard work and fun as we threaded our way carefully through the small boat divisions that had started in front of us.

We held the NYYC 42 lead through the entire day and only began to spread out sometime after midnight on that first night!!

Little did we know that we were already heading the wrong way, and options for recovery were going away fast!!

We had chosen to sail in a fast upwind mode. Not really worrying about pointing, as much as going fast and getting down the rhumbline. Our ultimate goal was to work West of the rhumbline in order to reach the edge of a favorable eddy on the way to the gulf stream. (red line) Our forecasts had convinced us that a 20+ degree lift was on the way, so not wanting to tack 90 degrees off the course to Bermuda, we and our NYYC 42 competition waited for it as we worked our way towards Bermuda.

Unfortunately, that lift never came and by the time we figured that out, it was too late to recover. We ended up missing the +3-4 knot eddy completely, and entering the gulf stream itself to the East of Rhumb in an section moving to the Northeast. (green line)

We were dead, and worse that that, we knew it!!


While the conditions remained relatively moderate for the entire race, it was all uphill and to have any chance at all we needed weight on the rail night and day.

Sleeping below was discouraged strongly, and crew moral suffered when some chose to ignore the skippers request and were regularly spotted asleep below.

A rare site! Danny was the winner of the Golden Pillow Award for the race.

Most of us toughed it out through a couple of the most awful cold and wet nights I can remember on a boat.

Our alcohol stove caught on fire the second night out, so that was the end of warm food, and without the ability to boil water for hot drinks we froze on the rail.

Huge compliments and thanks to the Mutiny crew members that toughed it out those nights!! Undoubtably, that experience will be the source of many hilarious stories once we put some time between us and the race.

The last evening prior to the finish the shift to the Southwest came through (bigger than forecast) and we were finally able to enjoy some fast and comfortable reaching conditions on our way into the finish line.

SUMMARY

What we did well

  • We worked the boat hard, made all the sail changes that were needed, and made huge sacrifices to comfort in order to maximize the boats speed through the water.

Where we went wrong

  • Obviously easier in hindsight…
  • Missing that warm eddy north of the stream was 75% game over right there. We should have realized that and taken whatever steps were needed to ensure that we did not miss it. Even boats that tacked away 24 hours after the start to hit the eddy (Celeritas) ultimately made out via the benefits of the eddy itself, and hitting the stream in a far superior location.
  • Having missed the eddy, we should have tacked to the west prior to the stream. This is what both Conspiracy and Barleycorn did, and it paid off big and allowed them to pass us and establish a 10-20 mile lead.
  • Finally, there was no need to tack on the day prior to the finish. Again this is easy in hindsight, but the sw shift that filled in would have allowed us to reach the finish line without tacking and that may have been enough to allow us to beat both Conspiracy and Barleycorn. We didn’t want to get stuck on the outside of the wheel and have to tack later at a less optimal angle. I guess at this point, we should have simply rolled the dice and prayed. Oh well….

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