Race Blog 3: Unstable Weather Favors Direct Route

June 21, 2020


On Sunday, the fleet of some 500 boats competing in the 2020 Online Newport Bermuda Race began the morning in very light airs, hit a shift as a small low-pressure system appeared, then broke through into steadily increasing winds. Although boats farther east made gains during the morning, in most divisions, they have not yet been able to make up all the extra miles sailed. At 2145 local time, three Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Xp 55s close to the rhumbline led the fleet overall with just over 200 nautical miles still to sail.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division leaders just west of the rhumbline ran into the east side of a small low-pressure area on Sunday morning and were able to tack first, as boats farther east were headed and had to wait for the shift to reach them before tacking.

Sitting in second, a tenth of a mile behind the race leader, Juan Barclay/rafa, Ilpo Jarvinen/ij explained his thinking on sailing a more direct route toward Bermuda (Ilpo is also one of Sailonline.org’s developers):

“After some progress [down the course], there was a significant change in weather, and my router found a ‘bait’ route through the stronger winds that were forecast to develop on the east side. Many Xps seemed to divert at that point; however, I was far from being convinced by the proposed route and noted this on the chat at 06/19 22:46:22: ‘That detour looks just as horrible in stability, only that the most unstable bit is more wx updates away.’

“The difference between detour and direct routes according to my router was only 2 hours…thus, I kept on pushing on with the direct route. With very minor course adjustments each time, I’m in the front row with less boats to compete with, as many went east.”

In third place overall, Robert Schön/robert1 had a simpler explanation for why he hedged his bets and stayed on the southwest side of the rhumbline: “Looking on the wx forecast for some days ahead, it was obvious that I had to place myself below the rhumbline to get a better angle to the next waypoint, so that’s why I headed south.” (Schön, who lives in Sweden, is chairman of the board for the company that owns Sailonline.org.)

Leaders in the other divisions on Sunday evening were as follows:

  • Finisterre (Italia 14.98): Derek Joubert/Maximus and Cesar Garcia/GREATSKUA, held the lead to the west, while a large pack of boats on the east side still threatened.
  • St. David’s Lighthouse Division (Dehler 46): Michael O’Donnell/Modonnellaw and Scott Bearse/SlideRule, close to the rhumbline, had built a six-mile lead on the rest of the fleet.
  • Double-Handed (Sun Fast 3300): Sloan Burns/Sloanburns, midnightexpress and OscarBoteco1 were within a mile of each other, but several boats to the east were gaining in stronger winds.

To watch the fleet, visit sailonline.org and log in as guest with password guest; then scroll down the righthand side of the page and click “enter the Newport Bermuda Race” to see the tracking chart and rankings.

Sailonline racers also sail IRL (in real life). In only his second Sailonline race, Philip Copeland/prcopeland is pleased to be holding 10th place in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division. Could be he’s got his mojo going well because he’s guiding an Xp 55 to Bermuda from the nav station of his Seawind 1260 Breeze while cruising in the San Juan Islands.
Philip Copeland, Sailonline.org racer and San Juan Islands cruiser

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