Race Blog 7: St. David’s Lighthouse Delivers 7-Second Cliffhanger

June 23, 2020


Michael O'Donnell/Modonnellaw had a problem on Monday morning. He had to spend some of the day attending to his clients while he would have preferred to focus on navigating his boat to Bermuda. After all, Modonnellaw was leading the St. David's Lighthouse Division (SDLD) at the time, and he was running almost dead even with Scott Bearse/SlideRule.

Fortunately for O'Donnell, the Dehler 46s racing in the SDLD were reaching in consistent winds and he was able to keep slightly ahead during the night on Monday. However, as dawn broke over Bermuda's beautiful waters, fatigue may have gotten to the first-time Sailonline racer when he accidentally tacked twice, less than a mile from the finish. On the final tack, however, he was able to pull ahead and preserve victory by seven seconds!

One tack to go: sailing the last couple of miles upwind to the finish line, the pair of Dehler 46s approached the finish with Modonnellaw .4 miles ahead of SlideRule .
A few tacks later and Modonnellaw's lead had vanished, but the skipper put the bow down and found one extra hundredth of a mile to take the win. The pair finished at 10:10:25 and 10:10:32 UTC respectively.

"Thought I'd make it close for the fans," said O'Donnell in the race chat afterwards. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

In an email, however, he suggested other factors may have been involved such as "oversleeping while the rookie online 'virtual crew' was steering the boat; and my live rookie 1) confusion with the simulator and 2) fat-fingered errors toward the finish that nearly did me in.  Heart-pounding indeed."

Bearse/SlideRule congratulated O'Donnell saying "Modonnell, that was an incredible race! Thanks for making it really fun. I think it was down to the last refresh."

In an email, Bearse/SlideRule said, "My screen actually showed me finished and him still racing.  But I think it actually came down to the order of calculations in the stack and the microseconds per calculation.  Previous refresh showed us tied at DTF, final refresh showed him ahead by 1 hundredth of a mile (smallest unit of measure in the program).  So the difference in finish was the smallest possible margin in the software.

A close finish at the pin for the two leaders!

"It made for an exciting race.  He had a nice lead at the last mark and it would have been disappointing for him to lose it.  I tried though and scraped the paint off the last two marks!!"

In an email written the day before, O'Donnell wrote: "Unlike the Slide Rule team. I am single-handed and doing calculations so my "virtual crew" can take watch while I sleep.  This has probably been one of the keys to being in contention in my first ever online race—along with some luck, avoiding holes and being aggressive with angles in light winds. 

"Thank you to the SOL community for this engaging experience. It  was a big disappointment for me when the IRL race cancelled.  It would have been my first and a great learning "bucket list" experience with my sailing guru, Martin Van Breems, along with a very experienced crew."

Michael O'Donnell/Modonnellaw: "Here's the view from the nav station of my Dehler 46."

Finishing third in St. David's Lighthouse Division was Joseph Gordon/QSail, a Royal Bermuda Yacht Club member who usually volunteers at the finish of the IRL (in real life) Newport Bermuda Race. This year he was unable to make the trip back to Bermuda from the Middle East so he competed instead!

When asked his approach to the race, Gordon said, "I just kept an eye on the updating weather forecasts with an alarm set for the updates and then navigated accordingly. We are seven hours ahead of the east coast of the US here in the Middle East but the time zone seem to work quite well for the weather updates. My client here in Qatar was supportive and let me put the track up on the big screen at work (see below).

Joseph Gordon/QSail and his client navigated to a third-place finish from Qatar.

The St. David's Lighthouse Division is sponsored by Dehler Yachts/ McMichael Yacht Yards & Brokers.

Results for all classes are available at Sailonline.org's Races tab under the "leaderboard" for the Newport Bermuda Race.

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