Follow the Wind, or Follow the Current?

Published on June 17th, 2015

With the start of the 20th Marion to Bermuda Race fast approaching on Friday, June 19, teams must soon decide which route will best tackle the 645-mile 2015 version of the “Thrash to the Onion Patch”.

Will skippers minimize their consideration of the famous Gulf Stream loops and focus on wind direction? Or do they make the opposite choice and search for favorable southbound current and take what the wind gods deliver on the way? Careful planning, sometimes over months of reviewing trends and patterns shape the choices that will tell the tale.

Mark Swanson of North Creek NY— co-skipper and co-navigator and sailing double handed on ‘Roust’ along with owner Ian Gumprecht of Oyster Bay NY— said he is taking a long look at the Gulf Stream because of the combination of a favorable warm eddy that could shoot them SSE toward. He is also taking a long look at a weather system coming offshore from the west late Sunday and Monday. The new wind and the favorable current now look like they are both setting up to the west of the rhumb line from Marion to Bermuda.

With the rules providing a 3% rating benefit, ‘Roust’ is sailing this year by celestial navigation, but Swanson is concerned about the cloud cover that will block their sights. “We chose to sail outside on our delivery up from New York so we could practice celestial navigation at sea. Unfortunately, we had just four hours of sunshine and couldn’t get a sight after that.” From the looks of the weather forecast, dead reckoning will be an important part of finding Bermuda. ‘Roust’ a 34 foot Sea Sprite won the top overall prize, the Founders Trophy, in 2013.

Ron Wisner, skipper of ‘Hotspur II’ and 2013 winner of the Beverly “Polaris” Trophy and The Navigator‘s Trophy for first place among celestial yachts, said he will make his choices after a final review of the Gulf Stream and the weather. Remnants of TS Bill coming over from Texas will play a big part in his decisions. ‘Hotspur II’ is a Columbia 50 from Marion MA.

If numbers in the fleet hold, 46 sailboats will cross the starting line just south of Centerboard Shoal in Buzzard’s Bay for the Marion version of the “Thrash to the Onion Patch”. The 118-foot “Spirit of Bermuda”, the island’s sail training vessel and Bermuda’s floating ambassador is the largest entry and only entry in the Classic Division for training vessels and classic yachts. All of the other entries are in the Founders Division, which is for yachts 32 to 80 feet that wish to race with a cruising sail inventory.

Since its inception in 1977, the biennial Marion Bermuda Race seeks to appeal to a broad range of cruising and racing enthusiasts. The spirit of the race is one focused on Family and Fun, and all yachts and crew are participating for the joy and pleasure of sailing, competition, and the camaraderie that accompanies an offshore event.

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