Bermuda Race Weather Fears Prove to be False Alarm

Published on June 20th, 2016

Newport, RI (June 20, 2016) – The 50th Thrash to the Onion Patch, the 2016 Newport Bermuda Race, has not been a dash. Following Comanche’s record-breaking run to Bermuda, chopping almost five hours off the 2012 numbers, the fleet stalled against the northern wall of a high-pressure system. They stopped just above the Gulf Stream.

The lead boats slowly began to work their way into the new breeze in the early morning today. Vamp, Lenny Sitar’s J44 sailing mid-fleet, popped through the wall and reported they were finally sailing under spinnaker making 9-10 knots on a beautiful Monday morning.

The lead boats for ‘traditional’ line honours based on positions late Monday were Maximizer a Farr 72, Siren, and High Noon are estimated to finish between 1:00AM and 3:00AM EDT on Tuesday morning, June 21. Orca is bringing up the rear and predicted to finish in the late afternoon on Friday, June 24, a week after their start. They certainly have not experienced any of the rough weather predicted that scared away so many entries… much the opposite so far, it seems.

Of the 184 boats that had checked in to race before the start in Newport, 46 did not start and seven have withdrawn for various mechanical reasons. All of the Gibbs Hill Division boats decided not to race, including all three Maxi72’s that might have challenged Comanche for line honors.

Maxi72 Bella Mente’s team issued the following statement, “After much consideration and research on the weather patterns forecasted for the 2016 Newport Bermuda Race, Bella Mente has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the event.”

The rough weather predicted by some forecast models was the reason so many boats did not start. They were being safe and conservative, but their fears and the predictions proved unfounded. At 5:00pm EDT Monday, race communications reported, “It appears that there is very light air in their area at the western edge of the fleet. Boats around Spirit of Bermuda show boat speeds of 2 knot + or minus.

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Background:
The 635-mile Newport Bermuda Race, starting on June 17, is the 50th edition and also marks the 90th anniversary of the partnership of the organizers, the Cruising Club of America and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Leading up to the start, the fleet size looked to be the second or third largest in history. Then the weather forecasts began predicting gales in and below the Gulf Stream. Following the weather briefing on Thursday night (June 16), boats began withdrawing from the race. Finally 47 boats that had entered decided not to race. That brought the total from 184 boats on June 13 to 142 starters on June 17.

There are seven divisions, each for a type of boat. The race has no overall winner (only division winners), though the winning St. David’s Lighthouse Division boat (the largest in the race, and a division dedicated to amateur sailors) is regarded as the race’s top boat.

• St. David’s Lighthouse Division, for normal multi-purpose cruising-racing boats sailed by amateur or mostly amateur crews. This division is the largest at approximately 100 boats. There are limits on the number of professional sailors in these boats, and only amateurs are allowed to steer.

• Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division, for all-out racing, lightweight, high-performance boats often sailed by professional crews, who may steer. Ten to 15 boats usually enter this division.

• Cruiser Division, for boats that normally cruise, not race, sailed by mostly amateur crews, with only amateur helmsmen. The division usually has about 30 boats.

• Double-Handed Division, for boats sailed by two sailors. Approximately 20 boats usually sail in this division. One crew may be a professional and steer.

• Open Division, for racing boats with cant keels, which tilt from side to side. About five boats usually sail in this division. There is no limit on professionals.

• Spirit of Tradition, for traditional boats, most recently the Bermuda Sloop replica Spirit of Bermuda. No limit on professionals.

• Super Yacht Division. No limit on professionals.

Source: Talbot Wilson, Newport Bermuda Race

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