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Old school race from Marion to Bermuda

Published on June 7th, 2017

The clock is counting down to the start of the 40th Anniversary Marion Bermuda Race on June 9. The 51-boat fleet in the 645nm race from Marion, Massachusetts heading south out of Buzzard’s Bay to the finish line of St. David’s Lighthouse in Bermuda will arrive in Bermuda just in time for the start of the America’s Cup Match.

All entries this year are in the Founders Division, which is for yachts 32 to 80 feet that wish to race with a cruising sail inventory.

Andy Howe, celestial navigator on Ray Cullum’s ‘Frolic’, commented on last minute preparations and his kit.

“As navigator I’ve been keeping an eye on the Gulf Stream for a few weeks, and before heading to Marion I will plot the latest positions and begin to think about routing,” notes Howe. “Not many interesting features this year, but it is still important to have an understanding of where it has been and where it is going.

“I went over my sextant this winter and replaced a mirror. And I took quick look at the Nautical Almanac to check the state of the moon (full), a review of the tables, and a few test reductions using a terrific new ‘Celestial’ iPhone app.

“I’ll bring along warm clothes for the first 48 hours, then enough changes to avoid becoming persona non grata on the boat. Plus a few things for staying on the island to watch the America’s Cup.”

Temperature in Marion from the start will be about 60ºF, while the temperature in Bermuda next week when they finish will be close to 80ºF. That’s a good reason for sailing south.

Deb Gayle is a watch captain aboard ‘Etoile’, skippered by Dr. Anne Kolker, with an all woman crew. They are focused on detail and safety. She explained their planning and preparation.

“Aside from provisioning, stowing, and making sure the lifelines, sails, preventers, and deck are in order, we are again running through all electronic connections, radio, weather, and all to make sure that they are registering properly, and ensuring the refrigeration and generator are working,” explained Gayle.

“I’ve also walked the deck checking for anything loose that has to be tightened or sharp that must be taped. Actually I do that each time I go on watch during a race or delivery.

“Additionally, I need to put an attachment on the downhaul and tweak it as I wasn’t happy with the way it was behaving when we did wing-and-wing practice last weekend. I’ll run the jack lines, and check them a number of times before and during the race.

“And, even though we have a fantastic navigator in Garet Wohl, I’m reviewing the weather and Buzzards Bay tidal currents, Gulf Stream analysis, laminating the sailing instructions including the finish line in case the paper copies get wet. On the day before the start, I will review everything with Garet, who generally explains ‘strategy’ to the crew as well.

“Our captain, Anne Kolker, does not scrimp on safety gear. If the boat needs something or need to have work done on it, it’s done. We have all the required safety gear and more.

“We upgraded our VHF system this year with the latest technology that interfaces with the other electronics. We go through our ‘grab’ bag each season and ensure all safety equipment is current and up to date. Anne is a physician, so you can be sure we have a well-stocked medical kit.

“We also have a very hard rule to wear harnesses and tether in when we’re topside; we have a safety line rigged from the companionway across the bridge-deck to the cockpit as an attachment point as we realized in our first ocean race from Stonington, CT to Booth Bay, ME that there was a five foot part where we were unable to be secured to the boat. That was fixed quickly.

“Each crewmember is responsible for individual safety gear as it’s usually personal preference. I have a Spinlock safety life vest/harness that has a built in knife and strobe. It’s very comfortable and I don’t think twice about wearing it. I also have a double-ended tether.

“This year I bought an MOB1 AIS devise that is attached to the Spinlock and calibrated into Etoile’s AIS. I have a pouch attached to the Spinlock that has a knife, some line, and SPF lip gloss. I have a good quality flashlight and headlamp. Aside from that, boots, foulies, polar fleece and turtlenecks for north of the Gulf Stream, hats, and sunscreen.

“I also have a stuffed moose that my friend Larraine gave me on my first race in 2001; Mr. Moose has been with me on all my offshore ventures. He has more offshore miles than most people!”

About the 2017 Marion Bermuda Race
The 2017 edition of this classic will see boats ranging from the smallest entry ‘Selkie’, G.J Bradish’s Morris Ocean 32.5 footer from Boston to the largest, the Hinckley SW 59 ‘Pescatore’ sailed by George Tougas of Mattapoisett, MA ‘Pescatore’ is a Youth Trophy team entry.

Nine of the boats, including ‘Selkie’ will sail in the Celestial Navigation Division. In its true Corinthian spirit, the Marion Bermuda Race is the only ocean race to Bermuda that offers a celestial navigation prize.

The Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club hosts the race in Bermuda. It is also home away from home for the America’s Cup defenders, the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco, and their defending team, Oracle Team USA. Actual racing in the America’s Cup Match start June 17 on Bermuda’s Great Sound, the afternoon of the Marion Bermuda Race prizegiving.

There are several special ‘trophy’ races within the Marion Bermuda Race.

The Kingman Yacht Center Team Trophy is offered for established Yacht Clubs or Sailing organizations that form a team of three member yachts. The team whose three yachts have the lowest corrected time total will be the winner.

Yachts sailing with a crew of two, a crew of three or four or an all-female crew of any number may compete in the double-handed, short-handed, and all-female competitions respectively. Prizes are the Double-Handed Trophy, the short-handed L. Bryon Kingery, Jr. Memorial Trophy and the Commodore Faith Paulsen Trophy for the ladies.

A “family” yacht racing for the Beverly Family Trophy is one with a crew of five or more with all or all-but-one being members of a single household or a single family may race for the family prize. Persons related to a common grandparent and spouses of these “family”, too.

The Offshore Youth Challenge Trophy encourages youth participation. A “youth” yacht is one with at least 4four youths aboard with at least 66% of the crew qualified as youths. A youth sailor must be 16 years of age or older but not more than 23 years old by June 8, 2017. One or more adults at least 23 years old by June 8, 2017 must be onboard.

The Beverly Yacht Club Polaris Trophy is a prize for stargazers. If a yacht has elected to be celestially navigated, she will receive a 3% favorable adjustment to her ORR rating.

While Marion Bermuda Racers are in Bermuda, the America’s Cup Superyacht Regatta runs June 13-15. The J Class Regatta is June 16, 19 & 20. And Red Bull Youth America’s Cup races are spread from June 12 to June 20.

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Background: The first Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race in 1977 saw 104 starters cross the line. Over the forty years since that first race the race has evolved into a true offshore challenge for cruising yachts, amateur, family and youth sailors. Special prizes abound to emphasis celestial navigation, short handed sailing. Family crews and regional competition. The race is handicapped under the ORR rating system to assure the fairest scoring available for ocean racing yachts.

Source: Talbot Wilson

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