Winner’s Debrief: Marion Bermuda Race
Published on June 20th, 2019
As the overall winner of the 2019 Marion Bermuda Race, Roy and Gail Greenwald’s Valiant 42 Cordelia success is rooted in their approach.
“They do a lot of work, they are really dedicated,” shared crewman Daniel Begg. “It’s just an honor to watch it in motion, to be a part of it wherever you can and take direction when needed. Stay quiet and watch them dance. They work very well together. They have their roles. They stick to it. They trust each other and they trust us. It’s awesome.”
Roy Greenwald added, “We’ve put 40,000 miles on Cordelia. We’ve been across both oceans so we kinda know the boat.”
Roy is skipper and Gail is navigator. Of their roles in the dance Roy says, “I make the boat go fast. Gail tells me where to go.”
ABOVE PHOTO: Winning team from left: Daniel Begg, crew — Roy Greenwald, skipper — Gail Greenwald, navigator — Dana Oviatt, back-up navigator and crew
Going out of Buzzards Bay in the 25-30 knot winds was the first test they faced. “Cordelia doesn’t point with the racers,” Roy explained. “If we can get out of Buzzards Bay two or three from the back of the pack, we know we have done okay. We didn’t sweat the start… it’s a long race. The crew was ready to tack and we had maybe six tacks out of the Bay.”
One of the moves that worked out well for Cordelia was to tuck in over by Penikese Island. “We tacked right up alongside of Penikese. As soon as we could clear it, we tucked back in. The boats that sailed out in the middle of the bay had more adverse current and that helped us. We had less current.
“After Sow & Pigs [reef] we didn’t tack a single time. We sailed the entire way on starboard tack. That’s our fastest tack. It was a godsend.
“As we approached Bermuda to finish, we were pretty sure we were going to be able to carry the starboard tack to Kitchen Shoals… that’s the beacon that marks the east-northeast corner of the reef line around Bermuda… and continue on starboard possibly to the next mark, Mills Buoy. Then to get around the Sea Buoy and sail to the finish off St. David’s Lighthouse, we were all ready to tack.
“When we got to Kitchen, the wind started to clock to the west-southwest and we were able to carry it right on to the finish line. I think it couldn’t have happened better.”
Preparation is always a key element in winning. Cordelia was definitely well prepared. Roy and Gail Greenwald have done four Bermuda 1-2 races. Roy sails solo to Bermuda and Gail joins in for the return. They know their boat well.
Cordelia was one of 16 entries using celestial navigation only. Ironically, all of the class winners were celestially navigated.
The Marion Bermuda Race encourages celestial navigation as part of its core concept of maintaining the art of seamanship among amateur sailors. This is the base upon which this race is founded. Boats that elect to turn off their electronic navigation systems earn a 3% credit off of their elapsed time for the race. Then the corrected time is calculated. Marion Bermuda is the only US offshore race to do this.
For prime navigator Gail Greenwald and Dane Oviatt, crew and back-up navigator, sailing celestially meant careful and precise preparation.
“The last race we did celestially was the 2007 Marion Bermuda Race,” said Gail. “I had to get my sextant out and clean it up. I had to review my old materials. We sailed to Nantucket and I took some practice sights. I updated all my performance reductions.”
Gail had a whole note book she put together for the race. “In advance of the race you have to figure out which stars are going to be out so you can start looking for them. One of the key things— because the seas were rough— was having the altitudes and azimuth already calculated. We were able to preset sextants and snap our sights quicker. That’s where preparation really paid off.
“We had a pretty bright sky in the evening [Full Moon]. We got decent star sights but we were always challenged. I used Jupiter once (it was right by the moon) and I also used the moon once.
“We had trouble getting precise sights the first couple of nights. After that we were spot on. We knew exactly where we were. We turned our GPS on about 28 miles from Bermuda [50 miles is allowed] for safety on the approach around the reefs.”
Roy, the skipper, was pleased to have the GPS going on the final approach. “We knew we were kind of in the running [for prizes], and I wanted a clean shot to the marks,” said Roy. “I didn’t want to be three miles from my marks.”
The 2019 edition was another small boat race to Bermuda. The light winds in a high-pressure system moved east through the faster, bigger boats and maybe slowed them a little, but not enough to trigger the ’anti-bias’ adjustment.
Cordelia’s overall first in class and first in fleet finish in the 2019 Marion Bermuda Race comes down to the essentials of ocean racing— a solid boat, preparation, teamwork, and having fun… and maybe getting a nice wind shift at the end… and of course, a spot of luck.
Background: The 22nd Marion Bermuda Race and the 42nd year for the 645-mile open ocean challenge attracted 39 teams for the 2019 edition on June 14.
The first Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race in 1977 saw 104 starters cross the line. Over the forty-two 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.