On the line will be four Mini 6.50 ocean racers:
- USA 837 - Wichard Ocean Sailing (G Yacht Design, modified RG650)
- USA 806 - ex-Open Sailing (Finot designed Pogo 2 built in CA by Open Sailing)
- USA 702 - Frogger (Manuard designed Tip Top)
- CAN 175 - Pogo Loco (Rolland designed Pogo 1)
I'm familiar with 702, 837, and 806, and friendly with their skippers. 702 has previously done the 1-2, and her skipper, Josh Owen, has a significant amount of big-boat ocean racing under his belt. 837 and her skipper, Vernon Hultzer, cut their teeth in last year's Annapolis to Bermuda Race. Although Minis can be trailered, Vernon chose to sail 837 from Annapolis to Newport by way of the C&D Canal and Delaware Bay, followed by an ocean transit south of Montauk, NY and east of Block Island. 806 has sailed the Singlehanded Transpac under her former owner, Jerome Sammarcelli. Her current owner has some ocean experience under his belt (including the Fastnet). All the Mini 6.50 skippers have qualified for the race by completing a solo, offshore passage of no less than 200 miles over no fewer than 48 hours. All Mini 6.50 skippers have also passed their safety inspections.
I'm very excited to watch these guys on the tracker, although I wish I could be sailing down to Bermuda with my brethren. Life's about choices. I made the right one by sitting this one out, although my time will come.
So what are these guys gonna to see en route to Bermuda across the weather machine that is the Gulf Stream? Let's start with the Stream itself. What looked like a mosh of eddies in February, March, and April (see report here) has solidified into what appears to be a well-defined formation with visible, major structures. Today's near realtime satellite altimetry derived surface current image shows a large cold eddy on the rhumb line north of the stream, with a large warm eddy to the west. The optimal route (notwithstanding wind and movement of these features) appears to favor the west between the warm and cold eddies.
Now let's talk about wind. Abilyn Racing partner Predictwind.com shows a passage duration of around 5 days with predominantly reaching conditions.
It's good for the Minis that the forecast shows more off-the-breeze conditions, because that's what the Mini was built for. That said, there's one aspect of this summary that concerns me--the CMC forecast. CMC stands for Canadian Meteorological Centre, and reflects the forecast provided by the Met Centre, which is an arm of the Canadian government. This forecast shows that 10% of the race will be sailed in conditions above 40 knots, with a max wind speed of nearly 50 knots. Digging into this more, the CMC forecast shows an easterly breeze building on the morning of Sunday, June 7 to become nearly 50 knots from the southeast by morning on Monday, June 8.
If the CMC forecast holds true, the Mini sailors, and, indeed, the entire fleet, may experience some pretty route conditions around the same time that the rest of us head to the office for some desk sailing. Although it's no guarantee, the B1-2 sailors should take some amount of solace in Predictwind's observation that over "10 years of extensive and comparative testing during Americas Cup yacht racing, and the most recent Volvo Ocean [Race]," Predictwind's proprietary model "has proven . . . to be the most reliable and accurate for wind prediction." These proprietary models (labeled PWG and PWC) show max wind speeds across the route in the low 20s. You can read more about these various wind forecasting models here.
I wish my fellow Mini sailors, and the rest of the fleet, safe passage to Bermuda as each takes to the open ocean--alone--this coming Friday for the first leg of the Bermuda 1-2. Sail fast. Be safe. Mind Kitchen Shoal.