T-3 days Until Four Minis Take Off In the Bermuda 1-2

The gun for the 2015 Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race fires at 1100 EDT (1500 UTC) this Friday.  Track the fleet here.  

On the line will be four Mini 6.50 ocean racers:

  • USA 837Wichard 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.

Source:  http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/dataphod/work/trinanes/INTERFACE/index.html

Now let's talk about wind.  Abilyn Racing partner Predictwind.com shows a passage duration of around 5 days with predominantly reaching conditions.

Source:  http://www.predictwind.com

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.  

PredictWind Mini 6.50 routing model.  Source:  http://www.predictwind.com

Headings:  (Day, Time) (TWS) (TWD) (TWA) (SOG) (COG)

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.  

Three Minis Set To Compete in 80th Vineyard Race

NA Mini Vineyard

Tomorrow afternoon (Eastern time), three Mini Transat boats based in the Long Island Sound will challenge the 238-mile "Vineyard Course" in the 80th running of the Vineyard Race, hosted by Stamford Yacht Club.  The Vineyard Race is a perennial classic in the northeast United States, and is the last major distance race of the season--until my idea for a 300-mile late September-early October offshore race finishing in NY Harbor takes off.  Unfortunately, Abilyn will not be taking part this year because a friend had the indecency to dedicate herself unto the bonds of Holy Matrimony this weekend.  Just kidding, Danna.

So while I'm being a good friend in Portland, Oregon, the three Mini crews will no doubt be primed and set for the long haul from just off Stamford, CT, out of Long Island Sound, up to Buzzards Bay Tower, around Block Island (leaving the island to starboard) and back into the Sound to finish in Stamford Harbor.  

Each of the Mini crews will be sailing in the PHRF double-handed class, along with some notable Class 40s, one of whom is skippered by Jeffrey MacFarlane, the former #1 ranked Mini sailor--in the world.  (I gotta get him on Abilyn for a few practice sessions).  I don't believe that any of the Mini sailors are going into this race thinking they can beat the Class 40s, since Minis lose upwind due to waterline, and lose in reaching and running conditions because Class 40s are just bigger/faster versions of Minis, and--just like Minis--excel off the breeze.  That said, I've done the math...for the Mini, USA 806 (111 PHRF rating), to beat the Class 40 Dragon (-9.0 PHRF rating), USA 806 would have to finish no more than 7 hours and 59 minutes after Dragon.  Hey, it's possible.  Just this past July in the 350-mile Route Halifax St. Pierre Ocean Race, a "series" Mini corrected out against an Akilaria Class 40 and a Volvo 60 to take the overall PHRF win.  

But what will be interesting is not how the Minis fare against the rest of the fleet, but how they fare against each other.  Although all three boats are built to a box rule, one of the boats is quite different from the rest.  Two of the boats--USA 806 and Frogger (USA 702)--are "series" Minis.  As described in an earlier post, this means that they are built with a fixed keel and fixed rudders, and use non-exotic materials in the construction of the boat--i.e., aluminum and resin-infused fiberglass, no carbon.  The third Mini, Valkyrja (USA 415) is a "proto" Mini.  Although I'm not sure whether Valkyrja is made with any carbon, it does have a deep, canting keel, water ballast, taller mast, and carries more sail area than USA 806 or Frogger.  As such, Valkyrja can be expected to point higher upwind, and haul more ass downwind.  But there is no rule that "series" Minis cannot beat "protos."  This is supported by Classe Mini stats.  In fact, USA 806's Pogo 2 design has been tremendously successful in the Classe Mini circuit across the pond, even against "protos."  With the Minis, it will come down who sails the course more efficiently.

Abilyn (USA 829) under full kite heading out of Long Island Sound in the 2013 Vineyard Race.

Last year, Abilyn raced the "Vineyard Course" double-handed, and had an amazing downwind leg all the way out to Buzzards Bay Tower, seeing between 17 and 28 knots of breeze from the SW and hitting boat speeds of over 14 knots--enough to allow us to keep up with the big boys.  The big breeze continued as we rounded Buzzards Bay Tower--we saw 25 knots on the nose and 5-7 foot, steep waves until we rounded Block Island, and then saw between 15-17 knots on the nose until about 4 miles from the finish, where the wind died completely.  When it was good, it was good; and when it was bad, it was bad.  Ah, the Long Island Sound.

This year's race does not look like it will be serving up big breeze and big waves.  As Hurricane Cristobal moves farther and farther offshore over the next few days, an area of high pressure will develop, and move east off of Cape Cod, which, absent thermal activity, likely will bring light and variable breeze to the Sound early in the race.  

Using the routing feature at PredictWind.com, which has partnered with Abilyn Racing on its offshore campaign, the breeze over the race course will range between 3 and 16 knots, with an average wind speed of under 10 knots.  That said, PredictWind.com's models estimate that racers will be reaching nearly 60% of the race, which is a good sign for the Minis (get those Code Zeros ready!)  However, one model does show that racers will see 17-20 knots late Saturday night into Sunday from a tight upwind angle.  Since Minis do not sail fast close to the breeze, let's hope this model turns out to be the wrong one.  

Stamford YC runs a great regatta, and arms each boat with a tracker that can be followed using RaceQs.  You can track the Minis, and the entire fleet at http://raceqs.com/regattas/vineyard-race.

If you're racing, enjoy.  If you're not, maybe next year!


ALIR Starts Tomorrow - A Lone Mini (not Abilyn) Set to Compete

I'm unexcited to report that Abilyn will not be participating in this year's Around Long Island Regatta. I'd love to blame this on life and work just getting in the way, but that's simply not the case.  Up until a couple of days ago, I expected to be in California for "real work."  But that's not what's causing me to miss the regatta.  The issue is that I failed to plan for the contingency that my "real work" would be pushed off (more than a mere possibility in my line of work) and thus failed to plan for the race.  This included failing to give potential alternate co-skippers (Sam is out of the country) more than a moment's notice to decide if they wanted to come aboard as guest co-skipper for the race.

As they say, prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance.  But prior proper planning sometimes prevents you from even having the opportunity to perform, as is the case here.  Yes, I could probably get to the start line.  But I'm loath to rush.  And it wouldn't be safe.  So we learn from our mistakes, and move forward. It's all we can do if we want to get shit done, and be happy.  Yes, I quoted Kanye West.

I am happy to report, however, that Josh Owen, skipper of Frogger (USA 702), a Manuard-designed Tip Top Mini, will be representing the Minis in this regatta.  Frogger has a chance to do well considering the forecasted conditions, which call for relatively light breeze, but predominantly reaching conditions. I've personally slicked along at 6.7 knots of boat speed in about 7 knots of breeze at 100 degrees TWA with a reaching kite up, and I know Josh can do the same.  He also has the benefit of a Code Zero, which is a key weapon for cracked off, light air sailing.  We wish Josh well, and will be tracking Frogger along with the rest of the fleet at the Kattack Live site.  

As I mentioned to my wife (who was encouraging me to try to do this regatta, even last minute), the ocean doesn't close.  Being able to do something like the Bermuda 1-2 is about time on the water and miles, not how many races you enter.  Take VOR teams Alvimedica and Abu Dhabi as an example; while Team Brunel and Team SCA recently sailed in the Marina Rubicon Round Canary Islands Race, Alvimedica and Abu Dhabi squared up for an unofficial race across the Atlantic, clocking up another 3,000 miles of training and added experience.

We're focused on miles, and are planning to crush some (phrase stolen from Josh Owen...not sure if I like it) in the next couple months--although nothing in terms of VOR miles.  Let's be real.  First on our list is what we hope will be a 300-mile training exercise that will combine legs from ALIR, Vineyard Race, Around Block, and the Offshore 160 in what hopefully will be a hell of a long-weekend training session.  Although we won't cross an ocean, we'll sail through three sounds and a small chuck of ocean, and will finish in New York Harbor.  See below.  

Abilyn Racing proposed 300-mile offshore training exercise

Maybe ol' Fortenbaugh will let us tie up on the cheap at North Cove upon our return.  After all, I was a decent fleet captain at Manhattan Sailing Club back in the day.  

As we build toward this offshore exercise, we'll be out on the water, continuing to practice and hone our skills.  Hope to see you out there (if you're not already sailing in ALIR).

59th Larchmont YC Edlu - Race Preview

It's less than 12 hours before the start of the 59th Annual Edlu Regatta.  Abilyn is one of 16 boats in the PHRF double-handed class, and one of three Minis.  

Earlier this week, Abilyn sat in the yard about 70 miles to the northeast at Brewers Pilots Points Marina in Westbrook, CT.  Our plan was to deliver her in the easterly which was forecasted (and actually did) materialize Thursday night.  Getting anxious, Sam and I hopped on Amtrak for a night mission Tuesday night to catch a northwesterly, which would allow us to reach home down the sound at an average clip of about 7.5 knots.  That night turned into a comedy of fails.  Our jib hadn't made it up to the boat with the rest of our sails the week before, which caused us to make a pit stop in City Island, NY.  We managed to catch the last Amtrak of the night in New Rochelle, NY.  But, when we got off the train in Old Saybrook, CT, we were greeted by no cabs, and worse, no breeze.  Oh, and it was about 38 degrees F.  Then, when we left Pilots Point marina, our keel was greeted by some mud.  And down the Sound, our runner just happened to fall out of the mast; it literally just fell out.  Hearing the crash made me lose a bit of sleep on the off-watch.  And the 10-15 knot northwesterly that was forecasted to materialize never did, which left us motoring most of the time at a brisk 4 knots.  We're typically not known as a 4ksb.  

Yeah, that's not scary...We are sailing, right?

One of the few perks of a night mission delivery.


Despite these frustrations, Sam and I had a pleasant delivery.  We got the Code 5 up for a little bit and managed to make 6.7 knots SOG in about 7 knots of breeze at a TWA of about 100 degrees.  Sam was bundled up in his balaclava (right, top).  We witnessed a brilliant sunrise (right, middle).  And after dropping Sam off in Greenwich Harbor, I was more than happy to arrive in Larchmont Harbor (right, bottom).

Not too soon after we got back, we attended to our to-do list to prepare for the Edlu.  Remove excess weight.  Re-install the runner.  McLube the blocks and cars.  Tune the rig.  Come up with a navigation strategy.  

According to the models (which fellow Mini sailor Josh Owen believes should never be trusted), the breeze tomorrow will be out of the southwest at between 7 and 15 knots.  We will be running out to Eatons Neck in favorable current, and then we'll be beating back to the finish line.  Our goal on way out will be to maintain VMG.  TWA to the mark is about 169 degrees, which will be too deep in the forecasted breeze.  So we'll need to make sure our gybes are impeccable.  Our goal on the way back is to limit our tacks.  Not only is our tacking angle far inferior to many of the other boats in the class, but our speed coming out of tacks is also inferior.  Luckily, the other two Minis in our class have the same problems.  That said, one has the ability to cant his 7-foot keel, which is why he gets a PHRF rating of 87 compared to our 111.

At the end of the day, we're not out there to win our class.  This is nearly impossible as a very well-sailed J/92, Thin Man, also has a 111 rating.  We're out there to get around the course as fast as we can, execute our maneuvers cleanly, stay safe, not blow up any kites, have fun, and beat the other two Minis!   

We'll let you know how it goes.