A Brief Glimpse Into The Gulf Stream

Anybody going to Bermuda?

One of the aspects of distance sailing that truly interests me is navigation.  And although Abilyn will not be sailing to Bermuda in 2015, I'm still very much drawn to how the ever-changing Gulf Stream current is shaping up for this year's Bermuda 1-2 competitors, and how it will impact the course to Bermuda.  For the uninitiated, Frank Bohlen of the University of Connecticut provides a great primer on the Gulf Stream here.  It's definitely worth a read.  

Frank, and anybody else with experience navigating to Bermuda, will advise that the prudent navigator studies the Stream's evolution months in advance to develop the most optimal strategy for crossing the thermal boundary.  To that end, I created the video below, which compiles NOAA images of near-realtime satellite altimetry derived surface currents based on the OCCAM XBT model for the period of February 2, 2015, through April 11, 2015--spaced out in 4-day increments.  In my view, the altimetry data provided by NOAA is one of friendlier ways to observe the changes in the Gulf Stream.

You can clearly see in the video the development and movement of various eddies in and around the main stream feature.  Some of the more interesting features, at least to me, include the large meander shown in the February 18 image located west of the rhumb line, which appears to bring the Stream nearly back on itself for about 200 miles (to the SW); and the eddy-ridden region west of the rhumb line in the March 26 image, which appears to show no semblance of a major stream feature.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing how the Stream develops in the 53 days between now and the start of the Bermuda 1-2.  For comparison, here's how the Stream looked around June 19, 2014, for the start of the Newport-Bermuda Race versus how the stream looked around April 11, 2015.

Bermuda 1-2 Update: Abilyn a No-Go (This Year)

After much internal debate, and discussion with my wife, co-skipper, and friends, I've decided not to pursue the Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race this year, despite qualifying this past September with a 205-mile, 29-hour solo offshore voyage to the edge of the Continental Shelf and back.  Although I am certainly apprehensive about taking a 21-foot pocket rocket across the Gulf Stream, I am not deterred as I'm confident enough in my sailing, safety and survival skills such that the reward of undertaking the adventure greatly outweighs the risks based my assessment.  Some will certainly say (and have said) that my calculator must be broken--e.g., my mother.  Nope.  It rivals the TI-86 and is working just fine.  But fear is not why I'll be watching the triangles of the Yellowbrick tracker this go-around rather than being one of those triangles.  Neither is my autopilot, although I've previously written about my efforts to exorcise the demons from my tiller ram and course computer.  I'll be sitting this one out for the same reason why many of us aren't able to get out on the water as much as we'd like...work. 

In two weeks time, I'll be transitioning companies, and my instinct is telling me to set the adventure aside for a brief period of time to focus on solidifying myself in my new role and building the same level of trust and goodwill that I have built over past 5+ years at my current company--elements that will be essential when I inevitably say--"Hey, so I'm going to take off the month of June to sail my 21-foot sled to Bermuda and back."  Indeed, taking into account planning, sailing both legs, and the fundamental dedication of your cognitive faculties to engage in the pursuit both safely and effectively, the time requirement for the race is about four straight weeks.  Unfortunately, this is far more than I can dedicate right now (even if I fly back to NYC between the first and second legs).  It's just not the right time.

That said, Abilyn will still sail this season and will get some more miles under her hull.  We are hoping to pursue a schedule that includes some weekends of offshore training, local day races, and the following local longer distance races:

  • Storm Trysail Club Around Block Island Race
  • Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race Week
  • New England Solo/Twin
  • Seacliff YC Around Long Island Regatta
  • Ida Lewis Distance Race
  • Stamford YC Vineyard Race

Plus, I'll be participating in Larchmont Junior Race Week in July to give a presentation on the Mini Transat 6.50 boat and some of my experience, and hopefully give some of the juniors a pretty cool ride.

I'm of course saddened that Abilyn will not be participating in this year's Bermuda 1-2, especially given that four other Mini 6.50s are committed to the race:  CAN 175 (Pogo Logo), USA 806 (ex-Open Sailing), USA 702 (Frogger), and USA 837 (Wichard Ocean Racing).  Although it's a long shot, we're going to try to gain entry to the 2016 Newport-Bermuda Race.  If that doesn't work, we'll fly the Jolly Roger and sail the course anyways. And then, banking on the prospect that the 2017 America's Cup doesn't actually happen on account of other competitors taking Luna Rossa Challenge's lead, we'll plan on the 2017 B1-2.

See you out on the water soon enough.  It feels like Spring.