Lumpy, Bumpy and Fast

With a wild low-pressure system bearing down from the west, the Marion Bermuda Race fleet is impatient to start.

After tonight’s skippers meeting, the Marion Bermuda crew tent was chattering with ultimatums.
“If we don’t make past the Gulf Stream by the time this low moves in, we’re toast,” said one Navy Midshipman.
“The big boats should clear out, but the little boats I’m not so sure,” said another sailor.

At the mercy of the Stream and the low, boats in Sippican Harbor await tomorrow’s start with both excitement and trepidation. They’re eyeing a low-pressure system that is barreling in from the west, it seems to be tracking between latitude 42 degrees north and latitude 38 degrees north, passing over the racecourse late Sunday. The goal is to get past 36 degrees south by Sunday night to stay out of the path of these remnants of tropical depression Bill. That means clocking in 120 miles a day.

s/v Etoile will likely be able to meet these demands, ideally while also entering the Gulf Stream at about 38N 069W in order to meet the most advantageous current. The fleet’s navigators, including our own Garret Whol, have been pouring over Gulf Stream velocity charts and gradient level charts. The celestial navigators, of which there are 15, are concerned about cloud cover over the next few days, which will make fixes difficult. This is my first race using a GPS–I certainly empathize with the complications of attempting c-nav. with no visibility. “We’ll see what happens, if all else fails we just sail 165 and see where we end up,” said one celestial navigator.


Ideal plans have been made. Bags are stowed. Freezer meals await. The first signal is at 12:30 EDT tomorrow.

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