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Thread: 2018 Newport Bermuda

  1. #1
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    2018 Newport Bermuda

    Chris Museler has hitched a ride on Merlin fo th Newport Bermuda
    HERE is his report.

    Merlin’s Path: Downwind Flyer Needs Upwind Boost

    Preparing for the Newport Bermuda Race means planning the appropriate sail inventory. Crewmember and onboard reporter Chris Museler reports.

    Bill Lee’s groundbreaking 70 footer Merlin was designed to surf. In 1977, from Los Angeles to Diamond Head, Hawaii, that’s what she did, setting a Transpac Race record that held for more than 20 years.

    I am privileged to be a crewmember on Merlin for my fifth Newport Bermuda Race. But there’s a problem: the stretch of water between the City by the Sea and that island in the Atlantic in June historically produces reaching and upwind points of sail.

    Hmm. I will be reporting on my personal preparation for the race as well as the team’s as I learn the boat and meet my new shipmates. But first I wanted to learn how this downwind flyer that defined a breed of modern Ultra Light Displacement Boats is being optimized for conditions it was never designed to tackle.

    Smaller, flatter jibs are new for Merlin, with only one jib bigger than this 95-percent all purpose headsail.

    “Before, the sail inventory approach was, ‘Let’s design some really rockin’ spinnakers, and let’s put a jib on there, too,’” says Brian Malone, the boat’s program manager and sailmaker. “Now we have to go upwind. So we’ve been creating a new suite of jibs and putting more attention to not tipping the boat over.”

    And tip over is exactly what the 12-foot wide Merlin does when reaching and going up wind. That tippiness combined with her light weight makes pounding upwind more challenging than the average boat as she is nearly stopped in her tracks at times, with little momentum.

    Malone’s challenge along with the top designers at North Sails, was to create headsails that still drive Merlin through the waves, but that don’t overpower her to the point where she’s on her ear and sliding sideways. The solution, Malone says, is smaller, flatter headsails.

    “Merlin has low form stability,” says Malone, who owns the North loft in St. Petersburg, Fla. “We want to make sure the boat is fully up to speed before she heels past her optimum heel angle, then we want to be able to down shift.”

    If Merlin is not fully up to speed as she heels in puffs, she will just tip over with “too much torque and not enough horsepower.” Malone says the balance here is between boatspeed, righting moment and angle of heel. “Once the boat hits its upwind target speeds, we have to reduce headsail area pretty quickly.”

    Kat Malone (left) and James Clappier put battens into the leech of one of Merlin’s three new jibs for upwind and close reaching.

    Where once there were several large headsails, now the boat has only one genoa and three jibs, the largest of which barely overlaps the 85-foot masthead rig. At around 16 knots apparent wind speed (8 knots true), Merlin is wearing small jibs upwind.

    Last April’s St. Petersburg to Isla Mujeres Race was a good proving ground for Merlin’s new upwind sail program as she hung in there with a Tripp 75 upwind. Thousands of miles testing while delivering the boat this winter have also shown good results.

    Merlin still carries some big downwind sails—asymmetrical spinnakers on a pole—for her sweet spot of apparent wind sailing downhill at 20 knots in a breeze. A Code Zero is flown from the stem, since the forestay is set back five feet. And a stubby bow sprit handles an A3 spinnaker for heavy running.

    Merlin is still 40 years old and it is taking some work to keep her competitive, at least as far as handicap racing is concerned. “Since the ‘70s, she’s been out-designed, out-material-ed, and she’s not a real Grand Prix contender,” says Malone. “Now it makes you think more about rating. It’s against the ethos of the boat. Bill Lee always said, ‘Fast is fun.’ We’re not going to abandon that, but we do have to think about the rating.”
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    Merlin’s Path: Sliding Fast in the Evening
    Onboard report several hours into what has been a light-air Newport Bermuda Race so far. Pics and verbs by Chris Museler

    “It’s nice being famous.”

    Crewmate Chris Watt’s comment this afternoon pretty much sums up Merlin’s first start in a major East Coast ocean race. After the helicopter flew away, and we settled into a closed hauled course, sliding along at 10 knots in 7.5 knots of breeze, Watts exhaled. This is his first Bermuda Race. Watts sailed Merlin, on the 40th anniversary of her epic, record-setting win, to Hawaii in the 2017 Transpac Race along with Keahe Ho, a Hawaiian, also on Merlin this week.

    People on spectator boats and other competitors were cheering for Merlin as we dropped into a prerace cadence near the starting line. Even the announcers at Castle Hill were sharing the history of this West Coast sled.

    We quickly jumped into the lead in our class until a sail change in dying breezes set us behind our nearest rival, Kodiak. Then we overhauled her again as we continued at seven to eight knots in glassy seas.

    We passed the GunBoat catamarans and even shared the overall lead (from our rosy vantage point) with line honors favorite Rambler 88!

    Merlin is a skinny canoe, 12 feet wide, and she sails on rails, if you can get her heeled over. “Here she goes,” said the small, red-headed Watts, as we trimmed tight an A1 asymmetrical kite and our speed jumped more than a knot to 8.8 knots in 5 knots of wind. He said it with an “I told you so” attitude. It is hard to believe the numbers as the boat makes little sound slicing through today’s calm seas.

    Merlin is starting to prove to more than just us that she is a better than average boat in this fleet. Maybe she’s not just a Pacific flyer after all.

    Merlin highlighted in light blue, above Spookie, Sits in 18th for line honors and 8th in SDL 10

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    Rambler 88' Under 50 nm To Finish


    June 17, 2018
    Race Bulletin #17 – Five Boats Ahead of a Tightly Packed Fleet
    The Saturday evening update from the Newport Bermuda Race media team.

    After a day of relatively light winds in the 51st Newport Bermuda Race, the competitors had made moderate progress down the 635-mile course toward the finish line at St. David’s Lighthouse on the northeast corner of Bermuda. Led by Rambler 88, George David’s 88-foot Juan K design, five boats crossed the Gulf Stream and opened up a significant gap on the rest of the 169-boat fleet, many of whom were sailing in lighter winds.

    Early in the day, David Askew’s Wizard, a Volvo 70-footer, may have found better winds and a good wind shift on the west side of the rhumb line, as it passed Rambler at one point, before being overhauled again by the larger boat. Also in this group were two other big boats in the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division—Steve Murray, Jr. and Stephen Murray Sr.’s Warrior, George Sakellaris’ Proteus—as well as Elvis, Jason Carroll’s Gunboat 62, which had built a strong lead on the other two boats in the Multihull Division.

    There are a total of seven divisional trophies, and each division has its own race and intrigue. With light winds forecast as most boats cross the Gulf Stream tonight and plot their approach to Bermuda, sailors will focus on nursing best speed from their boats while eying their competitors and hoping they are well positioned for the winds that develop in the next few days.

    “It is rare to see your competitors on ocean races after the start, but this race has been very different,” wrote Mark D’Arcy from aboard Inisharon, James Murphy’s F&C 44, racing in the Finisterre Division. “Many folks are targeting the same Gulf Stream crossing point and because most are along the rhumbline, we have seen a lot more boats this race.”

    For much of the day, the race boats made faster progress towards Bermuda than the Media Team, which was delayed at Boston’s Logan Airport while its Delta A319 waited for a replacement engine part. However, we received a number of reports from boats via tweet, email, and satellite tracker (see article below) and kept up a steady flow of activity on Facebook, Twitter, and Our social media commentator, Nic Douglass – Adventures of a Sailor Girl recorded most of her wrap-up of the day for Facebook while at the airport and then aired it in the evening after landing in Bermuda.

    – John Burnham


    Merlin’s Path: Spinnaker Repair with the Usual Vlad
    The euphoria of pacing with the Grand Prix fleet floated away as the wind backed north overnight and we tore our A2 kite from leech to leech. By Chris Museler.

    In the morning, the AIS and daylight showed us behind the slower Kodiak in our class. It happens, but it’s a bummer.

    The Kodiak team was one of many to withdraw from the last race when a dangerous depression was forecast. I know they are hungrier than the average bear. I have a feeling that Llwyd Ecclestone’s pesky 66-footer with some of the best sailors in the Northeast is going to be our benchmark for the race. One we desperately want to pass

    Our light canoe, though, is still kicked over and chasing breeze with bigger spinnakers.

    Our crew is mostly amateurs, still new to Merlin. But those awesome bonds with chill, opened-minded crew that fuse in an ocean race and in sailing are clear as our watches roll by.

    Kat Malone, a watch foredeck boss and wife of captain Brian Malone, spent three hours this morning repairing a rip the length of a Lightning one-design dinghy.

    Kat grew up in Kansas with horses. When she moved to Tampa, Florida, “it was too expensive to take the horses,” and she found sailing at Davis Island Yacht Club.

    Vlad “Kuli” Kulinichenko calmly coached Kat through the arduous repair. Kat would hold either end of the tear as Kuli would patiently explain how to counter the bias of the cloth, a master class in onboard sail repair.

    Kuli was one of the “Usual Vlads,” famous in magazines, books and videos as the Russian team in the 1989-’90 Whitbread around the world race aboard the extraordinary maxi Fasizi. He’s literally sailed everywhere you can sail as a pro sailor. He just knows the tricks: how to open a genoa slot with a lazy spinnaker sheet pulling straight back; or how to factor in four different data inputs from the red-lit screens while riding apparent wind in drifting conditions. He’s a calm teacher and uses few words in his heavy Russian accent to get the point across, every time.

    “Even if you know you’re right, you can’t push an idea too hard; otherwise you lose them,” said Kuli, referring to the times he must influence a new team even when some “think” they know the right answer.

    Kat and Kuli are a fine team. After they met at Davis Island, she picked things up quickly and Kuli proposed her for membership. Not long ago she became the first female commodore of the club.

    The sail was repaired just in time to be used in the dying breeze. The leaders are now out of sight, and we just passed Dream Crusher, a smaller, much more modern boat in the Gibbs Hill Division. We know our time may come again, like last night alongside Rambler 88.

    There’s always a hope for something better in the Bermuda Race or any ocean race. Onboard Merlin, the team is enjoying the process and each other. We’re still sliding along at 9 knots. A bit better than most in the fleet, I hope.

    More News from the Boats – Sunday
    Bloggers report from Shearwater (Mason 43), Dreamcatcher, and Inisharon.

    Shearwater Reports

    June 17 – 1115

    Good morning everyone and Happy Fathers Day – the fathers on board sure miss their kids about now (I hope this suck-up results in a couple beers when we get home). Weather this morning is delightful though the wind, as predicted, is pretty light. We entered the Gulf Stream around 1 am last night and, at least for Shearwater, the GS was well behaved. We faced some strong foul current as well as a push eastward – pretty mush as we anticipated. Seas were pretty light and we made very good progress under spinnaker and staysail. Right now, we’re south and heading to an eddy which, we hope, will give us some positive current.

    So, the GULF STREAM – for those of you unfamiliar – is an ocean current running from the south atlantic, along the US eastern seaboard, angling (in a much weaker state) to England allowing some parts of the UK to grow palm trees. It’s northerly flow is a hindrance to the Newport-Bermuda racers as the foul current can run 2+ kts. So, much effort is spent to understand the stream and how to route through it. The Gulf Stream spins off eddies that rotate, provided a boat can find those eddies and travel along the southerly heading current, boat speed is increased – you screw up and hit the wrong side, boat speed is reduced – for a sailboat that travels less than 10 kts, picking right helps a great deal – thus the intensity of study.

    So this years crossing for us was pretty uneventful and the guys watching over my shoulder want me to “embellish” somewhat so I’ll write about a horror story. Rich and Dennis remember the 2005 Marion-Bermuda where the stream and high winds opposed resulting in heavy/choppy seas with short periods. Driving at night, unable to see the on-coming waves resulted in a very wild ride with seas frequently breaking over the stern. Shearwater made several equipment contributions to the Sea Gods that trip.

    You got me – from my extensive experience crossing (2xs), it could be a bunch of bunk.

    On to maintenance: In my experience, if there is something that can go wrong on a boat it will (though even the full proof things also break). There’s truth in the adage that a boat is a hole where you pour your money in… Shearwater‘s challenges this race (so far) are:

    No generator – the boat’s generator is being serviced and could not be installed prior to the race. We had to add weight to offset this and now charge the batteries using the main engine. Not a big deal though we have regularly scheduled running times so we don’t suddenly find out we’re out of juice and unable to listen to Billy Joel… on the other hand, we now have a fitness center to complement our hot tub and red/white wine cellars.

    Engine throttle link – the link connecting the binnacle mounted throttle to the engine broke yesterday – through the brilliant minds of the crew we’re able to make a temporary fix using hose clamps, electric wire and a whole bunch of swearing. I’ll post a photo (not of the swearing) when we’re in Twitter range.

    Hot water – we have a clogged line or filter that we haven’t cleared yet so showers are cold and fast with lots of high pitch yelping. We’ll tackle that when we have a chance.

    That’s it for now – Chef Dan is making eggs over baked beans (Gretchen’s recipe) – I’m getting hungry and am scheduled to drive shortly.

    Hopefully, I’ll be able to submit another post later today.

    Again, Happy Fathers Day from the mid-Atlantic!

    – Jeff Ryer

    Reports via Twitter:

    @J44VAMP – “Smooth passage out of the Gulf Stream into the Sargasso Sea. J44 Vamp suffered a broken toilet seat which is now free sliding across the toilet.”

    @MorganOfMariettaBDA2018 – “We have been in the gulfstream for several hours. Wind is light and currents are strong.

    @Redgirl714 (Deanna Polizzo) – Great first 24 hours for Wischbone. 145 nm On course and headed for the Gulf Stream! Wischbone has two first time Bermuda Racers aboard. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

    Dreamcatcher Reports

    June 17 – 0700

    Happy Fathers Day!

    An uneventful Gulf Stream crossing with breeze was a relief as we gear up for our date with the high-pressure ridge forming in front of us. There’ll be plenty of sun today as we work our way south in lighter going. The good teamwork between the spinnaker trimmer and the helm makes all the difference.

    Various sentiments voiced regarding Fathers Day: “Dad’s going to find multiple cards…”, “I am so screwed that I forgot…”, and from one senior coach to the other “Happy Fathers Day…”.

    There was active discussion last night about the most memorable dinner so far. It was a toss-up between the meat loaf and the pasta with meatballs and sausage.

    -John Winder

    nisharon Reports

    June 17 – 1150

    Today is the day for a lot to celebrate about. Happy Father’s today to all you Dads out there. Wish I could have mine and my children onboard this time around, but is difficult to persuade teenagers that sailing long distances over the ocean, being in cramped quarters with others, whose movements you know everything about, including whether they used an extra dose of deodorant or not. Alas are the joys of offshore racing.

    Last night we crossed the Gulf Stream. Was one of the best nights of sailing we had. The stars were lit up like a holiday tree, with numerous falling stars, shimmering satellites and very pleasant warm breeze. We were flying the spinnaker the entire way and also had our mizzen staysail flying. Tricky to keep both flying while crabing across the gulf stream, but keeping both pulling is the necessary trick.

    The high pressure is upon us. So for sun bathers, you would have died and gone to heaven, a perfect sunny day. Unfortunately, the winds are light and expected to remain light for the entire day. This makes for some frustrating sailing to keep her moving and sails pulling. Inisharon is a heavy boat, so if she looses momentum, it takes a very long time to get her back up and running.

    Bit of vanilla yogurt, blueberries and granola to start the beautiful morning. We all enjoyed delicious guava juice and mimosas this morning… Just kidding, no mimosas unfortunately.

    During the day we go to a 6 hour watch, so currently on for a while, while the other watch is getting much earned rest. We share the driving, as it is hard to maintain focus beyound an hour behind the wheel.

    Water temperature is 78 degrees, and has changed color too. Its much more blue, so you know you are in the Stream without looking at a map. Old school as they say.

    Boat is performing well as is the crew. Things will get a bit more ripe, as the temperatures remain warm both air and water. We can see a number of our fellow racers around us which also helps to keep focus and motivation.

    We have gybed back towards rhumb line, a bit earlier than I wanted but did not want to wait for the wind to lighten further before we did. It is predicted to veer so hopefully that will bring us closer to where we want to go on our port tack. While a bit earlier than I liked, seems a number of boats took our queue, and did the same. Some of whom are in our class, so like were covering us, which is smart.

    Speaking of competition, we receive position reports and leaderboard reports. I was proud to say we were first in our class this morning, which is very exciting. A lot of miles to sail, a lot of decisions to be made, so things will likely change quite a bit many times before we get to Bermuda.

    Time to slather some sunscreen on and go the promenade deck to see if they are serving cocktails yet.

    Again, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there.


    Inisharon out.

    – Mark D’Arcy
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  5. #5
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    Rambling On Im Newport Bermuda

    Rambler 88 Takes Line Honors in Newport Bermuda Race

    Leaving most of the fleet far behind in light winds, George David’s Rambler 88 crossed the finish line off St. David’s Lighthouse at 5:51:51 Eastern daylight time on Sunday evening. Earning line honors among the 169 boats racing in the 51st Newport Bermuda Race, the big gray boat’s elapsed time over the 635-mile course was 50 hours, 31 minutes, 51 seconds.

    The custom 88-foot Juan K design ran into some slow patches with light winds early in the race, but after sailing through the Gulf Stream on Saturday, maintained double-digit speeds the rest of the way and left the next-placed boats several hours behind. The winds weren’t strong during the race, but the seas were relatively smooth. “This race is typically a mid-sized boat race,” said David, “and rarely a big-boat race. But this time it was. It was almost like the ocean reached out and grabbed the smaller boats, one by one.

    “It was a pretty benign race,” said tactician Brad Butterworth, while he and the rest of the crew enjoyed a traditional Goslings Rum Dark ‘N’ Stormy after landing at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club dock. “There was no water on the deck—at least not back where we were,” he added. “Stan Honey gave us the right direction to head,” he added, “and we pushed it hard.”

    As of 11pm, the close competition between the two Volvo Ocean Race 70s, Warrior and Wizard, placed the former, owned by Steve Murray, Jr., and Stephen Murray, Sr., nearly five miles ahead of the latter, owned by Peter and David Askew, with only about 20 to go. George Sakellaris’ Proteus lay in fourth with 50 miles to cover, and in fifth was the first boat in the Multihull Division, Jason Carroll’s Elvis.

    Meantime, most of the rest of the fleet was sailing in very light winds in the middle of a high-pressure area. Only Steve Benjamin’s Spookie appeared to have sailed into better winds and was making 11 knots, nearly 30 miles in front of the next boat, Privateer.
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