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RACE UPDATE: 2024 Bermuda Race

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Sunday Evening Update

By Scott Perry

Most everyone is through the stream and many are surprised how much sailing remains. The fleet leaders are approaching Bermuda with "Pyewacket" looking to finish in the next two hours.  However most of the fleet has between 150 and 250 miles to go.

Thus far the race has been a rhumb line drag race, with little reason to deviate far from rhumb line thus far. The fleet is quite bunched laterally with the likelihood of seeing other boats higher than normal.

So for these last 200+/- miles for most of the fleet, there are two principal reasons that courses will diverge from a rhumb line drag race; (1) in anticipation of or when one actually encounters adverse current from one of the rings,...and (2) the last 200 miles the wind velocities will decline in general and the wind will be backing into the south and perhaps eventually east of south.

There are two cold water rings which may affect some of the boats, where if you encounter the west side of the ring, you may see 1-2knots of adverse current.  These features are hard to detect, and only would be known if the navigator is watching carefully the differences between SOG and boat speed.  While in the Gulf stream, you could have seen 2-4Knots of favorable push and because of the water temperature, and the weather making which occurs in the stream, it would be hard not to know when you are in the stream. With these cold water rings, knowledge of their presence is not obvious at all, other than some cooler water in core, and the currents mentioned.

We should expect during Sunday night and into Monday that some boats will "foot to the header" and achieve some easting, hoping to gain on the boats on their weather hip as the wind heads the fleet, and later, maybe much later, tack to port to consolidate their gains or set up the approach to the island.

As the wind velocities decline, boat speeds will as well, which means that adverse currents have a more material impact, especially for the smaller boats.   If a boat is rolling along at 9-11knots down the rhumb line, and encounters some adverse current the cost in time of tacking or reaching off to avoid or minimize the impact of the current might not be worth it.  However if you are a boat that is only seeing 6-7 knots of speed and you are anticipating further moderation of wind speed and boat speed, then a 1-2 knot adverse current becomes more material and you may need to/choose to plan your escape from the potential for adverse currents accordingly.

Of course, nothing beats really attentive steering and trimming, particularly at night, when performance of most boats declines.  The helmsman not being able to see waves, or wind puffs, puts a premium on feel and concentration, and experience in offshore, with ocean sea states, steering.   Most/many boats will have limited experience helmsmen/women in these conditions, so planning for how you get through the night with the best/most experienced helms persons is very important.

So far the spinnakers have only been used to support naps and the off watch.  It is likely to continue for this race.  However jibs and headsails are getting full attention and exercise and with diminished wind velocities, we are likely to see light air headsails as we near Bermuda, similar to what was probably used on Friday evening during the period of light air beating.

By tomorrow morning the big guys will have finished, but most of the fleet will still face the challenges of a 150 Mile plus weather leg in shifting and diminishing winds to get to Bermuda.  Should be interesting....



McMichael Yacht Yards & Brokers is a supporting sponsor of the 2024 Newport Bermuda Race.

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