I am writing this from dry land for a change and it is a lot easier to type when the keyboard is not heeled at 30 degrees! I flew back home from Bermuda to see my family and catch up on work for a few days before flying back for the second leg of the Bermuda 1/2 race. Now that nearly all the boats are in, I thought I would offer a little commentary on the first leg and some thoughts regarding the return leg.
The first leg from Newport to Bermuda really split the fleet. The larger and faster boats made it to Bermuda on one weather system while the smaller boats got stuck in very light winds and had a much longer passage. For Gryphon Solo, after a Friday, June 3rd start, we crossed the finish line off St. David's Light in Bermuda on Monday morning after 70 hours, with an average speed of about nine knots. By contrast, a number of the smaller boats were still finishing on Thursday and Friday, meaning they were at sea for more than double the time I was. Sometimes having a fast boat really pays off! Gryphon Solo placed second in class and second in the fleet for a very strong showing.
In each race, sailors encounter difficulties involving equipment and injuries and this race was no exception. Here is the wounded report:
Gore Tex - Skipper fell into a winch, breaking a number of front teeth
Dirigo - broken boom, retired from race
Alegria - electrical fire just before the start caused skipper to withdraw
Nimros - A water tank burst and flooded the boat. A Coast Guard rescue helicopter was dispatched as the skipper thought he was sinking, but the problem was discovered and the boat continued on.
Strummer - A jammed rudder caused steering problems but the problem was fixed
Passages - This is the only boat remaining at sea. There has been no direct communication with the skipper in four days and the "iboat" tracking device aboard shows the boat is moving in a northeasterly direction (towards New England) at one to two knots. The Coast Guard is being consulted for a possible rescue.
As you can see, sailing offshore is a risky business and every skipper has to take sole responsibility for his safety.
For the return leg from Bermuda to Newport, right now the concern looks more like light winds than storms, but it is still four days to the start and weather patterns can change quickly. The challenge for Gryphon Solo will be to beat our rival Open 50, Artforms, by a margin of more than the 3.5 hours they beat us in Leg 1 in order to win the race overall. Artforms skipper, Kip Stone, will be joined by the boat's designer, naval architect Merf Owen, who is probably the world's leading designer of these kind of boats, making a formidable team. Merf also designed Gryphon Solo's new daggerboards and keel hydraulics so he has been working both sides of the aisle! I will be joined by Gryphon Solo Project Manager Brian Harris, who has sailed many ocean miles on Open 60's and 50's with the Gartmore and Pindar programs in past 5-Oceans Around-The-World races. It should be a great match-up and we are looking for more of the heavy air, off-the-wind conditions I experienced in the first leg, to let Gryphon Solo do her thing.
Stay tuned for a final pre-race bulletin on Thursday June 16th and more daily commentary while we are offshore.
Best to all,