I am writing to provide the wrap-up of the Bermuda 1/2 second leg along with some thoughts on the race overall and upcoming events. As my previous reports indicated, this was a very strange race for us as we were either traveling at very high speeds or we were going nowhere at all. After the start @1100 hours on Thursday June 16th, we completed the first 330 miles of the 630-mile race to the middle of the Gulf Stream in about 24 hours, over a 13-knot average.
After getting becalmed mid- day Friday and floating eastward in the current, we finally got out of the Gulf Stream on Friday night. However, we ended up becalmed again in the middle of a warm eddy for all day Saturday and into Sunday morning. We progressed less than 80 miles during this 42-hour period for a 1.9-knot average for this segment of the race.
We finally picked up a strong North East breeze Sunday morning that drove us the last 220 miles to the finish line in about 18 hours, for a 12-knot average for the finishing segment. So, 13 knots for 24 hours, 1.9 knots for 42 hours, then 12 knots for 18 hours... pretty bizarre.
My take-aways from the race are as follows:
1. I had surgery on my right knee only 2.5 months prior to the start of the race that normally requires 9 to 12 months for full recovery, sometimes longer. I was unsure of how fully my knee had recovered. With the help of a good knee brace, I was able to get around and managed not to re-injure the knee, which was my big concern after a lot of rehab!
2. I have to remind myself that before the race we had only sailed for two days due to delays in installing our new daggerboards and keel hydraulics, so some mechanical problems were expected. We only experienced a few gear-related problems, and none were major, so that was very positive.
3. Sometimes in an ocean sailing race the wind deserts you, and there is really not much you can do about it. I learned this lesson well in last summer's Transat race, when I was becalmed three times for varying lengths of time. In that race, I really became upset while going nowhere and wasted a lot of energy on second-guessing and angst. In this race, I used the down time more productively and was able to keep my head screwed on straight, which was much more productive. Progress.
4. Artforms is a first-generation, fast boat and Kip Stone is sailing the boat very skillfully. Kip has taken a very thoughtful approach to preparing his boat and himself, utilizing top sailors as coaches and dedicating significant time on the water to improving the boats overall performance. My boat is seven years old and has been around the world twice. Due to work and family commitments, I have not been able to spend as much time on the water and feel that I have plenty of room for improvement in my own performance. Nailing down a Title Sponsor would help the time/money matters immeasurably! However, the good news is that the initial 300-mile drag race from Bermuda to the Gulf Stream showed the two boats had very comparable speed in these conditions, which confirms Gryphon Solo's competitiveness.
5. Kip was joined on the return leg by Merf Owen, the boat's designer and a leading thinker on Open Class boats. Calling Merf a "ringer" for this race would not be inaccurate. I still don't know how Artforms escaped the Gulf Stream when the wind shut down, as they were not very far away from us. Kip attributed this Houdini-like escape to Merf. I will be sailing my boat from Newport to Marblehead in about a week in preparation for the start of the Marblehead to Halifax Race on July 10th, and Merf will be joining me. I hope that if I ply him with a little Cabernet, I may to get the full story at that time.
Overall, I think this race was a good start to the 2005-racing season and I am coming out of it with very positive vibes. Although the final results are not in, my math indicates the aggregated times for both legs of the race will show Gryphon Solo in 2nd place in Class 5, and in 4th place in the overall fleet of 31 boats. Not so bad, given the trauma of Leg 2.
As this was my third time participating in the Bermuda 1/2, it was great to renew some old friendships and make some new ones. The race also reminded me of sailing with my father, Woody Harris, who did the return leg with me in 1997, and passed away last August. His birthday was June 18th, so I held my own personal memorial service for him while at sea on the return leg. He will always be in my thoughts and in my heart when I am offshore.
My ultimate campaign goal remains victory in the 5-Oceans Race in 2006-2007. Each of these races is an opportunity to learn and improve before the biggest test. We will have another opportunity to rev up the big red boat on the Halifax race starting July 10th, which is only 19 days away. The boat will be in Marblehead for the week prior to the race and hopefully we can arrange a time to get into the dock at the Boston Yacht Club for people to come aboard- more on that to follow. I can't wait to get back out there.