It is about 0630 Eastern Standard time here aboard Gryphon Solo, as we are about 14 hours and 150 miles into the 100th running of the Newport-Bermuda race. The sailing has been just beautiful so far with a south west breeze blowing about 12 to 15 knots and tight reaching conditions. GS is in her element in this flat water and breeze just forward of the beam and we have been averaging almost 11 knots since the start.
Backtracking to the start, it was quite a scene, with about 265 race boats and many spectator boats milling about just off Castle Hill outside of Newport harbor. There were 16 different classes of boats that started in numerical order and - you guessed it - we were in class 16, so we were the very last class to start, about two and a half hours after the first class. It took a lot of energy simply to not get run down in the crowd of boats and were lucky to escape unscathed. In our class there were only three boats as the race committee segregated the boats with canting keels into something they call the 'Demonstration Division". That basically means that they can't figure out how to handicap these boats so they put us in a division by ourselves. I would have preferred to be in the double-handed class as this boat does not have a very spacious interior to accommodate a lot of people but it was not an option. Anyway, our competition is a 100' maxi monster called "Maximus" and there was an Open 60 called "Pindar" but Pindar seemed to drop out right before the start so it was just GS and Maximus. We had a good start but it didn't take long before a boat twice our size began to pull away in the freshening afternoon sea breeze. We sailed past many of the smaller, cruising boats after the start and after being surrounded by the red, green and white navigation lights of many of our competitors last night, we have forged ahead and are largely alone now.
The Gulf Stream
As the nervous energy of the start gave way to the routine of life offshore, we have divided into watches and have been driving the boat as fast as possible through the night. We are headed for what is referred to as the "Northern Wall" of the gulf stream, a fast flowing river about 180 miles off the Eastern seaboard. The current flows from the southwest to the Northeast at velocities up to 4 knots. The challenge for navigators is that if the wind goes light, the boats will be swept along with the gulf stream until the wind returns with enough punch to sail out of the stream. So everyone tries to pick a point of entry into the gulf stream and then a point of exit to escape and head for Bermuda. We are now only about 30 miles (3 hours) from our Gulf Stream entry point and are watching the sea temperature, which will rise from the mid-60's into the high 70's, and the difference between our speed through the water and our speed over the ground carefully to judge when we are actually in the Gulf Stream current.
Our hope is to transit the Stream in a way that sets us up on the east side of the rhumb line (straight line from start to finish) for the final 300 miles to Bermuda. The wind is forecast to go very light so we hope that we can get through the stream before that happens so we can maintain steerage in the fast-flowing current.
So, all is well aboard the good ship Gryphon Solo and we look forward to another sunny day, with the wind holding out, if not being particularly strong. We will report in again tomorrow morning.
Best to all-