20 June 2010 | 35.02N, 66.49 W
19 June 2010 | 38.57.70 North/70.17.25 W
17 June 2010 | Newport Shipyard
24 June 2010 | RBYC
The last 24 hours we were in sprint-mode. From the position reports, we could see that Denali was about an hour behind us, and we owe them 45 minutes on handicap. In a race like this, 15 minutes is a razor-thin margin. One small hole in the wind could be distastrous. In addition, Gracie, a big, heavy (and beautiful) yacht was 5 hours behind, but Aurora's rating meant that we would owe her about 8 hours in handicap.
Benji used a formula to compute the speeds that each of the closest competitors would need to average to beat us. Denali's was 8.33 (very doable), and Gracie's was 6 knots and change. That meant that we had to hope that the breeze would lighten-up for her (preferably after we finished!), and her heavy displacement would therefore be a significant disadvantage.
With the small lead over Denali, and knowing that on handicap we were behind Gracie, we went to a full court press. For the remainder of the race we had almost everyone on the rail. The fact that the heat and humidity down below were hellish made it easier to be up on deck where the temps were moderate and the splashes over the bow were infrequent.
The breeze stayed mostly steady - varying between 8 - 15 knots true, and 195 to 230 degrees magnetic (although the last few hours there was shift to the west). We jib-reached all the way, occasionally changing headsails as the breeze built or moderated.
As we approached Kitchen Shoals, the clouds over the island began to kill the wind. The last few miles we were ooching along at 4 knots, with all hands on the leeward rail. When we crossed the line, we could see Denali approaching, and our wishes for the breeze to die were being fulfilled. We anxiously checked the stopwatch, and it gradually became clear that Denali was not going to cross the line in time. A second place was virtually assured, but Gracie was well within striking distance. All she needed to do was sail about 50 miles in 8 hours....if the wind lightened up, first place would be ours. If it held, then Gracie would sit atop the class. We had done what we could do. The rest was in the weather god's hands.
Gracie must have been in the god's graces, as the wind held and she won the division. She sailed a track slightly to the east of ours and avoided some of the counter-current we experienced south of the stream. She's a well sailed boat with an experienced crew, so we tip our hats to them for a job well done.
Still, it's remarkable that in only eight weeks, Aurora placed Second in one of the toughest races on the East Coast. This was our first race, and it was a dandy. Surely we will improve as we learn more about the boat and each other. Already, we are beginning to analyze the data and our collective experiences to find out how we can improve ourselves and Aurora herself. Continual analysis and improvement are the only ways to ensure success in yacht racing.
After 48 hours ashore, Team Aurora has recovered and the yacht has already left Bermuda with a delivery crew to head for New England. The presentation of the awards at the Governor's House is Saturday and we are looking forward to being handed a trophy in the midst of sailing's best crews and skippers.
Team Aurora thanks everyone for the support before the race, and the outpouring of congratulations afterwards.
The Final Stretch
20 June 2010 | 35.02N, 66.49 W
The last 24 hours have been pretty wild. Despite the forecasts for meager winds, we've had pretty solid breeze since just before the Stream. Just north of one our planned entry points into a southbound eddy we gpt a favorable shift and we hit the heart of the fastest part of the conveyor belt.
At it's peak, we were getting a four+ knot kick which meant we were heading directly for the finish line at over 15 knots groundspeed at times. While that's a good thing, we all paid a heavy price because the fastest part of the stream is also the roughest. Imagine being hermetically sealed in a giant kayak with a dozen people and being dropped from a height of 6 feet every 10 seconds for 12 hours.
The "pain" however was well rewarded whe were able to downloa poaition reports for our division. While it's way to early to start "counting chickens", we are sittling pretty on the eggs and in less than 24 hours (based on present sspeed and forecast conditions" we'll see if the eggs hatch.
Lot's of things can happen, and plenty of boats have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but we are determined not to be one of them. Intead of the expect drift-athon, we are now in a full sprint to the finish and we are driving hard, looking for every nanoparticle of speed. The breeze is expected to hold up pretty well, but if we've learned anything in the last 48 hours, it is not to trust forecasts!
We've been having some computer issues, but think we have them solved, so hopefully we can send another update in the morning.
21 Hours Behind Us - ??? to go
19 June 2010 | 38.57.70 North/70.17.25 W
We've only been racing for about 20 hours, but already there is lots to report. Despite being over early at the start, we were able to recover quickly and make tracks close reaching in solid breeze to the S-SE. At times we were on a Medium Jib, a Jib Top, sometimes with a genoa staysail, and even the Code Zero. The wind pressure and boat speed were excellent, and we blew through all of the divisions that started ahead of us in pretty rapid fashion. In general, we were ahead and to leeward of the most of our division.
After midnight (incidentally, that's the name of one of Benji's boats), the wind became light and fickle. Keeping Aurora in the groove became a little frustrating as it was shify, puffy, and there was a ton of windshear. We kept shifting gears as best we could, and seemed to be gaining on a couple of boats that we believe are larger, but heavier competitors. In the light air, we were able to keep momentum and were pretty much headed straight to Bermuda.
Later, the wind backed to the Southeast which prompted us to tack over onto port just after first light (which comes pretty early this time of year). This wasn't really in the forecast, but we've had 6-8 knots true wind and boat speed has been pretty coinsistent around 9 knots. It's really nice being on a boat that generates its own apparent.
Brian, our navigator. has been constantly updating our data/predictions and there have been several pow-wows around "Command Central" which is filled with a number computers, screens, radios and various electronic apparatus. Lucas, our pitman who is s Navy Fighter Pilot, would feel at home there if we ever let him leave the pit. There is probably more processing power aboard Aurora than the space shuttle would have had less than ten yeears ago.
Given the slight changes in the forecast, and given our present position (vs. the expected optimal route as of yesterday), the brain trust has been fine-tuning our Gulf Stream entry point and our approach. All in all, we've been pleased with our progress and our position vis a vis the competition. The sailing has been better than expected, and the weather has been practically perfect.
Last night looked like we were gliding under an upside down bowl full of stars. We could hear whales breathing around us, and even saw a few after the sun came up, and were treated to the sight of about 50 dolphin around dawn.
As good as it's been though, we've got a long way to go and the most challenging decisions and sailing is yet to come. The most critical decision will be when to tack back toward the Stream. It might be the "make or break" decision for the race, so when we get close to that point we'll update all our info, project new optimized routes based on the latest intelligence, and then cross ouir fingers and commit.
Meanwhile, the team is in good spirits and the focus on performance has been constant. Not even a constant stream of great stories from Gary can distract us. It sometimes feels as if we're watching ESPN. Gary even hums his theme song between stories which only adds to the effect. So in that spirit, we'll pause here and go back to our regular programming!
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