s/v Esmeralde

Jamestown, Rhode Island



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Return Trip



Newport Bermuda Race 2008

The race started on Friday, June 20 off Castle Hill, Newport, RI.

Race Day started with a blustery SW breeze gusting well over 20 knots up the bay in Portsmouth, where ESMERALDE was in her slip.  Both Bruce and I were exhausted after a really busy week of getting the boat ready, me working on the Race Web Site and race committee, Bruce getting the business organized to run in his absence, and saying good buy to the new puppy, Hot Pepper, who went back to his breeder for the duration of the race.

After a final weather briefing in town, we drove up to the boat and did the final prep work.  Friends Peter & Jane off the Sabre 402 Sketch came over with JANE's FAMOUS BROWNIES (!!!) to give us a proper send-off.  We cast off, and headed out, both feeling edgy and frazzled.  Not a great way to start a 630-mile ocean passage, but not really that unusual.  Getting ready for a trip like this is always challenging.

The Start

We motor-sailed up the bay, and as we approached the starting area we entered the mob-scene that always collects to watch the spectacle.  Fortunately the breeze began to settle down and turn into more of a quiet southerly.  Start after start got under way as we bobbed back and forth under main.  By the time we started it was a lovely summer afternoon with about 12 knots of breeze in bright sunshine.  Perfect, really.

We had an OK start, ALMOST hitting the buoy, much to the delight of the spectator fleet gathered at that end of the line.  We sneaked by with inches to spare and got a huge cheer from those gathered nearby.  Only after we arrived in Bermuda did we learn that our picture had made the front page of theNewport Daily News the next day.  What a thrill!

The Eddy

There was a large, favorable eddy between the start and the Gulf Stream.  The trick, especially for us smaller boats, was to work our way west and get into the eddy for a 2-4 knot boost towards Bermuda.  We worked our way west and south, and for the first 24 hours we hung-in there with the leaders.  Then we made our fatal mistake: they kept pushing west; we decided we'd gone far enough, and pointed towards Bermuda.  Although we got a boost, it wasn't much.  Those who went further west got a much larger boost, and they had a better lay-line for entering the Gulf Stream and pointing towards Bermuda.

The Gulf Stream

After the eddy, we poked around in light and shifty conditions for a day, waiting for the wind to fill in from the SW, and looking for the entrance to the Stream.  Frustrating time.  The breeze wouldn't do what we expected--or wanted--it to do.  While we had light stuff, the folks to our west got the breeeze first and started the move into the stream.

By the time we got the breeze, from the SE, we were too close to the Rhumb Line...maybe ten miles west of it.  We were able to flop onto port tack and head just west of bermuda...a great line.  Unfortunately, the breeze quickly began to clock into the S and SW, which put our nose directly into 4 knots of counter-current.  We weren't going anywhere.  The alternative--tacking back onto Starboard--was just as bad, as we were pointed towards Portugal and heading there at about 12 knots over the bottom, with no hope of EVERY getting out of the stream.  We ended up taking back onto port and clawing our way VERY SLOWLY out of the stream in building wind and seas.  Wet, confused, exhausting and uncomfortable.  It took a long time, but we finally broke out of the stream very near the rhumb line.

Happy Valley - NOT!

Once out of the stream, the wind continued to build out of the southwest.  It was gray, squally, and uncomfortable.  On top of all that, we had two knots of current flowing north, slowing us down to 4-5 knots over the bottom.  We dealt with this for over 100 miles.  Demoralizing.  Meanwhile, the folks off to the west were power reaching in 20 knots of breeze with no counter-current.  We were hard on the wind, fighting squalls, and dragging through the counter current.  We thought we'd never get through it.

IT wasn't until the last day out that the wind finally tweaked west enough for us to ease sheets.  By Tuesday evening the seas flattened out, the sky cleared, and we cracked off for a lovely evening sail into Bermuda.  FINALLY!  We were demoralized, though, knowing we were well off the pace.


Daybreak on Wednesday.  Now it gets fun.

We were exhausted.  I had input the finish line into the plotter the week before the start, and had labeled the buoys...but labeled them wrong.  We ran for the shoreward buoy instead of the seaward buoy, and rounded the wrong way.  Only at the last minute did we see two boats behind us cross the line properly.  I did some quick re-thinking, and we re-finished the race, this time properly.  More demoralizing.

The sun rose, and we began to motor around to Hamilton.

After passing through The Narrows, Bruce went below to make bacon and eggs.  We needed comfort food.  While he was below, I heard a big splash behind us, and turned to see the radar pole & instruments dragging in the water behind us.  Big fire drill, and we got it all on board.  All I can say is that we were very lucky that it happened after the finish, and not during the race.  We lost all our electronics, had to pilot our way through the reefs, and order all new gear from Defender to be shipped down.  More demoralization.

And a final blow.  After waiting our turn for berthing instructions, we proceeded into the RBYC marina.  No one mentioned the big rock right at the entrance to the marina.  We planted ourselves on it and had to be towed off.  Jeeze, can it get any worse?

We got ourselves tied up, and collapsed.  Hours later, revived by a few Dark N Stormies, we emerged and began the fun that would continue...

It is a great race, no matter how you do!






Bruce and Dorsey Beard