Cruising lessons from ocean racers

Great article from our partner from the World Cruising Club, Andy Schell.  For more entertaining, intelligently written articles follow Andy’s Blog at 59 North.

59 North

Newport-Bermuda Race 2014: Cruising lessons from ocean racers

350 NW of Bermuda…

‘Sleijride’ is nearly halfway back to Newport on the return delivery following the Bermuda Race last week. We’re in cruising mode again, down to four crew (from six), and enjoying single-handed watches steered by autopilot, 9 hours of rest, reading (!), and motor sailing through the calms.

Yesterday we had a very close encounter with a sperm whale that breached not 100 yards off our port bow, then proceeded to meander across the bow and dive off to starboard, showing us his big tail on the way down. Today we’re sailing fast off the wind, fair weather cumulus clouds dotting the blue sky and the hot sun baking the decks. Aside from the relentless heat, this is ocean sailing at its finest.

Participating in the Bermuda Race last week (my first), got me thinking about the differences between ocean racing and ocean cruising, and what the former can teach us about the latter. I’m primarily an ocean cruiser (though prefer the term ‘sailor’, as cruising has an air of laziness to it that doesn’t suit me), but having done two long ocean races now (Annapolis-Newport in 2013) has altered my perspective on some points. I’m admittedly no authority on the subject of ocean racing, but I’ve jotted some ideas down here, with a few anecdotes from our experiences to elaborate. Here goes…
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Local Weather Prediction

Wunder

I was having a conversation with two long time clients, Dan and Lynn last Thursday about local weather prediction and the variety of websites and apps available.  I have been an avid user of Wundermap by Weather Underground for years.  With a little tweaking you can get the radar not only to show you direction but an incredibly accurate timing prediction.  The storm tracking cones are divided into twenty minute segments making it very easy to make an accurate ETA of a storm.  They also support the site with some good explanations and definitions (ask Channing about the importance of the vil numbers).  I had been under the impression the Weather Underground did not have an app yet and had been using a very good radar app called Raindar, it had all of the features of the Wundermap.  Much to my pleasure, Kristen informed me that not only has Weather Underground produced the app but it is fantastic, I couldn’t agree more.  It is available for free or for $1.99 without adds.  It is worth checking all the settings, it is very customizable and very functional.  I have included a link to the app for Android and will add the itunes link.  If you have an app or website you are particularly fond of please let us know below.

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Weather Routing

In preparing for the 2014 Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race I came across this great article by Wally Cross of Quantum Sails.  Wally is a veteran of both Mackinac races.  Find the article here: Read Article

Here is a little history about the 90 year old race.  The inaugural race course was 235 statute miles (378 km) up the Michigan shore line south of Bois Blanc. Originally it was started at the same time as the Chicago Race to Mackinac with the yachts crossing the finish line from two different directions. In 1935, the course was lengthened to 290 miles (470 km) and required participants to round Cove Island Buoy just south of Canada’s Georgian Bay. Fog created confusion and the longer course was abandoned as dangerous and slow in 1936. In 1940 the race rounded the Six Fathoms Shoal buoy for that year only. The following year the race went back to shore course but left Bois Blanc to port. In 1972 the 290-mile (470 km) Cove Island course was restored. Twenty years later, participating yachts were divided into two separate fleets, with one heading east to round Cove Island and the other following the original shore course. After the Canadian government’s decision to decommission the Cove Island buoy in 2000, the longer course was replaced with the Southampton Course in which sailors are directed towardSouthamptonOntario and then to the finish line at Mackinac Island.

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