Report from Mike Sanderson onboard Speedboat spells out his frustrations

After 36 hours of near-perfect sailing, Mother Nature has upset the fleet with disappearing winds. An email Saturday night from Puma Racing skipper Ken Read said simply “drifting in the Gulf Stream”. His Volvo 70 Il Mostro is fast with almost any breeze, but even the fastest boats in the world need some wind to keep moving at a rational pace. Read reported the course to Bermuda as 175 magnetic, and the wind direction as 175 degrees when it registered. This is a deadly combination when the windspeed is in single digits, and shrinking.

Alex Jackson’s Speedboat was faring little better, and the two fastest boats in the fleet went from looking extraordinary to looking like just another couple of sailboats struggling hard to get from point A to point B.

The following report was received from Mike Sanderson onboard SPEEDBOAT. Their position at 2222 EDT time on Sunday 22 June, 80.2 miles to go doing 10.8 knots in 9.1 knots of wind; Il Mostro (PUMA) was 45 miles behind, Rambler 14 miles behind them:

“If a race record is surprisingly slow there is often a very good reason for it…. it usually means that the race is sailed in a pretty tricky piece of water rather than the fact that not fast boats have competed in the race previously.

“Once again the 2008 Newport to Bermuda race is showing why this record is one of the toughest ones to nail. A distance of 630 miles one day is a number that we hope we can boast about as being a daily run on Speedboat, and so to be settling into day three with still 150 miles to go just doesn’t seem right for such a speed machine, considering the fact that we have never totally parked up.

“In fact I am sure that the averages through the water will not be too bad, the big problem has been the fact that the weather just hasn’t let us spend very long pointing at the mark! In saying all that though we are all really happy, the boat is performing really well on its targets, it’s all in one piece with no damage ( he says touching the lovely piece of wood mounted in the nav station at Stan and my request…) and so what else can we ask for, this thing is going to be a machine when reaching.

“It will just be a matter of pointing and shooting, and so to have the time now to play around with sail combinations and sailing modes in lighter airs with the luxury of having the designer Juan Kouyoumdjian on board is priceless. In fact it will be a shame to reach Bermuda as that will bring an end to a couple of amazing weeks pre race and race of sorting this cool yacht out.

“Fingers crossed that we get a weather window soon so that we can get back out here and have a shot at the Trans-Atlantic record. In the meantime its back to the 7 knot beat…”

The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse Division is a showcase of new boats this year, and they seem remarkably evenly matched. The new 69-foot Bella Mente was only four miles astern of the 90-foot Rambler, and she seems to excel in the light going. Just behind, Numbers, Blue Yankee, Rosebud, and Moneypenny were all less than 30 miles behind Rambler, which seems a little underpowered in the light stuff with her relatively small headsails. All these big boats average eight to nine knots over the last two-hour reporting period.

For boats further back in the fleet – almost everybody – Bermuda seems little more than a distant dream, with more than 350 miles to go and all of them dead upwind.
The forecast is for light winds from the S to SSE, with winds increasing further up the course, and veering back into the SSW at 20-25 knots north of 35N on Monday.
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