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Weather fears hit Newport numbers

The threat of a bumpy ride has forced several boats to pull out of the Newport Bermuda Race, which begins today.

Among the withdrawals is the Maxi 72 Bella Mente, whose owner Hap Fauth decided to withdraw yesterday. The Bella Mente and her crew are among the regular favourites to finish first, although Comanche, the 100-foot Super Maxi, is tipped to take line honours.

“After much consideration and research on the weather patterns forecasted for the 2016 Newport Bermuda Race, Bella Mente has made the difficult decision to withdraw from the event,” Fauth said in a statement on the team's website.

“The team will pick up racing again in Palma de Mallorca for the Copa del Rey MAPFRE on August 1.”

According to race officials the weather is of a “deep concern” with the field now whittled down to 184 boats, from an expected high of nearly 200.

Changeable forecasts over the past several days have seen predictions of high winds at the start, another suggested a hard blow down the course, and a third offered the spectre of rough going, with a hard north wind.

It is the final prediction that has grabbed the most attention, because of the potential impact on the Gulf Stream, which the race website calls “a complicated patch of moving water turning in every direction and greatly affecting the state of the sea”.

Dr Frank Bohlen, an oceanographer, and the race's resident Gulf Stream expert, said the north wind is likely to create the prospect of a rougher crossing.

“Wind blowing against the current results in a significantly larger wave amplitude and shorter wavelength than what appears when wind blows with current or when there is no current,” he said.

Two boats definitely taking part and with some serious motivation to do well are Spookie and Kinship, who lead the three-event Onion Patch Series, of which the Newport Bermuda Race is stage two.

The first stage took place over the weekend at the New York Yacht Club's annual regatta, which took place in Newport.

Spookie, owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin, is ranked first in the traditional Onion Patch Series, while Kinship, a Baltic 52 owned by Tom Selldorf, is leading the Navigator's Race Series.

Initially 21 individual boats entered the overall series, 14 in the traditional series and seven in the second running of the ORR Navigator's Series. The NYYC regatta proved to be a tough test on its second day with at least two traditional Onion Patch Series entries being damaged in a collision.

In the gusty 30-knot winds, Rives Potts's Carina collided with the US Navy's Navy 44 Defiance, skippered by James Reynolds. Defiance was dismasted and Carina suffered a damaged bow. Cecile Viking and the other Defiance in the Navigator's Division did not start the final race.

Since the competitors in the traditional Onion Patch windward-leeward racers sail different length courses over the two-day New York Yacht Club Regatta, the final ranking of the Onion Patch boats is based on a formula that divides the yacht's corrected time by the distance of the race she participated in.

This formula results in a corrected seconds per mile number. The competitors are ranked in order of the fastest (lowest) sec/mile to the slowest (largest) sec/mile for each race. Points are awarded according to ranking for final regatta results, and these points are used in the compilation of the overall scores in the series.

Each individual yacht's score for the listed events will be weighted. The finish position in the Newport Bermuda Race will be multiplied by 1.25; the finish position in the NYYC Annual Regatta will be multiplied by 1.00; and the finish position in the RBYC Anniversary Regatta will be multiplied by 1.00.

Competition is offered once again in high-level, windward-leeward racing in the “traditional” Onion Patch Series. Less intense competition is offered in Newport and Bermuda with racing around government marks and set buoys in the Onion Patch Navigators Series.

Boats must qualify for each of the events in the series under the individual event's rules.

Heavy favourite: Comanche has her sights on the race record of 39hr 39min set by Rambler in 2012 (Photograph by Daniel Forster)

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Published June 17, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 17, 2016 at 1:18 am)

Weather fears hit Newport numbers

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