Strong winds threatened as boats pull out
The withdrawal of a considerable amount of entries marred yesterday's start of the Newport Bermuda Race in Rhode Island.
As many as 47 boats that had entered decided not to participate in the 635-nautical mile race because of the threat of strong winds and rough seas en route to Bermuda, reducing the number of entries from 184 to 142.
According to live tracking, local entries Spirit of Bermuda and Bermuda Oyster as well as the US Merchant Marine Academy yacht Metolius, which is being skippered by local sailor Dr Stephen Sherwin, do not appear to be among the boats to have pulled out.
Up until midweek the race looked to be the second or third largest in history. Then weather forecasts began predicting gales in and below the Gulf Stream. Following the weather briefing on Thursday night boats began withdrawing from the race.
By midday today, north-easterly winds will become strong and widespread from near 38N south through Bermuda. Wind gusts to gale to strong gale will be prevalent near Bermuda and north to 35N tomorrow and Monday as a developing low-pressure system interacts with northeast winds.
In his morning briefing to the fleet, AJ Evans, the race chairman, told the skippers that Commanders' Weather advised and the committee suggests that if skippers decided to withdraw after starting they should decide before entering the Gulf Stream. He emphasised once again that the decision to race is the responsibility of the yacht's person in charge.
Withdrawals aside, racing in the 50th “Thrash to the Onion Patch” got under way on schedule. It was a routine sequence with boats in 12 classes sailing close on the wind heading south to Bermuda. It was a flood tide, so only one boat was over early.
New York Yacht Club entry Comanche was among the last to start in the Open Division.
The 100-foot supermaxi, co-owned by American billionaire Jim Clark and former Australian supermodel Kristy Hinze-Clark, is attempting to break the elapsed time record of 39hr 39min set by George David's Rambler in 2012.
“I think they have a chance, depends as the start and finish may get light,” said Jimmy Spithill, the Oracle Team USA skipper, who was among the crew that sailed Comanche to victory in this year's Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.
The multimillion dollar super-maxi was designed by Verdier Yacht Design & Vplp and built at Hodgdon Yachts in Maine, New England, and can reach a top speed of 40 miles per hour.