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Boats to arrive just in time for start of America’s Cup

Photograph by Talbot WilsonWe are sailing: the 40th Anniversary Marion Bermuda Race starts tomorrow with 51 entries signed up

The clock is counting down to tomorrow’s Start of the 40th Anniversary Marion Bermuda Race.

The 51-boat fleet in the 645 nautical-mile race from Marion, Massachusetts, heading south out of Buzzard’s Bay to the finish line of St David’s Lighthouse in Bermuda will arrive in Bermuda just in time for the start of the America’s Cup Match.

All entries this year are in the Founders Division. The warning signal is scheduled for June 9, 2017 at 1pm Bermuda time. Classes will start at 15-minute intervals. Andy Howe, celestial navigator on Ray Cullum’s Frolic, commented on last-minute preparations and his kit.

“As navigator I’ve been keeping an eye on the Gulf Stream for a few weeks, and before heading to Marion I will plot the latest positions and begin to think about routing,” he said.

“Not many interesting features this year, but it is still important to have an understanding of where it has been and where it is going.

“I went over my sextant this winter and replaced a mirror. And I took a quick look at the Nautical Almanac to check the state of the moon [full], a review of the tables, and a few test reductions using a terrific new ‘Celestial’ iPhone app.

“I’ll bring along warm clothes for the first 48 hours, then enough changes to avoid becoming persona non grata on the boat. Plus a few things for staying on the island to watch the America’s Cup.”

Temperature in Marion tomorrow will be about 16ºC degrees. In Bermuda next week when they finish it will be close to 27ºC. That is a good reason for sailing south.

Deb Gayle is a watch captain on board Etoile, skippered by Dr Anne Kolker, with an all-woman crew. They are focused on detail and safety. She explained their planning and preparation.

“Aside from provisioning, stowing, and making sure the lifelines, sails, preventers, and deck are in order, we are again running through all electronic connections, radio, weather, and all to make sure that they are registering properly, and ensuring the refrigeration and generator are working,” Gayle said.

“I’ve also walked the deck checking for anything loose that has to be tightened or sharp that must be taped. Actually I do that each time I go on watch during a race or delivery.

“Additionally, when the boat gets delivered to Marion on Wednesday, I need to put an attachment on the downhaul and tweak it as I wasn’t happy with the way it was behaving when we did wing-and-wing practice last weekend. I’ll run the jack lines, and check them a number of times before and during the race.”

“And, even though we have a fantastic navigator in Garet Wohl, I’m reviewing the weather and Buzzards Bay tidal currents, Gulf Stream analysis, laminating the sailing instructions including the finish line in case the paper copies get wet. “On Thursday, I will review everything with Garet, who generally explains strategy to the crew as well.

“Our captain, Anne Kolker, does not scrimp on safety gear. If the boat needs something or needs to have work done on it, it’s done. We have all the required safety gear and more.

“We upgraded our VHF system this year with the latest technology that interfaces with the other electronics.

“We go through our ‘grab’ bag each season and ensure all safety equipment is current and up to date. Anne is a physician, so you can be sure we have a well-stocked medical kit.

“We also have a very hard rule to wear harnesses and tether in when we’re topside; we have a safety line rigged from the companionway across the bridge-deck to the cockpit as an attachment point as we realised in our first ocean race from Stonington, Connecticut, to Booth Bay, Maine, that there was a five-foot part where we were unable to be secured to the boat. That was fixed quickly.

“Each crew member is responsible for individual safety gear as it’s usually personal preference. I have a Spinlock safety life vest/harness that has a built-in knife and strobe.

“It’s very comfortable and I don’t think twice about wearing it. I also have a double-ended tether.

“This year I bought an MOB1 AIS device that is attached to the Spinlock and calibrated into Etoile’s AIS.

“I have a pouch attached to the Spinlock that has a knife, some line, and SPF lip gloss.”