SUNDAY, MAY 22: The racers in this eighth edition of the Charleston Bermuda Race made steady progress east toward Bermuda during the initial hours of the race on Saturday. After 12 hours, all of the boats were still sailing on starboard tack (two had tacked briefly), but by midnight, the winds across the race course had diminished significantly, along with the average speeds of every boat. By early this morning, only three boats in the fleet were managing speeds greater than one knot while the majority of the boats seemed glued to the water.
At midnight, buoy data recorded 41 nautical miles southeast of Charleston by the National Buoy Data Center indicated southeast winds less than six knots and seas under two feet. At that time, several boats were within sight of each other. Steve Wherry’s chartered Farr 65 Spirit of Minerva and Vladimir Zinchenko’s Shipman 63 Yanosha were fewer than two miles apart, and it’s likely the on watch were able to see each other’s nav lights.
The initial strategy for every boat was to sail north of the rhumbline, and some boats were logging impressive progress toward the Onion Isles during the first several hours. Hank Hofford and Susan Ford and their mostly family crew on board the chartered Shipman 63 Tucana, continued to lead the fleet as of 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, but their strategy had changed dramatically. Tucana’s tracking data showed her sailing well below the rhumbline, making frequent course corrections to squeeze what little progress she could out the light winds.
Stephen Colbert and his Team Audi crewmates on board the Spirit of Juno were making the best speeds in the fleet as of 0730 today (5.3 knots) just slightly north of the rhumbline. At roughly that time, Juno’s strategists called for an abrupt change of course, and headed almost due north. It’s apparent the leader of the Colbert Nation will find his comedic skills in high demand today as the crew deals with the very challenging situation of keeping a 60,000-pound boat moving in zephyrous conditions.
Race organizers in Charleston say that the National Weather Service forecast calls for more of the same throughout today, and buoy data from across the region confirms that offshore winds remain light. All of this, says Race Director Bjorn Johnson, is due to a weak low pressure system south of Georges Bank. He said a high pressure ridge was expected to build offshore late on Sunday and then drift east for the next two days. Translation: slow going for sailors.
As of 0730 today, information from Weather Routing, Inc. (the official weather source for the Charleston Bermuda Race) indicated the possibility of improving conditions some time after noon today.