Marion Bermuda winners took ON celestial course

If there were any doubts about the value of taking an Ocean Navigator celestial navigation course, they were put to rest by Martin Jacobson and the crew of Jacobson’s Swan 44 MkII Crescendo when they won the Marion Bermuda Race yesterday. Both Jacobson and his daughter Caroline Jacobson Honorowski attended a celestial navigation seminar I taught in Yarmouth, Maine, in February. Now, I’m not taking credit for their win yesterday, but I will say that the navigation instruction they received could well have proved instrumental in sealing their victory.

Or, at least, it probably didn’t hurt.

From the press release: Martin Jacobson (Newport, Rhode Island) drove his Swan 44 MkII Crescendo first across the line off St. David’s Lighthouse, Bermuda Wednesday morning at 5:47:13 ADT with an elapsed time of 111h:32m:13s. Sailing under storm trysail and a small jib, Crescendo finished in a 20-25 knot southerly wind and 8-10 foot seas.

Jacobson’s crew comment when told their little, Class B Swan 44 was first to finish, “Amazing”.

They had not known they were leading. As a celestially navigated entry, they had not been able to get any yacht positions on the internet or through their SSB radio.

Crescendo’s crew included Jacobson as skipper, his daughter Caroline Jacobson Honorowski (New York NY), plus Aaron Eddington (Shinagawa, Tokyo), James Wilmot (Newport Rhode Island), Jeremy Whitty, the navigator (Sydney, New south Whales), his son Jonathan Whitty (Sydney, New south Whales), Marcus Spillane (Fountainstown, Ireland) and Paul Atkins (Bagowlah, New South Whales).

This was Aaron Eddington’s first offshore race, but he was among veterans. This was Jacobson’s ninth Bermuda Race, Wilmot’s fifth, Jeremy Whitty’s third and Caroline Honorowski’s second. Wilmot and Whitty have each done fourteen Sydney-Hobart races in Australia.

The Class B boat had led the fleet out of Buzzards Bay into the Atlantic. The Saturday morning position reports on iBoattrack showed Crescendo still ahead of the bigger and theoretically faster Class A boats.

Then Big Bear, Jonathan Brewin’s Class A fifty-three footer, took over the lead as the breeze filled in from the west, but retired just north of Bermuda with sail and technical problems. When Big Bear lost her main seventy-three miles northwest of Bermuda, they were nearly on the rhumb line from Marion. Based on tacking angles, they figured they would have to sail a hundred extra miles and decided to motor home.

Crescendo, standing a close second when Big Bear retired, grabbed the lead and didn’t let go. She made it into Bermuda amid driving rain squalls, just before sunrise. They had destroyed their mainsail on Tuesday at 10:00AM while taking it down during a Forty-Five knot squall.

They sailed under their safety-orange storm trysail for about the last seventy miles. Luckily, they were positioned well to the west of the rhumb line and were able to reach Bermuda without sailing many extra miles.

Jeremy Whitty, Crescendo’s Navigator, and Jacobson were proud to be first to finish but even prouder to have done it in the celestial navigation division. Jacobson said, “We never saw any stars or planets, and we had to get our sun shots through the clouds. It was amazingly accurate.”

When asked about high winds and big waves, Whitty said, “It felt like a submarine. We got forty-five plus knots in squalls and the seas weren’t really that big, just confused by the changing wind direction in the thunderstorms that blew the hell out of us.”

Jacobson and Whitty both celebrated Father’s Day on the ocean Sunday. Jacobson’s daughter Caroline gave her dad a card and Whitty’s son Jonathan greeted his dad with a Happy Father’s Day wish.

Cetacea, Chris Culver’s Sou’wester 59 from Newport, Rhode Island finished second overall on elapsed time and was first to finish in Class A. She finished at 8:02:24 ADT and her elapsed time was 113h 32m 24s.

Wind and weather are the still big stories today. Winds that had been west and southwest, favorable for a fast approach to Bermuda, shifted to the south late Monday night and gave the fleet a strong 25-knot headwind and an ugly beat to the finish. These winds are expected to hold for the next two days. It’s certainly a wet and wild ride for the sailors still on the course.

The total number of ‘did not start’ and ‘retired’ yachts now stands at fourteen and leaves thirty-four boats on the course. Bremer Speck conformed their retirement early Tuesday morning. She had spent the night riding on bare poles in high winds. They are now motoring back to the states.

Avalon (Barry Feldman, Newton Centre, Massachusetts) legged out on leads Class C, and at 10:00 ADT Wednesday she was fifty miles out, one of eight boats within the Marion to Bermuda fifty-mile circle.

Class D leader, Silhouette (David Caso, Duxbury, Massachusetts), is well ahead of the six other Class D boats still racing. At 10:00AM ADT on Wednesday, she was 100 miles from Bermuda.

The total number of ‘did not start’ and ‘retired’ yachts now stands at fourteen and leaves thirty-four boats on the course. Bremer Speck conformed their retirement early Tuesday morning. She had spent the night riding on bare poles in high winds. They are now motoring back to the states.

Of the original forty-eight entries, four did not start to begin with, and now eight have retired in the face of confused seas and big westerly winds that eventually shifted to the south.

The non-starters were Paul Hubbard’s Bermuda Oyster (Hamilton, Bermuda), Stafano Pacini’s Galileo (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts), Por Dos sailed by Mark Monwood (Bedford, Massachusetts) and Shooting Star sailed by David Kingsbury (Orange, Connecticut).

Yachts that have retired from the race so far that were on the course are Jonathan Brewin’s Big Bear (Hamilton, Bermuda) Jonathan Baxter’s Pond Prowler (BER20, St. George’s, Bermuda) Maren Erskin’s Cayenne (Bearsville, New York), Alan Benet’s La Retreat (Basking Ridge, New Jersey), Tom Bowler’s Nightwind (West Simsbury, Connecticut), Bill Ferguson’s Sea Fever (Milford, Massachusetts), Falcor sailed by Steve Gross (Scotch Plains, New Jersey), Bremer Speck (Ron Hiemann West Newberry, Massachusetts) Black Mallard (Tracy Day McRoberts, Glen Cove, New York) and Lynley III (James Barns, Mobile, Alabama).

Race and activity information for the 2009 Marion to Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race is on-line at

By Ocean Navigator