Winning the Marion Bermuda Race

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After participating in the Marion Bermuda Race numerous times (23 races in all between the six of us) the crew of Ti, a 1968 Alden Milstral 36, was lucky enough to win this time around. The full-keeled fiberglass sloop Ti is owned by Gregg Marston. Crew included Andy Howe (navigator), and John O’Meara, Jake and Chase Marston, and Peter Stoops.

Ti’s original plan, once out of Buzzards Bay, was to head in a more westerly direction due to a predicted southerly wind, for a point (we called it “alpha”), which was W and N of a “knuckle” in the GS that led to a SE meander. Once there, we would take advantage of the wind veering to the SW, tack over, and try to hit the meander.

Ti started Friday (with Class D) at 1230 in 10-15 SW, and we were out of Buzzards Bay by 2000. As predicted, the wind went from SW to S, but then quickly to SE, so we were forced to go even further west of point alpha as we sailed through the day on Saturday.

By Sunday, the wind continued to build from 10-15, to 20-25 still from SE. As we approached the GS, we had a ½ day of squalls, with heavy rain and increasing winds, with a few gusts over 50.   

Late on Sunday morning, the wind finally veered to the SW, and we flipped to a starboard tack and made for the GS. At this point – being so far west now of the meander – we decided to simply cross the GS as quickly as possible, grab the resulting rhumb line once we exited, and “head for the barn.”

Approaching the north wall of the GS, we almost certainly hit a foul westerly current, which set up large seas – 15’ or so – which lasted until we hit the GS late Sunday afternoon. The GS itself was far more civilized, with orderly 5’ waves and a steady 15-20 SW wind.

The rest was pretty simple: head for Bermuda while threading the needle between two eddies with foul currents. Exiting the Stream on Monday, we were blessed with a solid, steady SW breezed that seldom went below 10 knots, and probably averaged 15 for the remainder of the race. The wind direction was perfect in terms of Ti’s polars, which showed her fastest speeds could be attained on a reach just forward of the beam, in those same wind speeds.

However, all of this was easier said than done in terms of navigating, as almost all of our weather precluded our navigator, from getting good start sights for the entire trip. Nonetheless, his DR was solid, and he augmented it with good sun sights during the day. Our final celestial position (as revealed by turning on our electronics Tuesday night at 2300) was under 5 miles from the GPS’s.

Ti finished at 0830 on Tuesday morning. 

Below, the crew of Ti: skipper Greg Marston (with thumbs up), others from left, watch captain Peter Stoops, navigator Andrew Howe, race official, John O'Meara, Jake Marston and Chase Marston. 

By Ocean Navigator