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Posted by on Jun 17, 2012 in Antique and Classic, Sailboat Racing, US |

Dorade Log 5: Entering the Gulf Stream

A report from John Burnham, not quite halfway to Bermuda on a 1930s Sparkman and Stephens design.

Twenty four hours after the start, Dorade entered the Gulf Stream, after reaching and running in a northeasterly breeeze of 14-27 knots since the start. With it’s 6-foot tiller, the boat is sometimes pretty hard to muscle down a straight track through the waves, but other times sails beautifully forward. We’ve been making 8, 9 and even 10 knots at times, and as of 2:15pm were making 11 knots over the bottom assisted by the Gulf Stream current.

Dorade in the Gulf Stream

Dorade in the Gulf Stream

We started with a running spinnaker and carried it, with and without staysails for most of a very pleasant afternoon. As of 6pm, we could still count 90 boats around us, although some were disappearing ahead at a rapid rate. In the evening we switched to our medium-heavy No 1. genoa, which we flew all night with an inner foresail inside it in the foretriangle.

Our one drama so far occurred in the morning; the wind had let up a bit and shifted more north, so we set our reaching spinnaker. After an hour of very fast speeds, it breezed up again and the four crewmen on watch, plus navigator Jess Sweeny took the spinnaker down but got hung up when the halyard cover stripped and the chute only came down 60 percent of the way. Bowman Steve Foraste was roused from his sleep and sent aloft to cut the halyard while most of the rest of the crew came on deck to hang on to the spinnaker, which ultimately came down with only the smallest of holes in it.

Perhaps the toughest sail change was shifting from the No. 1 to the No. 3 jib, an hour of two before reaching the Stream. Steve, skipper Jamie Hilton and owner Matt Brooks dropped the 1 and bagged it while I steered under the Inner Foresail, then they hoisted the No. 3 – a maneuver that in total took close to 45 minutes. Keep in mind, strict attention was paid to staying clipped on and communicating well before each phase of the change. Remarkably, the boat probably only slowed down half a knot on average during the effort.

Now, well, it’s humid belowdeck as I write. We’re in the midst of the Stream, but the sea state is not as bad as we had anticipated. We’re less than half way through, though, so we’ll have to wait and see. How are we doing? In the race, you’ll have to judge that from the Yellow Brick Race Tracker. We feel we’re sailing the boat reasonably well, if imperfectly. We are coping with some seasickness in the crew and haven’t eaten a whole lot due to the waves. Lots of snacking.

I’ll write again on Sunday when tracking will turn live and the trickiest part of this race begins. According to Jess, the first part of the race is relatively straightforward. Choosing our options starting on Sunday will have much more of an impact on the final results…

John Burnham