New England Solo Twin

The New England Solo Twin is an ISAF Category 3 race hosted annually by Newport Yacht Club. As the name suggests, one may enter either single or double handed, the former occupied by Jeroboam. The double handed division was quite a bit more popular with 28 entries of a wide range of boats from multihulls and fast monohulls like the Class 40s to the tiny J/24 who ended up retiring from the race. With only seven other boats in the single handed division, we were not split up into different classes rather a fairly wide range of ratings were represented from 58 to 205. I was told of the talented skippers and successful boats ahead of time and went into the race knowing that the competition would be tough.

Everyone was sent over course B, 94.1 nm, except class three which consisted of the slower double handed boats who sailed course C, 77.2 nm. As it turned out, the course selection was a key component of the race as two boats sailed the wrong course. Here's an image of course B (click on picture for larger sized image):

Introduction:

In the New England Solo Twin, as in the Newport Offshore 160, each skipper is asked to fill out a race log given us by the race committee. I think this is an excellent idea for a number of reasons, best of which is we’re asked to fill in our mark rounding times which the Event Chairman, Roy Guay, then posts with leg splits. This allows a detailed analysis of the race, leg by leg, and helps me identify relative strengths and weaknesses to other boats.

Leg One:

Leg one ran southwest from Newport Harbor to the southwest tip of Block Island. This was not quite a direct route as the northern tip of Block Island has a large bar one needs to stay west of. As it turns out, there was a easterly current flowing out of Block Island Sound that began at 2:14 PM, just about the time our class was rounding Pt. Judith and just in time to feel it’s full effects for the duration of the first leg. By contrast, the first class to start was well on their way to the west side of Block Island before the tide turned, allowing them to sail south of the rip on the north side of Block Island before the current strengthened to it least favorable velocity of 2.27 knots at 4:06 PM. In fact, by the time the current was least favorable on the north side of Block, it was most favorable to those who turned the first mark before the next tide swing including just about every boat in class one with Wazimo the exception.

Then there was the matter of the breeze. The predicted southwest shift occurred right on time, between 2 and 4 PM again most favoring the class one boats who were able to ride the original northwest breeze almost all the way to the first mark before the shift with few, if any tacks at the end in order to make the mark. By contrast, class four felt the full brunt of the header with the wind hard on the nose for a majority of the stretch between Pt. Judith and the first mark.

These two factors substantively contributed to the large discrepancies seen in the leg one corrected time splits between the earlier, fast class of boats and later, slow class as seen below:

The fast boats Leg 1 Corrected Split
Dragon 3:37:28
Next Wave 3:27:28
Toothface 3:38:40

The slow boats Leg 1 Corrected Split
Jeroboam 4:19:49
Windswept 4:20:52
Air Born 4:10:14

One boat in each of these groups managed to buck the system. Wazimo, had a corrected time split of 4:14:43, indicating a rather poor leg relative to the other boats in his, the fast class of boats. On the other hand, Riptide had a corrected time split of 3:41:18, a very impressive split especially considering he started with the single handers in class five, a half hour after the fast class of boats started. This was a half hour longer of unfavorable current and unfavorable breeze that class one avoided simply by being the first class to start. Not to mention he had half the crew.

There was one more strategy factor that played a key role for some boats on leg one and that was the proximity to the rip on the northern tip of Block Island the skipper was willing to approach. The closer in the boats sailed, the more detrimental was the bar effect of the current. Another factor, though not as great an impact, was how high the skipper sailed in the northwest breeze prior to the shift, first to the west, then to the southwest. If he sailed high, bully for him, but if he sailed the rhumb line and didn’t put anything in the bank, the shift caused him more pain than might have been necessary.

The class two corrected splits show six boats all working down through leg one and efficiently making the mark with two boats getting caught with their pants down showing corrected time splits over a hour more than the others in their class. Perhaps one or both of the above mentioned factors played a role in their delay.

Leg Two:

Leg two also had some interesting current effects upon it. There is a V shaped current along this leg, best graphically shown on page 85 of this year’s Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book, comprising the tidal flows to/from Long Is/Block Is Sounds and Buzzard’s Bay/Nantucket Sound. The flood tide on the second half of leg 2 was the favorable direction during the race, allowing us to heat it up a wee bit with our spinnakers yet still crab down to the mark. The current was unfavorable until around 8 PM, which meant that the boats in the front of the fleet felt the detrimental current much more than the boats bringing up the rear. Even worse for them, when the tide turned, it effected them even more so on leg three with the flood tide into Buzzards Bay working against them as shown by example in the leg three analysis.

A look at leg two splits is a good representation of the current effects. Two boats at the head of the fleet, Dragon and Next Wave, rounded the first mark within six minutes of each other and rounded the second mark 33 minutes apart with uncorrected splits of 6:49 and 6:10 respectively. Over four and a half hours later, little old Jeroboam and Windswept rounded mark two with uncorrected splits of 6:22 and 6:50 respectively! Who among you will point at these boats and say “oh, well Jeroboam and Windswept are much better downwind boats than Dragon and Next Wave.” Nobody, of course, would ever say that. Instead they will always say “Jeroboam and Windswept have unfair ratings.” A look at the current effects raises a third possibility: we were sailing in entirely different conditions, unfavorable to Dragon and Next Wave and very favorable to Jeroboam and Windswept.

The predicted southerly shift between 10 PM and midnight was also a windfall for those who rode high on the southwest breeze, gambling on the shift to allow them to continue to ride high and still make the mark without having to turn way down and depower their spinnaker at the end of the leg. I think this was a minor impact compared to the current effect described above, but a competitive advantage nonetheless for those who gambled on the shift.

The split analysis for leg one and two brought to light another interesting phenomenon. Class two included two Beneteau First 36.7s, Morning Dance and Fastacks. I know nothing of these boats other than they are of the same series and have very similar ratings, 88 and 90 respectively. Their corrected time splits for legs three and four were very close and very competitive but they couldn’t be more different on legs one and two. Fastacks crushed Morning Dance on leg one with corrected time splits of 3:42:25 and 4:50:22 respectively but then the reverse held true on leg two at 6:57:25 and 5:41:18 respectively. Were either of these boats to mimic the other’s superior performance on their respective poor legs, they’d have won their class and corrected over the entire fleet.

Leg 3

Leg three ran northwest from Nomans Land to the Racon buoy outside Newport Harbor. Once again, the current had an unfavorable effect for those at the front of the fleet while those at the back felt some minor benefits or at least a neutral effect.

Leg 4

This was the shortest leg of the course, only 4.9 nm in length, so it’s impact on each boat’s course time was small but there were some current effects worth a brief mention. When the first boats in the fleet got to the third mark and turned north toward the finish line, the outgoing tide from Narragansett Bay was already flowing at three quarters of a knot in their face and continued until the tide turned at 5:11 AM. By then, every boat except one in classes one and two had crossed the finish line, feeling the full brunt of the head current with corrected splits averaging a little over an hour. For those few boats that sailed the leg near slack or with a favorable current, splits under an hour were prevalent.

Jeroboam’s results:

Generally I was very happy with Jeroboam’s performance though I wish I had got a better nights sleep the evening prior to the race. Around midnight that evening, the wind started to really pipe up and by dawn, two fellow boats in the anchorage had dragged, causing much excitement and disruption of sleep. I got a little sleep during the race, particularly on leg three but at a cost to performance as when I awoke from each 30 minute nap, the wind had shifted enough in my absence that my VMG dropped by half a knot.

I’m getting more and more flack from my fellow competitors about Jeroboam’s rating and my description of her as a “cruising boat.” In this race in my class, only Windswept had a longer elapsed time than I which is to be expected because his rating is higher than mine, but on corrected time I managed to win the single handed division. Riptide, a Beneteau First 40.7, was the second place boat, correcting about 52 minutes behind me. Here’s the leg-by-leg corrected time comparison between Riptide and Jeroboam.
 
Leg 1 2 3 4 Total
Jeroboam 4:19:49 5:41:04 4:07:19 0:40:12 14:48:24
Riptide 3:41:18 6:24:52 4:26:12 1:08:25 15:40:47
Difference -0:38:31 +0:43:48 +0:18:53 +0:28:14 +0:52:23

The superior leg one showing by Riptide has already been discussed, due mainly to his ability to power through the first leg and minimize the detrimental wind shift that crushed Jeroboam. The difference on leg two and four I believe was mainly because of the detrimental current effects Riptide experienced versus the not-so-detrimental effects Jeroboam experienced.

To add to my competitors’ frustrations with my rating, I corrected over all the boats in the fleet that sailed the same course as Jeroboam, including the double handed boats. One skipper in particular who was quite alarmed at my rating began listing a number of reasons why there shouldn’t be such a large difference between his 46 foot boat and Jeroboam. Upon reflection, Jeroboam’s rating would have to be lowered by 62 seconds per mile, a 35% decrease, in order for his boat to have corrected over mine. This seems excessive. I would suggest there are other factors at work.

Here's a video of Jeroboam  underway:
 
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