A-log: Closing in on Halifax

Aurora, USA 50095

Cameraman Billy Black holds on, Photo by Alden Winder

M2H Log

07/11/11, 2200 GMT

We just reached 15.6  kts of boat speed to cheers all around. Olympic sailing silver medalist Steve Benjamin was steering us like a large dingy, surfing Aurora’s 66 feet down the 5-foot rollers catching us from behind. It looks like we’ll break the boat’s record for Marblehead-Halifax, a race it has entered many times since it was launched in 1994 as Exile. But our competitors are close as courses converge 36 nm away from sea buoy Hb, the turning point into Halifax Harbor for a 10 nm leg to the finish. We have some crucial tactical decisions to make now before we make the turn in about three hours.

It looks likely to be a dead run into Halifax, meaning a lot of jibes. Being able to sail deep down wind gives us an advantage over our closest competitors, who must sail wider angles because of their bowsprits and asymetrical spinnakers. Still, Bella Pita and Valkyrie look to be well ahead of us on corrected time. They are each more than 10 feet longer than Aurora. On the long broad reach since we set out eastward from Marblehead, its been a waterline race, where boat length is a determining factor. As a rule longer boats with taller rigs to catch more wind aloft go faster than smaller boats.

Beatrice Witzgall, John Winder, Steve Benjamin, Photo by Alden Winder

The fog lifted late afternoon to bright sunshine and a wind building to 20 kts. It’s been an awesome ride for everyone — imagine a 300-mile spinnaker reach. There has been some fun job rotation on deck where specialists like me or bow woman Beatrice Witzgall got a chance to trim spinnaker and the main sail.  Of course it’s an honor to sail on Aurora and very cool to trim the main for Gary and Benji, even if they tell you you are doing it all wrong (which they don’t often.) Some funny story telling and needling all afternoon was good for team building. Beatrice, being the only female (and German national) crewmember held her own even as the 17 guys on the boat had some light fun at her expense. I don’t envy her, but do admire her sailing ability and fun nature. Very helpful ideas-wise too, for the blog, meal prep and other subjects of importance to me, the crew and Thomson Reuters audience.

— Alden Bentley, Reuters