Gus Carlson

Thomson Reuters Aurora stars in Nov 4 ESPN sailing program

Sailors and sports fans should stay near the television set on Friday evening, Nov 4, when the Thomson-Reuters sponsored 66-foot ocean racer  Aurora will be featured in one of  three ESPN sailing programs produced by sailing legend Gary Jobson, a regular on Aurora as helmsman and tactician. 

Aurora, Marblehead-Halifax Race

Whether you are a yacht racer, a cruising sailor or recreate on a Sunfish,  you will enjoy exciting footage from Aurora’s 2011 season of racing in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of the United States and Canada.  Thanks to the seamanship and dedication of a mostly non-professional crew,  the Aurora sailing program collected numerous trophies this year, radiated good karma and sportsmanship, and established Thomson Reuters as a premier sponsor of world class sailing events. New Thomson Reuters ads featuring the stunning Aurora under sail will also be aired for the first time during the three-hours of prime-time sailing on ESPN Classic, which  starts at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT.)  The programing details:

ESPN Classic, Friday Nov. 4:

7:00pm Best of One Design Racing

8:00pm New York Yacht Club World Invitational Cup

9:00pm Racing for an Ocean Record (this is the show on Aurora)

— Alden Bentley 


A-Log: 2011 ends with a 1st in Leukemia Cup charity regatta

Aurora, USA 50095

Gus Carlson and Team Aurora, 2011

Skipper’s log

Leukemia Cup


The following is a note from Owner/Skipper Gus Carlson after Aurora placed first in division in the Leukemia Cup hosted by Larchmont Yacht Club on Saturday:

We were proud to sail Aurora in the distance race event of the Leukemia Cup to support such a great cause. We thank the Larchmont Yacht Club and the Race Committee for staging a great race, and the Westchester County chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for a fantastic fund-raising effort.  So many of us, our families and friends have been touched by cancer, including my own family experience with lymphoma, and to participate in this event is an important way for us to continue the fight against the disease.  It is also an honor for us to support our fellow Aurora crewman, Gary Jobson, a cancer survivor and national regatta chairman of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s sailing program. And while Gary was not aboard for the race yesterday, he was with us in spirit.  We did, however, have another special guest aboard — Stirling Winder.  For the last two years, we have sailed in support of Stirling’s efforts to raise funds for cancer research.  A cancer survivor herself, Stirling has become an inspiration the Aurora crew and we were thrilled to have her aboard yesterday.  She brought us very good fortune.  Thank you, Stirling.

As for the race itself, the conditions were light, with winds consistently in the 8-11 knot range, with only a brief period on the upwind leg where we saw puffs to 12-14 knots, and then fading late in the race.  The competition was fierce, with a number of very fast well-sailed boats in our division.  And while we were certainly the biggest boat, the talent and capabilities aboard our rivals made it essential for us to sail a near-perfect race to cover our time on them, especially on a relatively short 30-mile course.  Thanks to great crew work, some thoughful strategic decisions, and a little help from mother nature, who turned down the fan late in the race, we were able to hold on to win on corrected time.  Kudos to our Aurora crew for an almost flawless performance.  But also kudos to our competitors, who sailed well and made it an interesting and fun race — and all for a good cause.

One interesting note.  For those of you who have been following the A-blog this summer, you know that Aurora suffered some damage in the Vineyard Race on Labor Day weekend when we hit a half-submerged log after dark while sailing in eastern Long Island Sound.  The debris in the Sound left over from Hurricane Irene the week presented a significant hazard to the Vineyard fleet, and many boats suffered damage, including one that broke her rudder on a submerged object.  In Aurora’s case, the collision with the log left a softball-sized ding on her bow, right at the waterline — not structural, but it could have caused issues had it not been looked after immediately.  Thanks to the heroic efforts of Dave Jurkowski, Brook West, the crew at Brewer’s Yacht Haven Marina in Stamford, CT, and others, Aurora was hauled, repaired, and relaunched in 48 hours, ready to be on the starting line for the Leukemia Cup.  She doesnt look as pretty as usual — she bears a big white carbon fibre band-aid on her bow — but she is sound and sure.  Thanks to the repair team for their quick work and solid craftsmanship.

The Leukemia Cup is the last official race for Aurora in the Northeastern US this season.  I want to thank the crew, our dedicated shore support team and all the friends of the Aurora program for making this a sensational season.  I also want to thank the various clubs and organizing authorities for their hard work in staging the events in which we sailed.  Special thanks, of course, to Thomson Reuters for its continued support of the Aurora program and the sport of competitive sailing.  To Eileen Lynch and Mindy Whang of the TR marketing department, a big thank you.  We couldn’t have done it without.    Aurora is proud to sail under the Thomson Reuters colors.

A final thought.  Before Aurora leaves the dock to go sailing, I remind our crew that I have three objectives for them — to sail safely, to learn, and to have fun.  My belief is that if we do those three things well, the boat will perform and we will win our fair share of silverware.  I think we made great strides in 2011 on all our objectives — our seamanship has improved, our knowledge of how to sail Aurora faster and more efficiently is much better, and we have created a collegial “karma” aboard that enables people to enjoy our adventures, which have taken us over 2,000 miles in the last 14 months aboard Aurora.  And while I don’t measure our success simply by the silverware we collect, I’m delighted to say that our results in the 2011 season bear out my broader belief on winning our share of glory.  As I write this in my den, I am looking at the awards we won in 2011 for our performane in the Marblehead-Halifax Race, the Vineyard Race, the Stamford Overnight Race, and our combined placing in the 2010 Newport-Bermuda Race and the 2011 Annapolis-Newport Race.  More important, I am also looking at photographs of the smiling faces of the Aurora crew, who each own a very special piece of every trophy we have won.  It is truly amazing and gratifying for me to see what a Corinthian crew, made up of local club sailors, and tutored by some of the world’s best, like Gary Jobson and Steve Benjamin, have accomplished in such a short time on a boat that celebrates its 18th birthday next year.  I am so proud of everyone involved in the Aurora program, on and off the water, and I thank them for giving me such a wonderful gift — another great year doing what I love most.

Thank you,


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A-Log: At the dock for dinner?

Aurora, USA 50095

Vineyard Race log

09/03/11, 1937 GMT

We’re 25 nautical miles from The Cows, then a right turn and 3/4 mile leg to the finish off  the Stamford breakwater. We were without cell phone signal for hours this morning and I had several failed and frustrating attempts to publish my overnight blogs. Anyway we’re on port tack almost close hauled making 9.12 knots sailing 246, SW, on the rhumb line to the Cows. We’ve gained considerably on Blue Yankee in the last two hours. Latest fleet positioning puts them about 14 miles ahead of us. Decision is 11 miles back and it looks like we’ve gained about 7 miles on them … maybe they sailed into a hole closer to the north shore of Long Island. The wind speed just built from less than 10 kts to almost 17 and we had to change headsails to the medium No. 1 genoa. Next is to change down to the No. 2 genoa. It’s still too close to guess how we’re doing on a handicap basis. But if this is the ride home, we could be back at the dock for dinner.

Read more on the SYC’s race blog: 

— Alden Bentley, Reuters

A-Log: A sickening thud

Aurora, USA 50095

Back at the dock for first look at bow damage

Vineyard Race log

09/03/11, 0600 GMT

The floating debris in the Sound from Hurricane Irene was unbelievable – Trees, tires and telephone-pole-sized logs floating in wide patches. We had to steer clear of a large split tree with root system sticking up like an unkempt octopus reaching for us as we sailed by. Then the sun set and as we navigated the lumpy seas in the dark, trying to escape The Race before the tide turned foul, Rich du Moulin yelled “head up.” Gary quickly steered the bow toward the wind, missing a 10-foot log  sweeping along the port side by three feet … disaster averted. We sent Ellen Quinn forward to the bow with flashlight to keep watch for the “growlers”  that could punch a hole in us. We steered up and down to dodge a couple more. Then we felt the unpleasant thud of striking something hard, but not enough to stop us … it scraped along the hull/keel. We checked for water coming in but all safe and dry below. The branch or whatever did gouge a ding out of the bow at the waterline  … Hazards at sea …

0900 GMT

Another big hazard for mariners … The beacon at Buzzards Bay Tower, our turning point, was off. We could not make it out until we were 200 yards away. Expert navigation by Rando put us right on it to round safely in complete darkness except for the stars. Rich du Moulin, one of the winningest skippers in these waters on his boat Laura Ann,  says that  in 33 Vineyard races he has never seen Buzzards Bay Tower unlit … perhaps more hurricane fallout.  Bit of a problem when we tacked to round it. A loose line got sucked into the primary winch when we were bringing the jib across,  which prevented us from completing a clean maneuver until we could rig a new jib sheet to the other primary and take load off the tangled mess. Not a glorious moment but the crew work is usually flawless. Stuff happens in big boat racing. 

Read more on the SYC’s race blog: 

— Alden Bentley, Reuters

A-Log: Close hauled to The Race (or Gut)

Aurora (r) and Blue Yankee from aloft. Note the design evolution, Photo by Alden Winder

 Aurora, USA 50095

Vineyard Race log

09/02/11, 1928 GMT

Glorious sailing! Clear skies, flat water and moderate breeze. Two hours into the 77th Vineyard Race we are making good time and remain in visual distance of the two other boats in our IRC-zero class — Blue Yankee, which owes us about 2 hours over 24 hours and the TP 52 Decision, who we owe about one hour per day to.  It was cool to be rafted up with the new Blue Yankee at Yacht Haven. Alden Winder took this cool picture of the new and old R/P 66 designs from the top of Aurora’s mast.

Wind conditions are not going according to forecast.  Our heading has been about 90 degrees (due east.) With the wind coming from about 50 degrees at 9 knots or so we are hitting our target speeds around 8.5 kts close hauled on port tack heading close to the shortest-line course to either of the two possible exits from Long Island Sound. The wind appears to be backing more easterly (70 degrees) and slackening slightly. It could continue to shift right and weaken into the evening. It probably means a tack onto starboard soon and definitely means we will have to think hard before commiting either to Plum Island Gut near the north fork of Long Island about 40 miles away, or The Race about 50 miles distant. The trick will be getting through into Block Island Sound before the tide starts to flood hard this evening, making passage into the stiff current very difficult in the lighter air we might see by then. Right now the tide is slack turning to ebb which will push us toward our destination.

Lucas Marrero (r) and Brook West (and Blue Yankee in distance)

Gary Jobson just returned the helm to Gus, after steering the start and taking a bite out of the first leg. We were about 30 seconds late to the line at the starting gun after Decision used right-of-way racing rules to pin us above the committee boat with less than minute to go. So we jibed around and tacked again to cross “scary” close  (at least to Brook West) to the committee boat ( picture Aurora’s 66 feet swishing at 7 knots by the anchored 40ish-foot cabin cruiser a bit more than arms length away.) 

At the Committee Boat, a bit late at the start

Navigator Randy (Rando) Needham has a pool going on finish times … $1 each. I chose 0215 EDT Sunday. I gather there are a lot of bets clustered around mine.

— Alden Bentley, Reuters


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A-Log: Trophies for Aurora, buzz for Thomson Reuters

Aurora, USA 50095

Aurora program manager John Winder at M2H awards dinner

M2H Log


John Winder represented Aurora at the awards dinner last night in Halifax,  collecting two  trophies on behalf of Gus and the team: a painted glass plate for coming in 1stin ORR Class 1, and for placing second in the combined 2011 Annapolis-Newport and Marblehead-Halifax races we received a Chelsea Clock.  The trophies are really just icing on the cake for a program that is

about much more than winning or breaking records.  At every yacht racing event we enter Gus is mobbed by sailors and owners thanking Thomson Reuters for supporting the sport and wanting a tour of Aurora. “There is a significant positive buzz about her and Thomson Reuters wherever we go, no matter how we place,” he said.

Our distinctive orange TR-branded race logo caps are becoming a status symbol in the sailing world, at least on the U.S. East Coast, telegraphing that the people who wear them are serious offshore racers.  Aurora is now identified with two of the world’s most accomplished sailors. Having Gary Jobson and Steve Benjamin on board adds to the coolness of the program and the growing cache of the TR logo in yacht racing circles.  Gary placed cameramen/women on four boats in this race, including the top finishers. So the footage of four Grand Prix racing yachts surfing under spinnaker in the high teens and low 20s should be very exciting when ESPN Classic airs Gary’s sailing line up on Nov. 4,  at 1900 ET.  Meanwhile, as better photos from the race become available, I’ll add them to these blogs. So keep an eye out.

Photo by Alden Winder

“No matter how experienced and grizzled a sailor is, they are impressed when they step aboard a boat like Aurora, with her size and stature, her history and heritage, her star status on ESPN and the fact that she is in spectacular shape, even now in her middle age,” said Gus.

— Alden Bentley, Reuters

A-Log: Aurora breaks record to Halifax!

Aurora, USA 50095

Owner/Skipper Gus Carlson at the helm

M2H log

Halifax, Tuesday

News flash: Aurora was one of three boats that broke the 1984 course record and it looks like we came 1st in our class under ORR rules.  We were the third vessel to cross the finish line, following Bella Pita and Valkyrie, which were both very well sailed and very fast.  On corrected time we finished  5th in our IRC class and 13th in IRC fleet overall. In our class it was a very tight race were all the boats corrected within 10 minutes of each other.  Gus is psyched that not only did we sail very well and have fun but placed well. We are all still pumped up from last night’s thrill ride and relieved to have finished so quickly with a milestone for the history books. Aurora’s Corinthian sailing program puts a premium on learning, safety and sailing as well as possible. Earning trophies for the shelf is great, but not what determines our success.

Our wind speed registered 25 kts a few times on the last leg. While that velocity was 88 feet up at the top of Aurora’s mast and velocity on the water was slightly less, it was still enough to generate white caps and following seas. The final leg was a real adrenalin rush. I was right in the center of the action helping John Gladstone from North Sails trim the main. That meant grinding non stop for four hours as we eased and trimmed the sails in a rhythm to help catch the surfable waves.

Our boat speed exceeded 17 kts numerous times while sledding down the 4-5 foot waves. We  pushed the boat as hard as she would go, riding the edge between sailing as fast as possible and wiping out. Fifteen minutes before the finish, wipe out is exactly what we did, rounding uncontrollably into the wind under spinnaker and staysail. But after a huge ease of the main and spinnaker to let off wind pressure, we righted the boat, steered back down to the reach then sheeting in again to renew the sprint to the line.

But the excitement was not over, for as soon as the sails filled with wind we blew out a second spinnaker, the No. 3 chute.  With not too much fuss and hot-shot crew work, we quickly got the giant shredded sail down and pulled it into the cockpit. Within 5 minutes we had also taken down the staysail and hoisted the No. 2 genoa, which we carried to the finish.  Upon finishing we noticed the the head and top 1/4 of the lost chute was still waving  in the wind from the top of the rig, so young Taylor North, the mid-bow man, was hoisted up the mast to free up the halyard jammed at the sheave.

Too bad the folks on the committee boat did not get to witness the thrilling spectacle of Aurora screaming across the finish line under chute and staysail. But the wind had slackened anyway as we came into the inner harbor. On the dock it was all “Welcome to Canada.”  Before letting us step off the boat, customs, immigration and race officials climbed aboard to clear our passports and do a final verification that we had all required safety equipment on board.

— Alden Bentley, Reuters

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