Aurora, USA 50095
Owner/Skipper Gus Carlson at the helm
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
Aurora, USA 50095
Cameraman Billy Black holds on, Photo by Alden Winder
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
Steve Benjamin drives Aurora fast in the fog
07/11/11, 1509 GMT
As predicted the fog has arrived off Nova Scotia. We passed Cape Sable at 1000 EDT (1400 GMT) in visual distance of Cape Sable Lighthouse. After passing Brazil Rock (A navigational hazard 6 feet below the surface at low tide) at 1040, we eased out the sails, doused the Code Zero and hoisted the A3 spinnaker to head down to a broad reach with spinny and stay sail carrying us along at 10 kts under a wind speed indicated at 16 kts, although there is much doubt about the accuracy of our instruments on that. Before the fog settled in like a cliche we could see the Canadian coast on the horizon about 4 miles away.
We tried a jibe to head in closer to shore to see if there was stronger wind and a better sailing angle. But Steve Benjamin, who was driving and calling tactical shots at the time did not like what we saw (nothing in fact, because of the fog.) We jibed back onto starboard tack, on which we have spend almost the entire race. It’s been a very fast sail, roughly 260 miles in 24 hours. With fewer than 100 nm to go, according to Devin’s calculations, we should finish not long after dark. But he warned, with the winds lifting us and requiring downwind VMG sailing (Velocity Made Good, which means finding the perfect balance between sailing fast and sailing the shortest distance to your destination) it will be a tough, foggy afternoon of racing.
– Alden Bentley, Reuters
Aurora after the M2H start
Aurora, USA 50095
07/10/11, 1750 GMT
Our IRC divsion 1 with all the very big fast boats was the first to start at 1300 EST, 1700 GMT. We had good speed. Gary Jobson at the helm and speed doctor Steve Benjamin talking tactics next to him ensured we were where we wanted to be – nearest the committee boat on the west side of the starting line. A heart stopping moment as we luffed up 78 foot Valkyrie half a boat length to windward to break an overlap and get room to round the first mark. I think Valkyrie were pretty shocked at our nerve. Breeze was about 10 kts per hour at 190 degrees, or ssw. In order to provide lots of room and viewing opportunity for spectator boats, Race Commttee made the fleet do a dog leg right after the start with two very short 1.5 kt legs close to the Massachusetts shore before sending us into the open ocean.
The parade: Bella Pita, Valkyrie from Aurora
We are now headed on a compass course of about 93 degrees, almost dead east to cross the Gulf of Maine toward Nova Scotia. Halifax is 36o nm away. It looks like a very tight reach into Sunday night, early Monday. We are sailing almost close hauled, so for now we can’t carry a spinnaker. The wind picked to 14 kts, which brings the apparent wind (the effect of a boat’s self generated headwind on the true wind direction) that sails are trimmed to even further forward. We are making a comfortable 11.9 kts through the water. But the wind is expected to lighten and shift right a bit later in the afternoon which may allow a spinnaker. Breeze should pick up again tonight and build through Monday.
As always we must make a decision: Do we stay close the rhumb line or seek out better wind and spinnaker angle and hope for advantage that way. Bella Pita, a Tripp 75, and Valkyrie a Swan 78 are right in front of us at the moment. Its a long race and its not likely we’ll have visual on our competitors for for the whole distance.