The Home Stretch to Newport – OBR Report #4

Onboard update from Amory Ross on day 13 of 11th Hour Racing Team’s Atlantic crossing, as they close in on their final destination – Newport, RI.

We’re on the home stretch, about 100 miles East of Nantucket, and sure enough – New England is rolling out the red carpet in traditional fashion with wall to wall fog! Visibility has been limited ever since Nova Scotia but last night’s blanket was particularly thick. Everything onboard, inside and out, was coated in a thick layer of dew. Even with the midday sun overhead we can currently see no further than the bow.

Foggy too is our future. Nobody has much clarity on the world we will be returning to, and in a lot of ways it will be like waking up from a dream. We’ve been living in a world of certainties out here. Our watch schedules are to a clock that’s never wrong. Our onboard duties are simple and straightforward and can be counted on daily, without fail. Our boat is a “bubble” of consistency. The galley is always open for dining inside or out. Even the winds followed that trend. We could count on always sailing upwind and we could count on always crossing the next front at night. There has been comfort in that predictability, even in its physical discomfort.

But we are soon stepping off into a world of unknowns. How much has Rhode Island changed since Charlie and I were last there a month ago? We are all starting to feel the gravitational pull of what had become our remote norms. Zoom calls and Google Hangouts, the influx of daily news and world conflict, and the speculation as to when we may again be able to gather as a team for some simple sailing.

The trip in itself has been a huge success. We have valuable miles and data on the new foil. We have tested different foil rake, foil retraction, sail combinations, reef combinations, trim and ballast positions. We have put a lot of time into learning about the autopilot, both daytime and nighttime operation. We have supported our onboard science project and drawn water samples looking at salinity, sea temperature and oxygen content the entire way across. We have deployed a weather buoy for NOAA, we have learned about food, water and fuel consumption for six people and experimented with watch rotations. We have kicked off camera testing with our new Oscar setup, a proprietary obstacle detection system that will be crucial to safe high speed sailing in the future.

It is a comprehensive list of achievements, but it is overshadowed by the fresh bag of surgical masks on the halyard tunnel, a drive through Covid test and the inevitable bookend to a special two weeks surrounded by nothing but the sea.