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New York to
Bermuda Challenge

AWT Supports Record Breaking New York to Bermuda Challenge

StormGeo Shipping Insights, September 2013
By Mike O'Brien, StormGeo Senior Operations Manager

StormGeo is known throughout the maritime industry as a leader of fleet management, optimum ship routing and voyage efficiency services. Somewhat less known are the services StormGeo provides for sailing and motor yachts.

The precision forecasts for winds, waves, swell and other environmental factors that StormGeo provides to commercial shipping are of great value to yachts and smaller vessels as well. The size of these vessels and the requirements for passenger comfort underscore the necessity for a high level of accuracy when seeking out weather information.

About the Bermuda Challenge

The Bermuda Challenge started in 1996 when two men sailed a power boat from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Bermuda. Boating Magazine then put forth a challenge from New York City to Bermuda. The challenge was to not only get from New York to Bermuda with the fastest time, but to also highlight fuel efficiency technology.

On July 17, 1999 Del Lippert, Forrest Munden and Matt Connery broke the powerboat speed record from New York City to Bermuda. They left New York on a 26 foot World Cat Catamaran with twin 150hp outboards. They completed the 780 mile trip in the unofficial time of 29 hours, 19 minutes.

Neil Burnie and Bill Ratlieff left Liberty Landing Marina on July 17, 2002 at 1:55 pm. They completed the run in their 30-ft. Renaissance Prowler 306 catamaran in just 22 hours and 23 minutes, shattering the previously held record by over 7 hours.

StormGeo has been a sponsor of the team of Chris Fertig and Tyson Garvin since 2011. Chris and Tyson set the record in August 2012 at 21 hours and 39 minutes only to be beaten a month later by an Italian team.

Just last month, Chris and Tyson were able to regain the world record on August 21, 2013 completing the challenge in 15 hours and 48 minutes.

Weather and Routing Requirements for the Bermuda Challenge

Forecasting the weather between New York City and Bermuda is far from routine. A forecast needs to take into account the influence of one of the world's most powerful ocean currents, the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream is known as a powerful 'river' within the Atlantic Ocean, but it can also generate its own microclimate and alter the weather considerably.

The Gulf Stream frequently will destabilize the atmosphere allowing thunderstorms to develop. These thunderstorms can create widespread heavy rain, very gusty winds and a sharp increase in sea heights within the core of the Gulf Stream. The conditions that these storms generate are more than enough to derail a Bermuda Challenge attempt.

For a race like the Bermuda Challenge, we take into account the size of the boat, a combined sea and swell height needs to be below four feet and ideally two to three feet or lower. Even when strong high pressure prevails, it is difficult to find an 18–24 hour window where the following criteria are satisfied:

  1. General wind flow is below 12 knots
  2. Sea and swell conditions are generally less than one meter
  3. Atmospheric instability is such that the risk for thunderstorms is minimal
  4. Ocean current eddies and flow are not going to adversely impact the direct route to the point they would need to alter course and add distance to the voyage.
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Actual ocean current chart sent to Chris and Tyson in preparation for the race.

Once this weather and ocean current window is identified, it's up to Chris and Tyson to endure the fatigue and numerous challenges that a 677 nautical mile voyage across open ocean will present.

Chris Fertig's Account of the Bermuda Challenge Attempt 2013

After weeks of monitoring the weather, routers from StormGeo and my team agreed that forecasts were favorable and stable enough to support a Bermuda Challenge World Record attempt departing from the Statue of Liberty in New York City just after first light Wednesday, August 21st, 2013.

Tyson and I positioned the boat at the start line on Tuesday the 20th, making sure to double check all race gear and safety equipment in preparation for Wednesday's assault on the 780-mile open ocean world record.

After receiving a final race day weather update from StormGeo, our team of adventurers blasted out of New York Harbor at 65 knots, and headed east to the horizon. Making incredible time, we began immediately attacking the existing world record time, cutting through 2 – 3 feet (.75 to 1 meter) wave chop as we pounded offshore. Approximately 60 miles from the start line and with 720 miles remaining, the boat's starboard propeller threw a blade forcing us to enter the water and conduct a propeller change out!

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With the broken propeller replaced and the race clock still ticking, we brought the boat back up onto plane and proceeded to start to earn back the time lost during the propeller replacement. For the next 10 hours, we headed east, running into the predicted high pressure ridge sitting just west of Bermuda, making up as much time as possible to give us a cushion should weather conditions deteriorate or mechanical issues develop.

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After dark, and with 150 miles to the finish line, the boat's port propeller threw a blade, forcing a nighttime propeller replacement in a depth of over 12,000 feet (3658 meters) of water! Back up and running, Tyson and I calculated the required speed of advance to break the record by an hour, and proceeded towards the finish line, making every effort to minimize the strain put on the only remaining propellers we had.

15 hours and 48 minutes after departing New York City, Tyson and I crossed the finish line at Town Cut Channel in St. Georges, Bermuda, breaking the existing record by 1 hour and 18 minutes while using only 480 gallons of fuel, significantly less than what was used in the prior record holders run.

What StormGeo does for us is probably one of the most critical aspects of the whole race. We knew when we needed to run fast and when we could slow up a little bit and make our way through the rough weather...they were a huge key to our victory.

Final Thoughts

The success of the Bermuda Challenge lies entirely with Chris and Tyson. StormGeo is proud to have contributed our special knowledge of the marine environment allowing them to make informed choices on how to proceed during this unique race.

StormGeo remains focused on voyage efficiency from the largest commercial fleets in the world to those proving new fuel efficiency technology such as the Bermuda Challenge. To listen to a short video clip interview with Chris Fertig, click here. (Video in here!)