Celestial to Bermuda

Back when the Marion-Bermuda cruising yacht race was founded in 1977, everybody was required to use celestial navigation. The race formally sanctioned electronic navigation in 1997, but many boats still choose to navigate using the sun, moon and stars.During this year’s race, eight entries in the 50-boat fleet navigated celestially, including my father’s boat, the Hinkley Sou’Wester 50
Author:
Publish date:
CelestialPhoto1

Back when the Marion-Bermuda cruising yacht race was founded in 1977, everybody was required to use celestial navigation. The race formally sanctioned electronic navigation in 1997, but many boats still choose to navigate using the sun, moon and stars.

During this year’s race, eight entries in the 50-boat fleet navigated celestially, including my father’s boat, the Hinkley Sou’Wester 50 yawl Lyra, on board which we were reminded once again of the many difficulties faced by sailors in years past.

In addition to the basic technical challenge of handling a sextant, celestial navigators often face uncooperative weather, and this year’s race was no exception. On the heels of the 2009 race, where too much wind and heavy seas made sights difficult—if not impossible—to take, the 2011 race included three days of fog and stretches of no wind, which left the celestial class becalmed and blind.

Aboard Lyra, navigator Steve Bussolari had to rely on dead reckoning much of the time. But when Lyra arrived in Bermuda six days later, we were only 2 nautical miles off the GPS coordinates that popped up when we finally turned the instrument on.

Celestial racing classes like this provide a unique opportunity for sailors to uphold the customs and traditions of historic sailing. Using a sextant, mathematical tables and the stars to navigate the 650 miles to Bermuda makes what is already a great experience that much more rewarding.

For more on this year’s race, including complete results, visit marionbermuda.com.

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more