With a series of cold fronts marching across the US midwest, Rally Control has decided to delay the start of Leg 2, the offshore leg from Portsmouth, VA to Cape May, NJ until the wee hours of Wednesday morning June 22. Rally forecasters WRI had this to say about the forecast:

“Due to the fronts, expect periods of gusty SW'ly winds for all zones the next few days. For Grid B, expect enhanced SW'ly winds for the 21st, veering on the morning of the 22nd before briefly backing later in the day, and continuing from the SW later in the day. Note that showers/squalls will develop later in the day/evening of the 21st, with locally gusty winds. These will end by late tomorrow night. More scattered showers/squalls will develop by later the 23rd with the next front.”

It’s a somewhat complicated predicament for the rally, especially given the diverse nature of the participants’ experience. On one hand, the southwesterly wind ahead of the front would propel the fleet quickly up the coast, with fast & fun downwind sailing to offer. However, the potential for thunderstorm activity is something that must be accounted for. 

For many in the fleet, this will be the first taste of ocean sailing. For others, it’s a chance to test the waters ahead of the ARC Caribbean 1500 in the fall, so a stronger forecast would in fact provide a good shakedown ahead of the much more challenging fall passage south. 

WRI continued:

“Again, the main concern for the Rally will be showers/squalls with locally gusty winds later tomorrow/tomorrow evening, and again later the 23rd. Expect gusty winds, with the potential for a few gusts to 30kts in Grid C tomorrow night.”

This, of course, is par for the course in ocean sailing, but the goal with DelMarVa is to encourage sailors to expand their horizons incrementally and not scare them away from it!

There appears to be a large enough window from early Wednesday morning until later Thursday evening when conditions appear ideal for a run up the coast - westerly winds behind the first front, backing to the southwest ahead of the second front, which is in fact weaker than the first. Those conditions would offer reaching and broad-reaching weather all the way to Cape May, allowing an arrival by mid-afternoon on Thursday and ahead of the next cold front.

WRI concluded that “based on the forecast, the best window for vessels to depart will be to leave in the early morning hours, near 0300-0400 EDT on the 22nd. This will allow for the best timing between fronts, and to arrive in Cape May on the 23rd before the next front. It will be important for vessels to motor (if needed) to maintain speed in order to arrive in Cape May by midday or so on the 23rd, as the next front with more showers/squalls moves through in the evening.”

With a day off tomorrow (Tuesday) in Portsmouth, we’ll take a closer look at the forecast assuming a Wednesday morning departure and make a final decision at another skipper’s weather briefing tomorrow evening.

Program Changes

ARC DelMarVa was designed to be a flexible event, with one extra day built-in if a delay were necessary. Last year that extra day came in Cape May, as the rally left on schedule from Portsmouth and crews had a leisurely time exploring the beachfront community there.

This year they’ll have a chance to explore historic Portsmouth, Virginia, take the ferry to Norfolk, catch a movie at the charming Commodore Theatre or visit the plentiful bars and restaurants on High Street.

Since the fleet won’t sail tomorrow, tonight’s Skipper’s Briefing will include rum drinks on the menu to celebrate the extended stopover in true sailor fashion! A contingency program is in the works for the Cape May stopover. The Annapolis Prizegiving party is planned to go off as planned on Saturday, June 25

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