Bruce Nelson “wins” the Vineyard Race

A screen shot of the Sailonline version of the 2011 Vineyard Race.

Bruce Nelson may not have been in Connecticut over Labor Day weekend but he nevertheless did manage to win the Vineyard Race.

Nelson, the noted America’s Cup yacht designer based in San Diego, took part in the Vineyard through Sailonline.org, a Swedish virtual sail-racing navigation simulator that, when buddied with real races,  runs them on the internet  by duplicating the routes in real-time wind conditions.

The virtual version of the race allows users to encounter similar conditions as the racers on the course by using real time weather models and selecting appropriate course headings and wind angles to sail during the running of the race. This is the second year Sailonline.org has used the Vineyard Race as a course for its members. Each competitor was assigned a boat with performance based on the polars from a TP52.

“It is a challenging game which demands your attention,” noted Nelson. “You can just specify a series of delayed commands to send the boat on your pre-determined course, but if you want to win it requires a bit more than that.”  The online race takes place concurrent with the actual race, even starting at the same time and using the same weather data, updated every six hours but released into the game every 10 minutes.

Bruce Nelson

Nelson, who competes in a dozen such virtual races a year, said this one is particularly difficult because the course is so challenging with many landmarks to avoid and changing conditions. As such, Nelson checked in every few hours, even at night, to make sure his boat was on track. “On a race like SOL’s World Race, similar to a Volvo ocean race or Global Ocean Race you can set your steering commands and not have to come back for six hours. The Vineyard Race  is more demanding, but fortunately it does not take too long,” he said.

“It’s a lot like doing the real race,” he added. “It’s similar to being the navigator.”

Just like the racers who were on the Vineyard course Labor Day weekend Nelson faced countless decisions. On the way out he chose to hug the Connecticut shore, heading out through Fishers Island Sound. It was a run to the Buzzards Bay entrance marker so he worked on making sure he jibed at the right times.

Of the 321 entrants he was third around the turning mark. On the beat back towards Block Island is where the race was won. “The key was timing the tack onto port to lay the southeast corner of Block,” Nelson said. “That’s when I got a bit lucky. There was a new weather update in the middle of that leg which gave me a favorable shift to the turning mark and put me ahead of the rest of the fleet.”

Nelson praised his competition. “It’s not easy. I don’t know any of the other racers but they are very good and to finish in the top 10 is quite an accomplishment.”

All in all, it took Nelson 28 hours to complete the course.

While this is the first time Nelson has virtually sailed the Vineyard Race online he is a true veteran of the race, sailing it over 10 times.

Finishing behind Nelson were two Swedes: Jan Carling of Stockholm and Jerker Hedman of Gothenburg.

All will receive Vineyard Race hats for their efforts.

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3 Responses

  1. […] Bruce Nelson “wins” the Vineyard Race […]

  2. […] Recent Comments Eight bells: Edwin G… on Buzzards Society membersCalling all Buzzards… on Buzzards Society membersWelcome to the new B… on Buzzards Society membersDiane Kortjohn McKee… on Bruce Nelson to speak at skipp…Bruce Nelson to spea… on Bruce Nelson “wins… […]

  3. […] some well-known people have not only participated in the online version but also won it. Click here to to find out […]

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