August 16, 2023
Savannah Taylor of Shelburne Harbour Yacht Club aboard Hard Eight
By Savannah Taylor
Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race is considered the pre-eminent North Atlantic Ocean race. It begins on the first Sunday after July 4th just outside Marblehead Harbour. The race runs approximately 360 nautical miles northeast across the Gulf of Maine, through the tidal currents of the Bay of Fundy then along the shore to the finish in Halifax. In 2023, this race has been running for 118 years – believed to be the longest running offshore ocean race in the world.
The North Atlantic presents an array of challenges, from rapidly changing weather conditions to varying currents and waves. Competitors must possess not only the skill to maneuver their vessels effectively but also the wisdom to read the ocean’s signals and make strategic decisions that will ultimately determine their success. As the fleet faces the potential for dense fog, strong winds, and unpredictable seas, the importance of teamwork, communication, and a deep understanding of navigation becomes evident. The Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race captures the maritime sailing traditions while embodying the pursuit of offshore sailing. For the 2023 edition of MHOR there were 78 Boats.
MHOR was a race my grandfather always told stories about, so I was eager to participate and have some of my own.
Thankful to my dad, grandfather, and everyone else involved for putting in long hours working at night and in the rain to prep Hard Eight, our Tripp 41 for the race. We also wouldn’t have been able to compete without Simon Rees coming down to Shelburne to measure the boat and going through the safety inspection on his own time.
At the captains meeting they predicted a light wind race, saying to throw away the spinnaker and that it wasn’t going to be above the 10kts. It was known that it was my first offshore race, and all the veterans were really welcoming and helpful. We were chosen to represent team Canada along with BlueJay III and Airborne IV.
We received our ORR rating the day before the race and ended up being placed in ORR 1 with the Mills 68 previously known as Prospector who held the MHOR record.
Our race began with a challenge when the jib car exploded 30 mins before the start. It was a downwind start, so the larger boats shot ahead and when rounding the bottom mark, we would have been last boat so it was exciting start to play catch up and reel in boat after boat. Rounded the downwind mark and outhaul broke.
The first 12 hours were favorable for the boat, light winds upwind. It was exiting as we could hear from the vhf that we were doing well. When we got in, we would find out that we led this portion of the race.
My next shift I came up and weather had picked up blowing 20-25. Driving in the dark, wind and swell was a whole new experience. We reefed the main but then our reefing system parted off. We were hesitant to change to the blade as we had broken the jib track in the pre-race, jimmy rigged but we found a way to do so, probably not for optimal sail shape.
Tried to get back out knowing wind was filling outside and the swell would take the wind out of the sails making us turn back towards land us to keep moving. This really cost us the race. We ended up parked off Sambro, 17 miles to the fairway for about 10 hours. Ended up taking the main down to try to get air in the spinnaker to get the boat moving.
It was quite eventful, on I think the second day it was coming on dark, the engine wouldn’t start to charge the batteries, leaving us without nav lights. Thankfully the crew were able to get it back up and running.
Now that I’ve had a taste of offshore and know what the boat can do, I can’t wait for the next race.
In 2019 Savannah qualified as the Female I420 to represent Canada at the Youth Worlds in Poland and in 2019 she also won Nova Scotia Female Youth Sailor of the Year. Last summer at Chester Race Week, 20-year-old Savannah Taylor at the helm of Hard Eight won the PHRF Distance 1 Division with two bullets in four races.