NEWPORT, R.I. - On this July 4, when the U.S. celebrates Independence Day, the spirit of cooperation with “ye olde country” is alive and well in the Transatlantic Race 2019. Co-organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club, the race is a friendly reminder of the tight bond that exists between the two seafaring nations. First sailed more than 150 years ago in 1866, this is the 31st race across “The Pond” organized by the New York Yacht Club.
“Our morning opened with playing the Star Spangled Banner, followed by America the Beautiful over the VHF Intercom, music thoughtfully provided by Bob (Langstine) and his iPad,” said Mark D’Arcy, navigator aboard Hiroshi Nakajima's Hiro Maru (top photo). “Chip (Adams) kindly distributed kazoo’s and adorned the mast with both the U.S. and Japan national flags to celebrate the day.”
NEWPORT, R.I. — With the Irish coast just 200 nautical miles away for race leader Wizard at 1500 UTC today, the front runners in the Transatlantic Race 2019 might seem to be on the home straight, but there remain many hurdles and potholes ahead before they cross the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line this weekend.
At present David and Peter Askew’s VO70 and Lee Seng Huang's 100-foot maxi SHK Scallywag (top photo) are attempting to find the best way to exit an area of high pressure just off Ireland’s west coast. Once free, the forecast warns of fickle headwinds for the final 160 nautical miles they must sail up the English Channel to Cowes.
Since late evening Monday the tracker has stopped functioning onboard SHK Scallywag. Positions are now being sent through manually from the maxi and at 1500 UTC this showed her having made major inroads into Wizard’s lead. On Monday morning SHK Scallywag had been trailing her rival by around 90 miles. At 1500 this afternoon this had dwindled to 38 miles, although Wizard was making better speed further from the high’s center.
NEWPORT, R.I. - For the last three days the frontrunners in the Transatlantic Race 2019 have been striding across the North Atlantic at 20-plus-knot speeds, eating up the miles to Cowes in the strong southerlies - exactly the dramatic conditions and high octane experience their crews signed up for.
Sadly, the big speeds and ‘yeehaa’ moments are soon to come to an end for the two frontrunners, David and Peter Askew’s VO70 Wizard and Lee Seng Huang's 100-foot maxi SHK Scallywag, at least. Already this morning, Wizard’s boatspeed had dropped from 20 knots to 15.
The reason for this slow-down is a ridge of high pressure centred off the west of Ireland that lies in their path. As Wizard’s navigator Will Oxley described it: “Wind speed is dropping, the sky is clearing and the barometer is rising. The sleigh ride is coming to an end and now it’s back to tactical sailing. The trick is to get into the high enough to use its shape to get a nice lift on the exit, while keeping enough windspeed to keep moving. Sometimes it feels a bit like Icarus - making sure we don’t fly too close to the sun (read ‘high’).”
On Saturday, Wizard, the canting keel VO70 that won the 2011-’12 Volvo Ocean Race as Groupama 4, hooked onto a low-pressure system delivering strong southerly winds between 25 and 40 knots, and took off like a bat out of hades.
Wizard put up a 24-hour run of 492 nautical miles between 1230 UTC from Sunday to today. At today’s 1400 UTC position report Wizard had 1,196 nautical miles to the finish in Cowes, Isle of Wight, England.
“We’ve had an awesome past few days,” said navigator Will Oxley. “We’ve been staying on the low. It’s been quite wet and squally. We sailed a conservative plan for a day or two, but now we’re going to back to full noise. The breeze is down to 20 knots and there aren’t any squalls, so we’re able to use the full sail plan.”
This year’s race across The Pond has been so uncharacteristic that the 120 sailors will be forgiven for feeling like they’re a school of minnows. Instead of southwesterlies pushing them along from behind, the fleet has spent an inordinate amount of time pounding upwind.
“It’s been pretty much all upwind until the wee hours of this morning,” said Carina navigator Gary Grant. “The forecast is a bit different from what we expected. This morning we thought the wind would back from the east to the northwest before dying and then filling in from the southwest. Instead, it’s been veering from the east around to the southwest. Whichever way the wind gets here, fine. We just hope to hold the southwesterly to clear the ice zone.”
At today’s 1630 UTC position report, Rives Potts’ Carina was 284 nautical miles from waypoint A3, the southeastern corner of the ice zone limit. Grant said that Carina and the J/52 True, co-skippered by Howard Hodgson and Ryan Hughes, have been crossing paths all race. He also mentioned that Mark Stevens’ Kiva has been in the mix, although it has fallen slightly farther astern in the past day.