The second of the three staggered start dates for the 50-boat Transatlantic Race 2015 got underway yesterday in a brisk southwesterly breeze just after 2 p.m. local time.
A line of thunderstorms, which had initially been forecast to come through at mid-day, passed over Newport just as the crews of 20 entries were waking to begin final preparations for the 2,800-mile race from Newport, R.I., to The Lizard off England’s southwestern tip.
By the time the first cannon sounded at 1:50 p.m., the sun was shining and the breeze was blowing, and the competitors reveled in the ideal conditions. First off the starting line were the five Class 40s, purpose-designed ocean racing yachts that are sailing with between two and four crew onboard, less than half what any other boat in the race is carrying.
The Class 40s are the smallest boats in the race but are likely to provide the most intense competition. The boats are very even in speed and are racing in a level class, which means the first boat across the finish line will win class honors.
Among the first starters of the Transatlantic Race 2015, waterline length is prevailing. The 138’ Mariette of 1915 was first to reach the strong southwesterlies yesterday and is now thundering east, in a rich get richer scenario.
The century-old schooner was this morning midway between the start and the southwestern corner of the ice exclusion zone, aimed at keeping competitors away from the Grand Banks and its hazards of thick fog, fishing boats, and, not least, icebergs drifting south on the Labrador Current. Mariette of 1915 has also put some 160 miles on second placed Scarlet Oyster, the British Oyster Lightwave 48 skippered by Ross Applebey.
With 13 boats having left Sunday (June 28) on the 2,800-mile Transatlantic Race 2015, a second group of 20 is likewise due to begin the journey this Wednesday (July 1) from a staging area across from Castle Hill Lighthouse in Narragansett Bay’s East Passage. It is ashore on the lighthouse’s rocky perch that the New York Yacht Club’s Race Committee sets itself up to sight the start (1:50 warning signal for the day’s first start at 2 p.m.), and it is there and on the opposite Jamestown shore that hundreds of people turn out to wave bon voyage to the fleet and revel in the spirit of adventure that permeates the air. With the largest, fastest, most powerful boats being saved for last (their start is on Sunday, July 5), this lot – with five Class 40s, 10 IRC Racer/Cruisers and five IRC Racing entrants – will have ample muscles to flex for its own duly impressive showing.
Local Volvo Ocean Race/Team Alvimedica heroes Charlie Enright and Mark Towill will sail on Bryon Ehrhart’s Chicago entrant Lucky in IRC Racing class, while the world’s most recognizable single-handed sailor, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, will sail with four others on his Open 60 Grey Power in that same class. In 1969, Sir Robin became the first person to sail alone non-stop around the world. Since, he has circumnavigated the earth three more times (once on his own and twice with crew), but the 76-year-old is quick to point out that two others in his crew have sailed around the world singlehanded as well: India’s Dilip Donde and France’s Bernard Gallay. “If you include me, that’s 60 percent of our crew and 1 ½ percent of the 200 people in the world who’ve ever done it,” he said, adding that, by comparison, 680 people have gone into space.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail around the world solo and non-stop, will sail his Open 60 Grey Power with four others in the Transatlantic Race 2015. (photo credit Jan Harley/Media Pro)
Filling the final two Grey Power crew spots are Monaco’s Joshua Warren and the UK’s David Aisher, past Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, one of the event’s four hosts. (Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club and Storm Trysail Club are the others.) While many boats will sail with 12-15 crew members, Sir Robin, who sailed Grey Power to third in last November’s 3,542 mile single-handed Transatlantic Route du Rhum, says five won’t leave him shorthanded. “The boat is designed for one person so I think we’ll manage to do all right (laughs),”he said, “but we aren’t expecting to win overall. We have a terrible rating. If Rambler 88 (a boat in the third start trying to break the race record) crosses in 6 ½ days, we have to do it in eight – that just isn’t going to happen. The priority is to get across safely, and after that, as fast as we can.”
(Tuesday, June 30, 2015) – Since passing the exclusion zones yesterday – around Nantucket Shoals and, further to the east, the Northern Right Whale Critical habitat – the 13-strong first wave of boats competing in the Transatlantic Race has entered the Atlantic proper now, where it has divided in two groups.
(June 29, 2015) - Instead of launching straight into a downhill sleigh ride, the 13 first starters in the Transatlantic Race 2015 have endured a tricky first night at sea. The course west to east across the North Atlantic between Newport, USA, to the Lizard, in southwest England, is renowned for conditions that allow fast sailing, but last night a significant left-over swell, combined with an absence of wind to the south of the island of Martha’s Vineyard, instead left the fleet wallowing and rolling precariously.