NEWPORT, R.I. — Faster boats and advanced weather forecasting technology have dramatically changed how sailors approach long ocean races such as the Transatlantic Race 2019, which will start from Newport, R.I., on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, and finish off the Royal Yacht Squadron's iconic castle in Cowes, England.
A century ago, ocean racing was a reactive sport, sailors took what Mother Nature dished out as it came. Now, bigger and faster boats enable teams to attack a course, aggressively searching for the strongest and most favorable winds. Of course, it’s not without risk.
In the Transatlantic Race 2015, the Prospector team found itself on the leading edge of a powerful weather system for much of the 3,000-mile passage from Newport, R.I., to England.
“We always had good pressure and knew when we needed more it was just off to our left,” says Paul McDowell, one of a consortium of owners based out of Eastern Long Island’s Shelter Island Yacht Club. “Playing with that weather system, which we took to calling ‘poking the bear,’ was tricky though. For one 36-hour period we got a little too close and ended up sailing in some really difficult conditions; 40- to 50-knot winds with huge breaking seas. In those 36 hours, we learned a lot about the boat, our crew and what not to do next time. We all look back on that now with mixed degrees of fondness and relief to have survived it.”
For ocean racers, the relief peaks when crossing the finish line, but the fondness grows slowly and eventually becomes the predominant emotion. Which explains why the Prospector team, with more than two years to reflect on that race, was among the first boats to officially sign-up for the Transatlantic Race 2019 and continue a tradition that dates back to the first transatlantic sailing competition, which started from New York Harbor on Christmas Day 1866.
The Transatlantic Race 2019 will be the 31st race between Europe and the United States organized, at least partially, by the New York Yacht Club. The Transatlantic Race 2019 is organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club.
Sailing's greatest Corinthian challenge has confirmed the start date for its next edition; and this time, every competitor will depart Newport, R.I., on the same day. The entire Transatlantic Race 2019 fleet will cross the starting line on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, bound for the southern coast of England. A virtual gate off Lizard Point will enable teams to challenge the course record for this historic passage, but the official finish will take place off the Royal Yacht Squadron's waterfront castle in Cowes, England.
The Transatlantic Race 2019, which is organized jointly by the Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club, is a direct descendant of the first great transatlantic ocean race (at right), which started from New York Harbor on December 11, 1866. In the years since, this course has been plied with less frequency than other, shorter offshore race tracks; the 2019 edition will be just the 31st transatlantic race organized by the New York Yacht Club. Because of that, and the fact that a race from the United States to Europe (or the return) is virtually guaranteed at least one significant storm, simply finishing a transatlantic race remains one of sailing's most coveted accomplishments.
"Faster boats and evolving communications technology have aggressively shrunk the number of places where a team of sailors can truly feel they are alone against the elements," said NYYC Commodore Philip A. Lotz. "The North Atlantic remains one of the great wild places on this earth. In 2011, the four organizing clubs made a commitment to running the Transatlantic Race on a quadrennial schedule. The rise in interest from 2011 to 2015 is an indication that the thirst for true adventure still runs strong within our sport. We're excited to carry on this historic tradition, which dates back to the first quarter century of the New York Yacht Club."