From Maltese Falcon to Class 40s
After the departure of the first six yachts on the Transatlantic Race two days ago, the 14-strong group of yachts that will take the second of the three staggered starts now have less than 24 hours until they begin the race across the North Atlantic for themselves. The warning cannon as it is fired from Castle Hill Light at 13:50 Eastern Daylight Time tomorrow (Wednesday) will cue the largest group of yachts to depart, including the giant Maltese Falcon.
The second group will represent the most diverse battle of the race. The Open Class has just two yachts, but they are two of the showiest yachts in the race - Maltese Falcon, at 289ft, is the largest yacht competing and is up against the only multihull entered in the race - Phaedo, the Lamborghini-orange Gunboat 66 catamaran owned by Lloyd Thornburg.
In IRC Class Two, Jazz, a Cookson 50, has a star-studded crew including the highly experienced navigator, Mike Broughton and skipper Nigel King. Unfortunately, due to family commitments, owner Chris Bull is unable to make the trip. Two German teams on nearly identical yachts will also go head-to-head in the class: Christoph Avenarius and Gorm Gondesen’s Shakti and Jens Kellinghusen’s Varuna should virtually match race across the North Atlantic.
IRC Class Three will feature six yachts, including Snow Lion, the Ker 50 owned by former NYYC Commodore Lawrence Huntington. Snow Lion is a proven winner, having won her class in the Newport Bermuda Race, and should be highly competitive on corrected time. There are, however, some real fliers in this class, not the least of which is Zaraffa, the Reichel Pugh 65 owned by Huntington Sheldon, whose crew includes several veterans of the last edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. The Lithuanian Volvo 60 Ambersail, skippered by Simonas Steponavicius is a much-travelled yacht having logged over 100,000 miles since being purchased in 2008 to celebrate a thousand years of Lithuanian history. After sailing around the world, Ambersail took part in the 2010 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, winning class honours and placing second overall.
The youth entry from Germany, Norddeutsche Vermoegen Hamburg, will be helmed by Eike Holst. This will be his third Transatlantic Race will be his first as skipper. And while the majority of the team aboard the Andrews 57 are university students in their 20s, two of the crew are just 18 years old. Many of sailors in the race were introduced to the sport as a family activity, which means the parents of these sailors, in particular, have a degree of understanding and ease with the undertaking at hand. That was not the case for Jerome Vigne, the Parisian-born mechanical engineering student who will have a very relieved mother welcoming him home to Germany.
Blending a comfortable interior with the performance of an Open 60 is Ourson Rapide, the Finot-Conq 60 owned by Italian Paolo Roasenda. This is a special boat that should have a dream-like ride downwind. Scho-ka-kola, named for the German chocolate confection, is a Reichel Pugh 56 owned by Uwe Lebens (Hamburg) that has completed two previous Atlantic crossings.
Prodigy, a Simonis/Voogt 54, is a proven winner. Her South African owner Chris Frost took line honors in the 2011 Heineken Cape to Rio Race and will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race, as well as the Rolex Middle Sea Race, as part of a year-long campaign.
The two smallest yachts in start two are both Class 40s: Dragon and Concise 2, the latter skippered by Ned Collier-Wakefield. Owner Tony Lawson assembled a crew of young aspiring sailors from Great Britain to make up Team Concise. The team has become a force to be reckoned with having won the 2009 Class 40 World Championship, set a world record for the Round Britain and Ireland course and taken class honours at the RORC Caribbean 600 for the last three years.
Collier Wakefield commented: “This is a real David and Goliath story. We start at same time as Maltese Falcon, she’s nearly 300 ft long and we measure in at just 40ft. We will need near perfect sailing conditions if we are to stay in touch. For us that’s over 15 knots of wind, which we are not seeing at the moment”
Navigator Luke McCarthy added: “With different starts and Classes in different weather systems you don’t want to focus on the other boats too much. The shortest route is always the Rhum line and we will be looking at that, but at the moment weather patterns are pushing us far north. I have to watch out for the ice gates set by the safety committee to keep us away from icebergs. There is also the added problem of pods of Right whales; they could sink us so we have to stay well clear of them. I’m going to be busy that’s for sure!”
Dragon is the only boat racing across the Atlantic double-handed. Owner Michael Hennessy has been an avid sailor ever since introduced to the sport by his father at the age of four on San Francisco Bay. Following college, Hennessy logged thousands of miles cruising along the New England coast before he started to focus on short-handed distance racing in 2002. Since then he has competed in four Newport Bermuda Races, as well as dozens of other races across New England. In 2008 he took notice of the fast growing Class 40 fleet and took delivery of his Owen Clarke-designed boat. In just two short years, Dragon has become a fixture on the ocean racing circuit. Joining Hennessy will be co-skippered Rob Windsor who grew up sailing with his family on Long Island Sound.
Sponsors of the TR 2011 are Rolex, Thomson Reuters, Newport Shipyard, Perini Navi and Peters & May, with additional support by apparel sponsor Atlantis Weathergear.