Overnight match race to the Big Apple

Neutrogena pips Safran to the post in New York

Monday May 26th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States

On a stunning day in New York City, with clear blue skies and a light 6-8 knot breeze, Team Neutrogena beat Safran in the IMOCA Ocean Masters Newport to New York Prologue, by the tiny margin of 1 minute and 25 seconds after 144 miles of racing.

The lengthy IMOCA 60 match race between the Neutrogena crew of Spaniard Guillermo Altadill and Chilean José Muñoz and France’s Marc Guillemot and Morgan Lagraviere aboard Safran was ended prematurely after the race committee elected to shorten course and finish the race at the Verrazzano Suspension Bridge due to lack of wind on the Hudson River.

As predicted the wind was extremely light and variable throughout the race, making it a tough tactical challenge for the three teams participating.

At the start, Safran led the fleet out of Newport’s Narraganset Bay, but during the night Neutrogena overtook as the two pulled away from the Spanish mixed crew of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin on GAES Centros Auditivos.

In the early hours as they passed the south side of Long Island, the battle between the lead duo heated up and was to continue all the way to the finish line. Gybing downwind towards the Verrazzano Bridge, Neutrogena and Safran remained neck and neck. Approaching the line they split gybes, Neutrogena favouring the left and Safran the right and all bets were off until they finally came together with Neutrogena claiming the win.

As Neutrogena skipper Guillermo Altadill described it: “It was an intense and fun race, a real match race. A couple of miles from the finish line, we jumped right in front and thanks to some aggressive tactics, with continuous gybing, we managed to win the race. The conditions were demanding, with almost continuous sail peels going on. It has been great to compare the speed of our boat with the others.”

José Munoz, Neutogena co-skipper added: “I am very happy to get to New York. It’s my first time and I’m so lucky to come in sailing and winning the race! Guillermo is a really great tactician. He knows such a lot and is also very demanding. In some manoeuvres we suffered from lack of experience as a crew, but we are getting better.”

Despite losing the Prologue, Safran skipper Marc Guillemot enjoyed the race: “We had great conditions, a flat sea and wind throughout the race. It was very motivating to have such a close fight with Neutrogena all the way, but they performed a little bit better than us throughout, so its only fair they won. They were strategically better with the current. It was really nice to share the steering and tactical decisions with Morgan. It is the second time that Safran has come to New York and this time was in sunshine, so even better.”

Safran’s co-skipper, Morgan Lagravière, added: “Awesome conditions, with lots of opportunities for tactical moves, I really enjoyed this trip. However being seven people onboard is not normal for us and so it was not so easy to adapt, and in reality we were not really able to be in ‘competition’ mode, but it was still a great race.”

GAES arrived in third place, her crew joining in the festival and enjoying the welcome into New York.

Anna Corbella summed up her race: "It has been interesting, despite the few problems we've had. In the evening we made a tactical error, sailing further from the coast than the other boats. Also sailing with four crew members is very positive - eight eyes looking around see more than only four. I was very impressed to get to New York - I had never been here before, and to arrive sailing in front of the Statue of Liberty was incredible. "

Gerard Marín echoed Corbella: "We were doing very well until the evening time, but maybe we went too far offshore. Then we managed to catch two fishing lines, and we could had to cut the second from the keel this morning – that was a pity. It is the first time I am in New York and it’s impressive be moored here in the centre of Manhattan. "

The final positions and finishing times were :
1st - Neutrogena – 1346 hrs and 55 seconds local time
2nd Safran – 1338 hrs and 20 seconds
3rd GAES – 1508 hrs

Today was also significant for Hugo Boss. In Newport the crew re-stepped their boat’s repaired mast. They will make their way to New York as soon as they have carried out preliminary tests and sea trials.

Meanwhile Nandor Fa and Marcell Goszleth onboard Spirit of Hungary continued to make good progress towards New York where they hope to arrive on Thursday 29th May.

The boats now have one week to make their final preparations prior to the start of the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race, starting on Sunday, 1 June. Beforehand on Thursday, they will compete on New York Harbour in the Ocean Masters Manhattan Charity Race, backed by Hugo Boss Watches.

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