A Class 40 may finish 1st, ahead of boats up to twice her size. The secret has been an extreme northerly route

A 40-footer could be about to beat an 80ft Swan across the Atlantic, becoming the first boat to finish the ARC rally in what may be the tightest and most noteworthy race in the event’s history.

The Class 40 Vaquita, skippered by Austrian sailor Andreas Hanakamp, has been alone in racing on an extreme northerly route from Las Palmas to Saint Lucia. Today, the crew had 522 miles to run and were lying 90 miles ahead on distance to run from their closest rivals, Swan 80 Berenice.

If Vaquita’s crew can maintain their average speeds as they gybe to come down to the latitude of Saint Lucia, they could finish the 2,700-mile race in 12 days, the fastest ever ARC time for a yacht of this size.

This is the third consecutive year that Hanakamp, former Team Russia Volvo Ocean Race skipper and two-times Olympic Star campaigner, has raced this boat in the ARC. Each time he has favoured the shorter northerly route because the boat, an Akilaria design Class 40, is optimised for reaching angles.

This route is colder, often rougher and wetter, with more reaching angles and varied conditions. For obvious reasons, it tends to be shunned by cruising crews. The routeing can be a gamble compared with going south and picking up the Trades.

So extreme is his route that Hanakamp is currently separated 540 miles north to south from his main rivals, the Swan 80 Berenice, the carbon cruiser JP54 and new Pogo 50 Surfing Pétrel.

This is not the only remarkable express northerly Atlantic crossing in the news right now. Yesterday Rán-Leopard (maxi chartered from Mike Slade) finished the International Maxi Association Transatlantic Race race from Tenerife to Virgin Gorda, BVI, in 7 days, 8 hours – average speed 19 knots.

Most unusually, her crew climbed 250 miles north from Tenerife to get over the top of a low pressure system and into favourable winds. Their route that took them up to 32°N, as shown in the screen grab below.


For more about the two races and a full report on the ARC, earmark your copy of the February issue.