After this year's OSTAR race was postponed, a group of Corinthian skippers completed their own ‘NOSTAR’ transatlantic challenge
Following the postponement of this year’s OSTAR and TwoSTAR transatlantic races to 2022, a small group of determined solo and double-handed skippers set off on their own challenge, the NOSTAR transatlantic.
The transat was initiated by Charlene Howard, who had entered the 2021 TwoSTAR race on her Sun Odyssey 45.2 AJ Wanderlust with co-skipper Bobby Drummond. When it became evident that the official races organised by the Royal Western YC were likely to be postponed for another year, Howard and a small group of other entries decided to cross together. She was joined by Scottish single-hander Jock Hamilton on his 32-footer Freya, Ertan Beskardes on his Rustler 36 Lazy Otter, and Guido Cantini on his Vancouver 34 Hannah of Cowes, the latter two having entered as part of their preparation for the Golden Globe Race.
“We all left together, on the exact day and time that OSTAR/TwoSTAR was supposed to leave,” Howard explained. “We were able to get the sailing instructions from the 2017 race just to confirm the course, which is very simple: you leave Plymouth breakwater, leave Eddystone light to starboard and then finish at Castle Hill, Newport 3,000 miles later.”
A tough transatlantic
As is frequently the case for the official OSTAR, the NOSTAR transatlantic fleet faced a tough crossing. “When we left it was blowing quite hard. The decision we made off the south-west coast of Ireland was I didn’t want to go straight into big seas.
“The unintended impact of that was we got caught in the middle of a secondary low that was not showing on any of the charts, which forced us to go north because it was where we could make the best headway,” explains Howard.
“That helped our race a lot because we ended up skirting above the low pressure systems and getting some tailwinds, whereas the other guys decided to go a more rhumbline route and I think they encountered worse sea state because of that.
“We actually had quite a nice crossing for the first 10 days or so because we were above the low pressure systems. We went as high as 56N so, then we had to climb back down and went through five days of near-gales and quite heavy seas.”
Onboard AJ Wanderlust they suffered a broken inner forestay, ripped mainsail and a destroyed wind generator, but were able to continue into Newport, arriving after 31 days.
Meanwhile, Jock Hamilton was dismasted. “Jock got about halfway across the track when he dismasted, and then showed very good seamanship and jury rigging [to sail back to] Scotland,” explains Howard, “Ertan on Lazy Otter had three knockdowns in one night and lost their self steering gear, so they went to the Azores to get sorted out.
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Competitors in the 2017 Original Single-handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) experienced the worst conditions since the race was initiated in 1960…
It was just before midnight in the eastern fringes of the Atlantic Ocean, about 130 miles south-west of Cape Finisterre.…
“And Guido started with us but was immediately having issues with both his hydrovane as well as his electric pilot . So he returned to Plymouth and then started again.” Cantini later retired to the Azores, leaving Howard and Drummond the default winners of the inaugural NOSTAR Race.
NOSTAR transatlantic challenge
Howard, who is American but lives on the Isle of Man, had originally entered the race in memory of her mother, Charlotte. “Since we didn’t have a sponsor I did the trophies and bought a bottle of Port Charlotte whisky that was meant to be our prize for this very Corinthian race,” she recalls.
Howard is an archetypal Corinthian ocean racing sailor. She has raced some 100,000 miles on her production yacht, which she describes as ‘fairly standard but significantly beefed up’, with modified chainplates and tie-rods, and increased internal structures, plus a new strengthened rudder after an electrical fire saw AJ Wanderlust lose power and ground hard in January this year. In 2018 she even sailed back-to-back Round Britain races.
“I just absolutely love being at sea, I love a long passage. I love racing because no matter how slow you’re going, you can’t turn on the engine. So you just have to challenge yourself to make 11 tons of boat move in 3 knots of wind. And I love the self-sufficiency of leaving and knowing that it is simply yourself and your sailing partner and your skills that have to get you to the other side.”