Big winds have forced the postponement of the Rolex Transatlantic Race

A severe depression centred off Cape Cod, potentially producing headwinds gusting up to 50 knots, caused the Race Committee to delay the start of the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge yesterday. A new start time was provisionally set for 1400EDT today, 22 May 22.

At the Captains’ Briefing in the New York Yacht Club’s Model Room on Friday night, David Tunick, Chairman of the Technical and Compliance Subcommittee for the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, gave the reasons for the decision: “We looked at the weather all week. We not only monitored the National Weather Service ourselves, but we also took advice from two professional weather services. Their advice, coming to us independently this morning, was to postpone the start. The reason is that there were two lows out there that looked as if they might be merging – a double whammy. With the history of the Sydney-Hobart and the Fastnet, they considered it highly irresponsible of the New York Yacht Club to send off the race.”

Tunick added that many of the top skippers taking part in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge had spoken to him during the day, also urging him to postpone the start. “I was pleased to hear that advice, and it was on that advice that the decision was taken.”

Mike Sanderson, racing helmsman of line honours favourite Mari-Cha IV gave his views: “If it had gone to a vote, we would have voted to go, because we think we’re battle-ready. But I think it is smart what they have done. There is no point in burning out half the fleet in one fell swoop. Time will tell what the weather does in the following days. I think we will get away Sunday. Three days into it, we should get good breeze again, but on the wind.”

Mike Slade felt his water-ballasted 90ft (29.9m) Leopard of London would have handled the conditions had the start not been postponed but was happy with the decision. “As the owner, I am quite relieved. When you hit the Gulf Stream, if there is a north-easterly coming down at you and the Gulf Stream coming from the south-southwest, you have wind against tide. And then you have a shelf, as well, over the Grand Banks – then you’re asking for some serious weather.”

A start for Sunday looks promising, Tunick said at the briefing. “We have been looking at the weather this afternoon and have been in touch with both our weather services. We will be looking at it again tomorrow morning.”