With all 26 entries successfully arriving at the Lizard following the dramatic 2011 Transatlantic Race, the organizers look back on an exhilarating race that saw the winner complete the challenge in a record setting 6d, 22h 6m and 2s, whilst one of the tail-enders battled Force 10 weather conditions in their sprint towards the finish.
USA (July 22, 2011) – As “an extended adventurous voyage,” the
odyssey that is the Transatlantic Race 2011 was a defining event in ocean
racing, as well as in the lives of the sailors aboard the 26 competing
yachts. The race made history with the establishment of a new record -
crossing 2,975 miles of ocean from Newport, R.I. to The Lizard on the south
coast of England – and was the result of a successful collaboration between the
Royal Yacht Squadron (founded in 1815), the New York Yacht Club (1844), the
Royal Ocean Racing Club (1925) and the Storm Trysail Club (1938).
“This race will
bring together generations, to build character and to reaffirm values,”
said Commodore Robert C. Towse, Jr., during the send-off celebration held at
New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court clubhouse two days before the first yachts
departed. “The cold North Atlantic may test that purpose, but at The
Lizard finish those boats and their crews will have earned one of the hardest
of sailing distinctions.”
On June 26, cannon fire
from the iconic Castle Hill Lighthouse signaled the beginning of the historic
ocean adventure. It was the first of three staggered starts, implemented
so that yachts ranging in size from 40′ to 289′ would finish off The Lizard in
close proximity to one another. And, over the three weeks the yachts were
at sea, thousands of armchair sailors were captivated by the drama as it unfolded.
Using state-of-the-art satellite communication systems, life onboard was beamed
to a global audience as the competing yachts raced across the desolate North
Atlantic. An ice gate established by the Race Committee prevented the
fleet from going too far north, but sea temperatures lower than 4º Celsius were
recorded during the race and sea fog obscured the sun for days on end.
Representing 10 nations,
the 26 entries were crewed by world-class professionals as well as Corinthian
amateurs. The youngest competitor was just 16 years of age, the oldest
80, and the yachts themselves were just as diverse. The 289′ Maltese
Falcon was nearly three times the length of any other participant and the fleet
included maritime creations from high performance canting keel Maxis to pocket
rocket Class 40s. All 26 yachts entered were destined to finish but each
has written a different story.
On June 26 the sunshine
burned off the morning fog as the first start of the Transatlantic Race 2011
got underway with six of the smallest yachts beginning their journey across the
Atlantic in champagne sailing conditions. With four fathers and five sons
onboard, local favorite Carina got away to a great start with Rives Potts, Jr.
(Essex, Conn.) at the helm. Within a few days, Carina had extended on the
fleet by some by 400 miles. Later in the race, however, an area of high
pressure mid-Atlantic was to be their nemesis, as well as that of many others.
There was high drama for
the second start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 on June 29. With the 14
yachts on final approach and the breeze building, three boats were caught over
early and were forced to turn back just as the mighty Maltese Falcon was
bearing down on the line. Announcing its intentions with a bone-rattling
blast of air horns, the 289′ Perini Navi set sail for the open ocean.
Zaraffa made the best start as 80-year-old Huntington Sheldon (Shelburne, Vt.)
held the helm, hoping to emulate his Transatlantic win of 2003. The
second start was also notable for the inclusion of the Volvo 60 Ambersail, the
first-ever Lithuanian yacht to compete in a Transatlantic Race. “To
see our flag flying at the New York Yacht Club was very special,” said
skipper Simonas Steponavicius (Vilnius, Lithuania). For the next
few days the North Atlantic would fail to live up to its notorious reputation
as light winds frustrated the 20 yachts taking on this North Atlantic odyssey.
“If we were looking
to set an Atlantic record, we would choose to leave today,” said a smiling
Peter Isler (San Diego, Calif.), navigator on Rambler 100, on the morning of
July 3 as Newport was bathed in warm sunshine giving an indication he knew
conditions were about to change. A low-pressure system was sweeping
across the Midwest, right on cue, to give the fastest boats in the
Transatlantic Race 2011 a blistering start. As if by magic, grey clouds
rolled in as the Maxi fleet powered up in the starting area. Beau Geste,
skippered by Karl Kwok (Hong Kong) got away well and showed a clean pair of
heels to the giants of world offshore racing. It was not long, though,
before the 100′ Maxis, ICAP Leopard, skippered by Clarke Murphy (New York,
N.Y.), and Rambler 100, skippered by George David (Hartford, Conn.), caught
up. PUMA’s Mar Mostro, helmed by Ken Read (Newport, R.I.), and the
Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team’s Vanquish were the two smallest yachts in
the class but their crews could not be more different: Vanquish sailed by
young sailors with little offshore experience, and Mar Mostro bristling with
Volvo Ocean Race winners. The PUMA was on the prowl and by the end of the
race the black cat had caught its prey.
The 20 yachts that had
preceded the high performance fleet had a significant head start, but it wasn’t
long before Rambler 100 was running them down, ripping through the Atlantic
swell at speeds in excess of 25 knots with PUMA’s Mar Mostro in hot
pursuit. Within three days, Rambler 100 was leading the entire fleet, but
what was surprising was that ICAP Leopard was well off the pace. It was July
4 when ICAP Leopard heard a big bang which, unfortunately for them, had nothing
to do with celebrating America’s birthday. The bowsprit had sheered off
and the Leopard was badly wounded. The crew rallied round and mitigated
the danger of the carbon fibre spear smashing into the hull, but without the
sprit, the chance for a race win was effectively over just 36 hours into the
race. Rambler 100 and PUMA’s Mar Mostro continued to power ahead as fast
as the wind could carry them, and sometimes even faster.
By July 8, however, most
of the fleet could not ride the weather system and soon would be languishing in
the vacuum and turbulent waters left behind. Using guile and no less amount of
skill, several yachts managed to escape the windless zone, including Zaraffa and
Jazz, skippered by Nigel King (Lymington, U.K.). Phaedo, the Gunboat 66
owned by Lloyd Thornburg (St. Barthelemy), managed to escape the clutches of
the 1100-ton Maltese Falcon in the light air. But it was a short-lived
freedom as all, bar the leading boats, were entangled in the eerie calm that
spread across the mid-Atlantic.
Meanwhile, Rambler and
PUMA’s Mar Mostro were experiencing their defining moments of the race.
The wind was dying and the big decision was how to hook into another weather
system which was slowly moving in from the north. The problem was how to get to
it, judging where to cross the windless zone and to get onto the new pressure
at the right angle. It was like trying to jump onto a merry-go-round, and
while Rambler 100 did a good job, PUMA was even better.
On Sunday, 10 July, at
16h 08m UTC, Rambler 100 was the first yacht to cross the finish line of the
Transatlantic Race 2011. The elapsed time for Rambler 100 was six
days, 22 hours, eight minutes and two seconds. which established a new record
for the 2,975 nautical mile course from Newport, R.I., to Lizard Point, South
“For the first 80
hours of this race we were ripping along,” said David at the finish.
“Towards the end we hit a few holes in the wind but we feel very happy
about the time. Crossing the Atlantic in under seven days is pretty
exhilarating. Kenny Read is about 100 miles behind us with his PUMA
Team. The odds are he is probably going to win the race on corrected
David’s hunch was
right. PUMA’s Mar Mostro crossed the finish line at The Lizard at 05:40
UTC on July 11, and once calculations proved that none of the 24 yachts still
racing could beat them on handicap, PUMA’s Mar Mostro was declared winner of
IRC Class One and IRC Overall for the Transatlantic Race 2011. And, even
with a four-day head start, it would be more than 24 hours before another yacht
would cross the finish line. In time, Zaraffa, Phaedo and Jazz finished
to claim well-deserved victory in their respective classes.
On July 15, more than a
dozen yachts completed the race, providing some dramatic close encounters in a
dash to the finish. From IRC Class One, which took the final start of the
Transatlantic Race 2011 on July 3, Beau Geste was followed eight minutes later
by the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team’s Vanquish, and 13 minutes later,
Sojana, the grand ketch skippered by Peter Harrison (Reigate, U.K.) had
completed the race as well.
In IRC Class Two,
Christoph Avenarius and Gorm Gondesen’s Shakti and Jens Kellinghausen’s Varuna
had enjoyed a match race across the ocean. The two Simon Rogers
46-footers, both based in Hamburg, Germany, had barely been out of sight of
each other for 16 days. Varuna was first to cross the line, with a mere
three-minute lead, but Shakti won the duel on corrected time to claim second in
class. Prodigy, owned by Chris Frost (Durban, South Africa), was to
finish less than an hour later to take fourth place overall.
In IRC Class Three,
Ambersail became the second yacht to finish the race followed by Scho-ka-kola,
skippered by Uwe Lubens (Hamburg, Germany), however, neither yacht was to make
the class podium on corrected time. The youth team on Norddeutsche
Vermogen Hamburg had put in a stellar performance in the second half of the
race, as did Snow Lion, skippered by former NYYC Commodore Lawrence Huntington
(New York, N.Y.), to claim second and third, respectively, in the division.
Ourson Rapide skippered by Paolo Roasenda (Vedano al Lambro, Italy) finished
just before dawn to complete the race.
Tony Lawson’s Class 40
Concise 2, skippered by Ned Collier-Wakefield (Oxford, U.K.), had one of the
best performances of any yacht in the early part of the race, putting an
impressive 300-mile lead on their class rival, Dragon, skippered by Mike
Hennessy (Mystic, Conn). However, the mid-Atlantic doldrums wiped out
their advantage as Dragon, sailing double-handed, not only caught Concise 2 but
also passed the six-strong British youth team. In a fight to the finish, Concise
2 managed to get ahead and take the line by less than half an hour.
All of the yachts in IRC
Class Four finished the race on July 15. Class line honors went to the
oldest yacht in the race, Nordwind, the 86′ yawl skippered by Hans Albrecht
(Germany). Carina and British Soldier, crewed by members of the British
Army, were engaged in a battle royal. While Carina was well ahead on
corrected time, it did not stop the two yachts having a close-reaching duel
through the night — within touching distance of each other. British
Soldier won the race to the line by less than a minute, an astounding finish
after nearly three weeks at sea, and while Carina looked likely to win Class
IRC Four on corrected time, their hopes were about to be dashed. Before
the day was out, Dawn Star, co-skippered by Bill Hubbard and his son Will
Hubbard (both New York, N.Y.), finished The Transatlantic Race to claim the
class victory by less than an hour. Jacqueline IV, the McCurdy &
Rhodes 42′ skippered by Robert Forman (Bay Shore, N.Y.), finished the following
day to beat British Soldier on corrected time and claim third in class.
As the last yacht to
finish, Sasha, skippered by Albrecht and Erika Peters (Munich, Germany),
experienced the roughest weather conditions of any yacht in the race. As
they approached The Lizard a storm took hold in the Western Approaches with
very high waves with overhanging crests, large patches of foam turning the sea
white with rage, and large amounts of airborne spray, which dramatically
22 days at sea, Sasha came screaming through the finish line in a dramatic
conclusion to the Transatlantic Race 2011. With all yachts and sailors
safe in port, there is now time to reflect: on the incredible record set by
Rambler 100; the bonds forged while racing across the North Atlantic; and the
lessons of dedication and courage that every valiant soul that completed the
challenge will value forever.