TR 2015: Stomach-Churning Opening Night
Instead of launching straight into a downhill sleigh ride, the 13 first starters in the Transatlantic Race 2015 have endured a tricky first night at sea. The course west to east across the North Atlantic between Newport, USA, to the Lizard, in southwest England, is renowned for conditions that allow fast sailing, but last night a significant left-over swell, combined with an absence of wind to the south of the island of Martha’s Vineyard, instead left the fleet wallowing and rolling precariously.
On board the British Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster, skipper Ross Applebey said that they had been all but becalmed. Most of the wind speed indicated at the masthead had come from the rig whipping around.
“Thanks to the left over lumpy sea, we had a couple of cases of sea sickness, but the guys seem to be recovering,” Applebey recounted. “We were sailing downwind with a spinnaker into a swell which was not particularly comfortable. The swell was about 3 meters – you couldn’t see over the top of the waves.”
These difficult conditions have left the boats scattered across the race course and, surprisingly, for the most part it is the ‘classic’ boats that are doing best, their heavier displacement helping them to carry their way better in the swell and light winds.
While it is too early to call on handicap, on the water Rives Potts’ Carina (on which Richard DuMoulin replaced the New York Yacht Club Commodore as skipper at the 11th hour) was leading the charge in the north, shaving the exclusion zone, aimed at preventing the yachts from crossing the Nantucket Shoals. South of Scarlet Oyster, Pam Levy and Matt Brooks’ Dorade was doing exceeding well too, while further south still was the biggest boat in the fleet, the 138-foot Herreshoff schooner, Mariette of 1915.
“The first night was difficult; there was not much wind at all and a big lumpy seaway with everything clanking around,” confirmed Mariette of 1915’s captain, Charlie Wroe. Mercifully the breeze had filled in shortly after dawn: “Now we are making good speed in the right direction.”
Mariette of 1915 had taken yesterday’s start conservatively to avoid getting entangled with anyone. This was in contrast to Scarlet Oyster which nailed the pin and was first to hoist her spinnaker.
16 crew are racing Mariette, including their navigator, the French offshore racing legend Halvard Mabire. Mabire has been campaigning Class 40s recently but raced on Eric Tabarly’s heavyweight maxiboat Cote d’Or in the 1985 Whitbread Round the World Race. However, Mariette of 1915 is still a giant step up from even this, displacing 165 tons compared to his Class 40’s featherweight 4.5.
“It was an interesting night,” said Mabire. “In under eight knots of wind – especially when you have a big swell, it is not the same as a Class 40… There are plenty of new noises, but this is a very, very nice boat.”
Now that the wind has filled in, Mariette of 1915 was this morning sailing under most of her inventory – eight sails in total. “I doubt if on this crossing I’ll have time to learn the names of all them,” joked Mabire.
Currently furthest south in the fleet, the giant schooner should be able to remain on one gybe in the building west-southwesterly breeze forecast.
“It looks like this breeze is going to be with us for a while, with a good angle,” continued Wroe. “The routing has got us on one gybe for a day or two – we are happy about that and are looking forward to some more settled conditions where we can just concentrate on making the boat go fast.”
Some 17 miles to their north, Scarlet Oyster was sailing in 12 knots of southwesterly wind. According to Ross Applebey, their tactic from the start was to get south at this point to key into the stronger westerlies. Ahead, their routing shows them staying south to make the most of the westerlies until the next system passes through.
Generally across the fleet, crews are finding their sealegs - the hard way for those who succumb to sea sickness - with crews getting into their watch systems and the rhythm of life at sea.
TR 2015 Roster of Entries Starting on June 28
Aphrodite, Christopher Otorowski, Seattle, Wash./Newport, R.I., USA
Arrowhead, Steve Berlack, Franconia, N.H., USA
Carina, Rich du Moulin, Larchmont, N.Y., USA
Charisma, Constantin Claviez, Hamburg, GER
Dizzy, Paul Anstey/Craig Rastello, Melbourne, Fla., USA
Dorade, Matt Brooks, San Francisco, Calif., USA
Jaqueline IV, Robert Forman, Bay Shore, N.Y., USA
Kiva, Mark Stevens, New Castle, N.H., USA
Mariette of 1915, Charlie Wroe, Falmouth, GBR
Scarlet Oyster, Ross Applebey, GBR
Shearwater, Dan & Gretchen Biemesderfer, Guilford, Conn., USA
Solution, Carter Bacon, Hyannis Port, Mass., USA
Zephyr, Micky St. Aldwyn, Lymington, GBR
Follow the Race
Yellowbrick Tracking: http://yb.tl/transatlantic2015 (will be activated 24 hours before the first start, June 28 at 1400 EDT).
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Twitter Handle: @TransatlantRace