A giant runway of strong southwesterly wind spanning the breadth of the North Atlantic for the last few days has allowed the grand prix boats competing in the Transatlantic Race 2015 to cover staggering mileage.
While Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark’s 100’ maxi Comanche set a new monohull 24-hour record when she covered 618.01 miles over Friday-Saturday (subject to ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council), Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 trimaran Phaedo³ also put in a resounding performance.
Towards the end of the race Phaedo³, at one point, recorded a peak speed of 41.2 knots when navigator Miles Seddon was driving. As Thornburg recounted: “The sea opened up before him. It was the biggest wave you have ever seen and we were pointing down it!” But it was the consistently big daily runs that were most impressive – four days at 610 miles/day and this was despite a generally short wavelength that required them to stack everything hard aft and have appendages and rig raked back to the maximum setting.
While Thornburg competed in the Transatlantic Race 2011 on board his Gunboat 66 catamaran, his crossing this time in the MOD70 was an entirely different experience. “It was intense, like a time warp - it felt like four weeks at sea on any other boat all compressed into seven days. It is incredible; the boat is pure Formula 1,” he enthused of his team’s first race across the Atlantic with their latest yacht. “One of the hardest things was trying to live on board, which is a challenge psychologically and physically, day after day of slamming into waves, and with all the acceleration and the deceleration.”
As testament to what a phenomenal boat the MOD70 trimaran is, according to skipper Brian Thompson, they broke nothing on the crossing despite the furious pace.
Including a day and a half being becalmed, Phaedo³ crossing time of 7 days 2 hours and 4 minutes is not exceptional, but nonetheless establishes a new multihull race record, substantially faster than the previous Phaedo’s time of 12 days 15 hours 42 minutes and 58 seconds set in 2011.
World’s Fastest Monohull
Likewise for Comanche, which started 14 minutes after Phaedo³, light conditions early on the race ensured the boat’s crossing of 7 days 11 hours and 35 minutes was outside of Rambler 100’s record time of 6 days 22 hours 8 minutes 2 seconds from the Transatlantic Race 2011. Otherwise skipper Ken Read was overwhelmingly satisfied having claimed their other two stated goals prior to the race start: The 100-foot VPLP-Verdier design recorded the fastest monohull time in the race and, once her 24-hour record is ratified, can claim to be the world’s fastest monohull and the first singlehulled vessel to break the 600 mile/day barrier.
Without the light patch at the start, Read states that the race record would have been “crushed.” “On a boat like this a five-day crossing would be attainable.” He also believes that on a different point of sail, a faster 24-hour passage would be achievable, possibly in the range of 650-plus miles.
As with Phaedo³, Comanche was able to use her speed to select the wind speed in which she performed, in this case best, by staying in the southern part of the band of southwesterlies, where there was 25 to 30 knots of wind. “That is what boats this fast can do - that is modern sailing now,” commented Read. “You pick your spot which isn’t necessarily the windiest, but it is the spot where the boat can perform at its best.”
Earlier this morning, Comanche stopped off in Falmouth to unload several crew who were due at another regatta, along with navigator Stan Honey who hit his head during a fall right at the end of their 24-hour record run on Saturday.
“I know a lot of people are concerned for Stan, who, to set the record straight, whacked the back of his head when he slipped and fell in the central cabin area,” said Read. “He showed immediate concussion symptoms, but was never unconscious. He was monitored not only by our on board medics, but also by doctors off the boat, just to make sure that everything was done correctly.”
Read says that after the incident Honey was confined to his bunk for six to eight hours, but for the rest of the race resumed his duties as Comanche’s navigator. “To be safe, early on we decided to get him off the boat right after the finish, so he could go through a concussion protocol at the local hospital in Falmouth. We will update you as soon as tests are complete.” There he was met by his wife Sally and Comanche’s owner and personal friend, Jim Clark.
Aside from the ocean racing dragsters, arrivals in the Transatlantic Race 2015 have turned into a steady stream with 12 boats now finished.
Crossing the line at the Lizard at 17:09:00 EDT (21:09 UTC) was Visit Brussels, second home among the Class 40s. She was skippered by singlehanded round the world racer Michel Kleinjans, sailing with two others.
“It was text book,” said Kleinjans. “It was a really good downwind ride and in the middle there was a nice depression.” Unfortunately they had underestimated the depression’s size and Kleinjans, who has previously sailed a Class 40 round the world singlehanded, admitted that they found themselves too close to its center in 38 to 42 knots of wind. “The wind was okay, but the sea was so nasty that we had to take the mainsail down.”
Visit Belgium was constantly on the back foot during the race after falling into a wind hole on the first day of racing. “It was a terrible mistake at the beginning. After that it was over and out,” said Kleinjans. Otherwise the boat held together well and the Belgian skipper was pleased with his Kiwi 40’s performance, especially over the final stages. “We did the last 1000 miles in three days. On the whole I think we averaged around 11 knots on a straight line so perhaps 12 on the water.”
One of the hardest fought races has been for the final two Class 4 podium spots behind the giant schooner Mariette of 1915. This has yet to play out fully with Matt Brooks’ 1930s classic Dorade, winner of the 1931 Transatlantic Race in the hands of her designer Olin Stephens, still to finish, but looking strong to be second in class.
A close battle for third has been taking place between Ross Applebey’s Oyster Lightwave 48, Scarlet Oyster, and New York Yacht Club Commodore Rives Potts’ McCurdy & Rhodes 48 Carina, being skippered for this race by Richard du Moulin. These two matched raced throughout the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race, with Carina winning on handicap. This time Applebey exacted his revenge; finishing 7 hours, 1 minute ahead was enough to give Scarlet Oyster the edge on corrected time.
The crew of Carina reported: “We pushed hard to narrow the gap between us and Scarlet Oyster. We have had a back and forth dog fight in the North Atlantic since June 28. With only a few days left in the race and the need to reduce our deficit from 60 miles to closer to 45 miles, we went to work. Mother Nature assisted us with a healthy serving of 20- to 35-knot southwesterlies.
“Through hard work we managed to close the gap to Scarlet Oyster to 49 miles, just enough to beat them on rating. Unfortunately there was a price to be paid to King Neptune for holding these miles and King Neptune was gladly accepting spinnakers as currency. We ripped the clew out of the A5 and the head out of the A3 and our two heavy weather chutes. Missing these arrows from our sail inventory quiver we found ourselves at a significant disadvantage for the last 500 miles of racing. Congratulations to the Scarlet Oyster team.”
Scarlet Oyster’s Ross Appleby was delighted by the result. “It is a charter crew so we have been working together towards this for a while.” According to Appleby they made their biggest gains two nights out. “We had a storming night - it was as black as the inside of a cow, but Matt [Lees] and I managed to keep the boat under the kite in about 45 knots, which was a good gain as Carina was backing off occasionally.”
Like Carina, their Oyster Lightwave was also eating kites, and finished the race with just two, having blown up their first within 50 miles of the start. And, in an ironic twist, it was some pre-race bottom work done on Scarlet Oyster by the boatyard belonging to Carina’s owner, Rives Potts, which Applebey reckons made the difference to their result.
STOP PRESS: On 13 July at 1310 EDT, just over one mile from the finish of the Coastal Race -- between the Lizard and Cowes -- Scarlet Oyster dismasted and subsequently drifted across the finish line with the tide to officially finish the race. No details are available at present as to the cause of the dismasting.
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