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The Atlantic Cup - All systems go!

by Emma Creighton on 10 May 2012
Initiatives at last year’s Class40 Worlds - Atlantic Cup 2012 Emma Creighton
The Atlantic Cup 2012 is being held from May 11 to 27. 'There’s never been a race like this before in the U.S.,' reported American Emma Creighton (27) — the third American female skipper to complete the Mini Transat and one of only four female skippers competing in the Atlantic Cup. 'This is a first for the shorthanded American sailing circuit — there will be 15 boats on the line, with teams from both the U.S. and Europe competing.'

The three-stage Atlantic Cup will test sailors in both offshore and around-the- buoy environments, with a healthy emphasis cast on the two offshore legs.

The first offshore leg will take the fleet of Class 40 raceboats from Charleston, South Carolina to New York City, New York, a distance of 645-nautical miles; Leg Two is a 260-nautical-mile 'sprint' from the Big Apple to Newport, Rhode
Island. And while the Atlantic Cup borrows heavily from the European model of professional regattas (e.g., a race village and strong multimedia presence), American flourishes such carbon-neutral status and U.S.-corporate sponsorship
provide the race with a unique heritage.

'I’m really looking forward to sailing with my co-skipper, Rob Windsor,' said Creighton. 'He has a ton of Class 40 experience, so I’ll learn a lot. Plus, we’re one of only five all-American boats, which is pretty cool given that this is a U.S.
race.' Creighton and Windsor will compete aboard Initiatives (GBR 30), owned by Tanguy de Lamotte’s (FRA), a deal that Creighton brokered in exchange for some substantial delivery work for her French mentor. Originally, Creighton
planned to race with co-skipper Jorge Madden (ESP), but a seven-day delivery from Progreso, on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, to Charleston, South Carolina, revealed some personality quirks. 'Doublehanded racing requires matching-up
on a vast array of compatibility points,' said Creighton. 'Jorge and I have both moved on to new co-skippers for this race, but we remain great friends. I wish him the best of luck.'

Like the sailors themselves, the offshore legs also have their own idiosyncrasies. For starters, Leg One is significantly longer than Leg Two and involves negotiating two potential question marks — Cape Hatteras and the Gulf Stream—
as well as the initial hurdle of clearing Charleston Harbor and the final challenge of negotiating New York Harbor. 'We’re starting at 1800 hours, right off of the Charleston Maritime Center, in order to catch the ebb tide out of town,' said Creighton. 'Unfortunately, the sea breeze usually dies each evening, and the rivers that drain into Charleston Harbor create some weird lateral currents. It will be a tricky start!'

Leg two’s defining characteristic is its short, 260-mile course — a distance that likely represents 24 hours of hard, hammer-down sailing for these fast 40- footers. 'Leg Two has less of a margin for error,' reported Creighton. 'Miss one
tack and you could quickly loose 14 boats. If Leg One is about weather-routing challenges, Leg Two is about boathandling and reading wind shifts. Fortunately, I like catnapping in the cockpit, so Leg Two will be great!'

In addition to the offshore legs, both stopovers will drill each team’s short-course prowess. While the New York in-shore race is a Pro-Am event (read: professional sailors and sponsor invitees competing together), the Atlantic Cup 2012’s grand finale is a weekend (May 26 and 27) of fully crewed buoy racing off of Newport that counts towards the overall results. 'I think the race will be extremely hard-fought and the eventual winner will have to achieve strong performances in all three stages,' said Race Director Hugh Piggin. 'But I don't think the winner will be decided until the Sunday of the inshore series. This isn’t a traditional regatta event—the incentive of prize money will keep the skippers focused and [will] tie the three stages together as each [stage] will influence the overall result.'

Initiatives is in Bristol condition, reports Creighton, no doubt thanks to her diligent preparation work, both in France with de Lamotte and in Charleston. While some teams will likely be spending their final pre-race days shortening their to-do
lists, Creighton and Windsor will be sailing, running through critical maneuvers, practicing sail changes and learning Initiatives’ sweet spot. Then, it will be a matter of reeling off miles. 'I’m so psyched!' said Creighton. 'The delivery from
Mexico was my first overnighter since November. It was great to have some time off over the winter, but now I’m ready to go sailing.'

All told, the Atlantic Cup 2012 encompasses 905 nautical miles of offshore racing, a Pro-Am race, a fantastic weekend of buoy chasing off of Newport, and months of diligent planning, preparation and training. Please visit website or Facebook page (search: Emma's Sailing Exploits) for more information on her sailing campaigns, and stay tuned for more news from this talented American Emma Creighton The Atlantic Cup website
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