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Transatlantic Race 2011 readies for battle royale

by Barby MacGowan on 15 Jul 2011
Doublehanded crew on Dragon - Transatlantic Race 2011 Billy Black http://www.BillyBlack.com

Transatlantic Race 2011 readies for a dramatic ending as Class40s Concise 2 and Dragon approach the finish line after racing nearly 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to The Lizard on the south coast of England.

Concise 2, skippered by Ned Collier-Wakefield (Oxford, U.K.), is just a few miles ahead of Dragon, skippered by Mike Hennessy (Mystic, Conn.), and after 16 days of racing the outcome of this duel is too close to call, even with just 100 miles to the finish line.

Concise 2 set a blistering pace in the early part of the race and left Dragon trailing by hundreds of miles. However, mid-Atlantic, as the wind evaporated around Concise 2, the six sailors making up the British youth team were helpless as Dragon came back with a fresh westerly breeze to not only catch but also overtake them. In light airs it seems that the lighter Dragon – which Hennessy is racing doublehanded with Rob Windsor (East Northport, N.Y.) – has the advantage and it could be a very close finish late tonight or in the early hours of Friday morning.

'We just passed 130 miles to go and are in the home stretch,' said Hennessy by satellite link this morning. 'As expected, Concise is making us fight every inch of the way. The northern pack they are part of got a bit more wind in the early morning hours and picked up some incremental speed. As a result, Concise sits six miles in front of us on the tracker. This is going to be a fight all the way to the final gun. Racing 3,000 miles and finishing within sight of one another is what racing should be all about.'

For the last four years, Tony Lawson (Haslemere, U.K.), owner of Concise 2, has used his Class 40 as a highly successful platform for young British sailors to gain experience in prestigious offshore events. Lawson believes that the yachts still racing are crewed by the real heroes of this race.

'The superyachts in this race are too exciting for words,' said Lawson. 'However, personally, the heroes of this piece have to be the amateur sailors who have left families behind, dropped classes, even given up jobs to fulfill their dream of ‘doing a transatlantic.’

On Concise 2 the physical hardship that is a Class 40, and the torment of these last few windless days, has only brought the crew closer together…made the conversation deeper, the wit sharper, and no doubt the fish and chips and that first pint in Cowes taste better.

After 2,900 miles of racing there is just a few miles between us and our sister ship Dragon, it is just too close to call. There is only one certainty; there are no losers left out there. They are all winners in the Transatlantic Race 2011.'

The next yacht to finish the Transatlantic Race 2011 could well be the Volvo 60, Ambersail, whose Lithuanian team made a break well south of the chasing pack, which seems to have paid off handsomely. However, a few miles behind and with a better wind angle coming into the finish, Beau Geste, skippered by Karl Kwok (Hong Kong), and Vanquish, crewed by the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team, are also locked in a close duel. Ambersail look to have the advantage, but they could still be caught.

In IRC Class Four, which were the yachts to take the first start the Transatlantic Race 2011 on June 26, there is another close battle brewing. Rives Potts, Jr. (Essex, Conn.), skipper of Carina, the McCurdy and Rhodes 48, currently has a five-mile lead on the Army Sailing Association’s Archambaud 40, British Soldier, crewed by active duty members of the British Army.

Team Concise:

Days onboard an offshore racing yacht don’t really have a beginning or end. Yes, it gets light and dark, people go to sleep and get up, eat meals and spend time sailing the boat as fast as possible. But this happens in more of a rolling time, rather than having defined start and end points, and is therefore hard to know where to start a description of what the days have felt like onboard.

I will choose happy hour (2000-2100), when all the crew are on deck, whether or not they are on watch. We have a few tunes on the stereo and get to see everyone, since those not on watch together otherwise would hardly do so. As well as general chat, we also discuss whether there are ways in which we could improve the way we are sailing the boat, and I give the guys a bit of a briefing in terms of what to expect in terms of weather and conditions over the next day.

After happy hour, we have dinner and then the crew settle into their watches again, with two on deck working the boat hard. From around 2200 onwards those off watch tend to be below, either to sleep or at least doze on their bunks. This is the quietest time on the boat where, in a funny sort of way, concentration levels are at their highest because of minimal distractions. The challenge obviously, is staying awake and in some of the conditions we’ve had, staying warm. As people come on or off watch between around 0700 and 1000, they will have their breakfast of porridge, filling and warming after a night on deck.

From mid-morning onwards, when crew are off watch they are up and about, sometimes doing some bits of preventative maintenance, cleaning/tidying the boat, organising food/water or inventing other ways to pass the time.

After nearly two weeks at sea however, the days tend to pass fairly quickly, perhaps as we are more used to the environment or simply have found better ways to amuse ourselves! Towards the end of the day, if conditions are right, someone might sneak the music on a little early, and then we are back to happy hour again.

So, although there is no beginning and end, the days to have a natural rhythm to them, and one which will perhaps be hard to get out of once we get ashore and have to fit back into a more normal routine!

Luke

After a challenging night of continuing light and shifty winds, we are into what we hope will be our last full day at sea. Just under 150 miles remain of this gruelling 3000 mile race, and we have an ETA at the finish at the Lizard, Cornwall in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

We remain in extremely close competition with Dragon, and were swapping the lead throughout the night as first one of us and then the other got some more wind and was able to make slightly less tortured progress towards the finish. We are however, around 45 miles apart on the water, after we opted for a more northerly route a day or so ago. As expected, this resulted in us losing miles to Dragon yesterday, with the expectation that we would make some future gains. At present, and this race is far from over, we lead Dragon by around five miles and we hope, have a better wind angle to get to the finish.

Team Concise 2 website
Transatlantic Race website

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