Transatlantic Race 2011 has a strong fleet of 30 preparing to race in late June and early July from the start in Newport, R.I., to the finish at The Lizard on the coast of Cornwall in South- western England.
For some, sailing across the Atlantic in this race, co-organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club, is about the chance to sail into the history books, while for a younger generation of sailors it is about building a foundation for future success in the sport.
A growing contingent of younger competitors is seeking sailing opportunities beyond the inshore dinghy programs typically offered at yacht clubs, high schools and colleges.
The young sailors making up the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team (AAOT) on the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's (USMMA) IRC 65 Vanquish and the German team on the Andrews 56 Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg are two groups who are taking advantage of the Transatlantic Race 2011 to expand their skills and hopefully build reputations as the next wave of capable ocean racers.
The German team is organized by Hamburgischer Verein Seefahrt e.V., an organization founded in 1903 in Hamburg with the express goal of maintaining seagoing vessels and training young people, both physically and temperamentally, to become skilled mariners.
The German crew looks to be the youngest in the race, with an average age of 22.5, but has experience that belies their years as all have offshore experience from racing long and short distances as well as making passages on the Mediterranean, Baltic and North Seas.
'This specific team never sailed together before,' said Eike Holst whose third Transatlantic Race will be his first as skipper. 'We all knew each other and almost everyone sailed together somehow but never in this constellation. This is caused by the structure of our club.
For example, me and my navigator, Max Wilckens, sailed together exactly in these positions in the 2010 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, finishing second in our division, and we sailed together with one other crewmember, Katrin Hilbert, in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race when Max was one of the watch officers and I sailed as bowman.'
Holst selected the team to undertake the Transatlantic Race 2011 'with good advice of Max,' and noted that while most of the crew participated together in an ISAF Survival at Sea Seminar in March as well as in 'teambuilding meetings' during the winter, the first time they all sailed together was in April.
When Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg, launched in 1999, departs with the 15 other boats during the second start (June 29), Holst and his crew will have spent close to three weeks in Newport making their final preparations for the race.'Probably we'll be the youngest crew in the race this year and we're really curious what the race will bring,' said Holst.
The German Youth Team will be racing on the Andrews 56 Norddeutcshe Vermoegen Hamburg (shown here at the 2007 HSH Nordbank Blue Race) in the Transatlantic Race 2011 - Rolex/Nico Krauss
'In long distance racing everything is possible, so let's see what a young crew will achieve with an 'old' boat. 'Learning of the German entry in the Transatlantic Race 2011 was all the motivation Ralf Steitz, President of the USMMA Sailing Foundation, needed to form the Oakcliff AAOT earlier this year.
Steitz brought his long-held desire to establish a youth-driven ocean racing movement to fruition with the backing of other leaders on the U.S. sailing scene, and, once the program was announced, saw 250 applications pour in over four weeks from sailors anxious to seize the opportunity.
The average age of the 14 Oakcliff AAOT members who will race aboard Vanquish is 23.75, and, like the young German team, with just a few short months to prepare they will get a crash-course in working as a cohesive unit during their participation in Storm Trysail Club's Around Block Island Race and the Annapolis to Newport Race prior to making the third start (July 3) of the Transatlantic Race 2011.
'I really enjoy sailing offshore,' said Nate Fast (Noank, Conn.), who will celebrate his 20th birthday two days before starting the race and is the youngest member of Oakcliff AAOT.
'I did the 2008 Bermuda Race, which was my introduction to the high level and complexity of offshore sailing. Being the youngest means I have to work that much harder, but that will probably help me because I'll be trying to prove myself. Offshore sailing is a lot of fun and a great experience and I hope to continue with it after this race.
'Both the American and German teams qualify as youth entries in the Transatlantic Race 2011, meaning that at least 50% of the crew is age 25 or younger on the date of that yacht's start in the race. In addition to respective class honors, the two teams will vie for the Venona Trophy, which will be awarded to the highest placing youth entry.'Of course we want to win this trophy!,' said Holst.
'But it's going be really hard work for us. The Oakcliff AAOT has a really young but very professional crew (some of them are sailing in the RC44 circuit regularly) and for sure the faster and newer boat. Crossing the finishing line in front of them would be great but probably as hard as beating them by corrected time. Of course we also have quite a lot of experience in offshore sailing but in a different way.
The focus in our club lies on good seamanship and education for becoming skilled mariners but this doesn't imply that we're becoming professional offshore sailors. But besides that we're having regular contact with Oakcliff AAOT and are looking forward to meeting them and having fun together in Newport.' Transatlantic Race 2011 Entries
Yacht Name, Skipper, Hometown
Ambersail, Simonas Steponavicius, Vilnius, Lithuania
Beau Geste, Karl Kwok, Hong Kong, China
British Soldier, Lt. Col. Nick Bate, Falmouth, Cornwall, U.K.
Carina, Rives Potts, Essex, Conn., USA
Concise 2, Ned Collier-Wakefield, Oxford, U.K.
Cutlass, Nick Halmos, Palm Beach, Fla., USA
Dawn Star, William N. Hubbard III /William N. Hubbard IV, both New York, N.Y., USA
Dragon, Michael Hennessy, Mystic, Conn., USA
ICAP Leopard, Clarke Murphy, New York, N.Y., USA
Jaqueline IV, Robert Forman, Bay Shore, N.Y., USA
Jazz, Nigel King, East London, U.K.
Kamoa'e, Eric LeCoq, Bridgeport, Conn., USA
Maltese Falcon, Elena Ambrosiadou, Monaco
Norddeutcshe Vermoegen Hamburg, Eike Holst , Hamburg, Germany
Nordwind, Hans Albrecht, Munich, Germany
Ourson Rapide, Paolo Roasenda, Vedano al Lambro, Italy
Persevere, Bugs Baer/Colin Rath, Madison, Conn. / Darien, Conn., USA
Phaedo, Lloyd Thornburg, St. Barthelemy
Prodigy, Chris Frost, Durban, South Africa
PUMA Ocean Racing mar mostro, Ken Read, Newport, R.I., USA
Rambler 100, George David, Hartford, Conn., USA
Sasha, Albrecht Peters, Hamburg, Germany
Scho-ka-kola, Uwe Lebens, Hamburg, Germany
Shakti, Christoph Avenarius / Gorm Iver Gondesen, Hamburg, Germany / Flensburg, Germany
Snow Lion, Lawrence Huntington, New York, N.Y., USA
Sojana, Peter Harrison, U.K.
Sumurun, Bob Towbin, New York, N.Y., USA
Vanquish, USMMA Oakcliff All American Offshore Team, Kings Point, N.Y., USA
Varuna, Jens Kellinghausen, Hamburg, Germany
Zaraffa, Huntington Sheldon, M.D., Shelburne, Vt., USA
Transatlantic Race website