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RORC Transatlantic Race: Dock talk, weather and video interviews

by Louay Habib / RORC 22 Nov 2019 10:48 PST 23 November 2019
The crew of VO65 Childhood I assemble on deck pre-race Bouwe Bekking, Skipper of VO65 Childhood I © RORC / Joaquin Vera / Calero Marinas

Arrecife, Lanzarote: On the penultimate day before the start of the sixth edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race, the international fleet have eyes on the weather for the 3,000nm race across the Atlantic Ocean to Grenada in the West Indies.

This will be the first race for a new team with ambitions to take part in The Ocean Race 2021-22. The VO65 Childhood I will be skippered by Bouwe Bekking for the RORC Transatlantic Race. The Dutchman has competed in the last eight editions of the round the world race, and has sailed more than 100,000 miles on the VO65. Childhood I is supporting the World Childhood Foundation which develops solutions to prevent the exploitation of children.

After leaving Marina Lanzarote the boats must transition the Canary Islands, experiencing land effects from the rugged volcanic islands. After passing Tenerife the fleet will head out into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The traditional southerly route would take the competing yachts towards the Cape Verde Islands before turning west.

However, with modern weather models and sophisticated route planning software, a northerly route can be quicker. The northerly route, skirting the low pressure systems, can provide trials and tribulations - the wild ride may be fast but also brutal.

The largest yacht competing in the 2019 RORC Transatlantic Race, Wally 100 Dark Shadow, and the smallest yacht JPK 10.10 Jangada, have shared their views on tactics. Dark Shadow has an international crew of sixteen sailors and hope to beat their previous elapsed time for a Transatlantic Race of just under 12 days. British Jangada will be race doublehanded by owner Richard Palmer sailing with Jeremy Waitt. The British pair have little in the way of comforts on board and will spend long periods alone on deck racing in the remote Atlantic Ocean.

"The start looks like the breeze will be quite light with maybe some acceleration when the land heats up, but the models are changing every time we look at them," commented Dark Shadow's Skipper Yerin Hobson. "With the forecast we have today, north is looking like a big mistake, so we will be heading south unless things drastically change."

"There is high pressure sitting over Madeira and it is forecast to go south, giving light winds," commented Jangada's Richard Palmer. "So the decision is whether to go north, get above the high and pick up the lows that will come, or do the traditional dive south 'until the butter melts'. It will be a much more comfortable ride south. We will get our final high res weather forecast at Tenerife, around 24 hours into the race, and then we will make our final decision."

Richard Palmer's teammate, Jeremy Waitt, may disagree. "I like the north route, bashing into 20 or 30 knots of breeze, anything to win the race! We will be discussing that as we go forward!"

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