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upffront 2018 GFM 728x90 Newsletter: Celebrating North American sailing & need for speed in Volvo Ocean Race


Celebrating North American sailing and the need for speed in the Volvo Ocean Race

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Leg 9, from Newport to Cardiff, day 6 on board Team AkzoNobel. Happy crew after finding out they had a record breaking 24 hours. Now to hold on to the lead and try to take the win for the leg. 25 May, . - photo © Konrad Frost / Volvo Ocean Race

Dear Recipient Name

Depending on one's latitude and longitude, Memorial Day Weekend marks the traditional start to the boating season for most North American sailors. In New England, for example, yacht clubs scurried to get their facilities commissioned and opened for the big three-day weekend, while owners worked hard to get their boats back in the water and in racing trim, as Memorial Day weekend is also host to many classic mini-distance races. More importantly, of course, it's also a time to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us can enjoy our freedoms and-for us sailors-the ability to engage in nautical adventures with our friends and family.

Coast-to-coast, this weekend presented great opportunities to engage in some time-honored overnight racing. On the East Coast, the Stamford Yacht Club hosted the Storm Trisail Club's annual Block Island Race, which runs from the Cowes, just off of Stamford, Connecticut, around Block Island and back to the Cowes. The race is a true area classic and a fantastic shakedown for teams that are also planning on racing in this year's Newport Bermuda Race (June 15, 2018).

Block Island Race start - photo © Storm Trysail Club
Block Island Race start - photo © Storm Trysail Club

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Just up the coast, Massachusetts and northern New England-based sailors engaged in the 47th annual Figawi Race, which carried the fleet of 200+ boats from the Hyannisport Jetty to the beautiful island of Nantucket using a pursuit-style start so that all boats arrived at roughly the same time. While this is no doubt a handful for the RC, it almost certainly made for a wonderful celebratory atmosphere in Nantucket, once all dock lines were made fast.

Down the coast in Daytona Beach, Florida (a place where, fortunately, sailors never really need to suspend their sailing season, at least not compared to sailors living in the fine state of, say, Maine), the Halifax River Yacht Club hosted their biennial Gulfstreamer Race (you can read more about that event here:, which carried the fleet some 226 nautical miles from Ponce Inlet, Florida, up to Charleston, South Carolina.

2012 MASTER RVYC Swiftsure International Yacht Race, Victoria, Canada 243 (79) - Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2013 - photo © Brenda Jacques
2012 MASTER RVYC Swiftsure International Yacht Race, Victoria, Canada 243 (79) - Swiftsure International Yacht Race 2013 - photo © Brenda Jacques

And here in the Pacific Northwest, sailors enjoyed (relatively) fine weather for the Royal Victoria Yacht Club's annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race, which-for the racers who sailed the Swiftsure Lightship Classic course-carried the fleet from the charming coastal town of Victoria, British Columbia, westward and out the Strait of Juan de Fuca into the Pacific Ocean before rounding Swiftsure Bank and then gunning for the finishing line off of Victoria.

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While these races were no doubt a huge challenge and a ton of fun for the skippers and crews, some seriously cool news percolated out of the Volvo Ocean Race late last week. While New England-based VOR fans had a great chance to see the fleet live and in person during the official Newport stopover (May 8-20), since then the fleet has been burning off the miles separating their bows from Cardiff, Wales. In fact, conditions proved fast enough last week for two teams to set new 24-hour distance records aboard Volvo Ocean 65s.

Leg 9, from Newport to Cardiff, day 2 on board Team AkzoNobel. Wet and wild morning. 24 May, - photo © Konrad Frost / Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 9, from Newport to Cardiff, day 2 on board Team AkzoNobel. Wet and wild morning. 24 May, - photo © Konrad Frost / Volvo Ocean Race

First up was skipper Bouwe Bekking's Team Brunel, which reeled-off an impressive 550.8 nautical miles, however this big number was humbled within hours by skipper Simeon Tienpont's Team AkzoNobel, which posted a 24-hour run of 601.63 nautical miles, setting a record for any boat competing in the Volvo Ocean Race (N.B., the 24-hour distance record for any monohull is currently 618.01 nautical and is held by Jim Clarke's former Comanche, which is a significantly bigger, more complex and exponentially more expensive platform).

"It's great to be the fastest boat in the race, and especially in these conditions where we can really go fast quite safely," said Tienpont in an official VOR press release. "Big thanks to the shore crew for preparing the boat so well so that we have the confidence to really put the hammer down. It's really motivating for us to keep pushing hard, and to do well for the leg as well. We need to keep trucking."

Simeon Tienpont just awake and about to go on. watch - Volvo Ocean Race Leg 8 from Itajai to Newport, Day 14, on board AkzoNobel. - photo © Brian Carlin / Volvo Ocean Race
Simeon Tienpont just awake and about to go on. watch - Volvo Ocean Race Leg 8 from Itajai to Newport, Day 14, on board AkzoNobel. - photo © Brian Carlin / Volvo Ocean Race

As of this writing, the VOR fleet is fast approaching Cardiff, with less than 100 miles separating Team Brunel's bow from the finishing line, however Bekking and company are only enjoying a lead of 0.7 nautical miles over Team AkzoNobel, despite the fact that the two teams have been racing for over 3,000 nautical miles.

Adding further complication to the winner's podium math, skipper Charles Caudrelier and his Dongfeng Race Team are just 11 miles astern of the leading duo. "Our dream is to have a leg win and get revenge for Leg 8," said Caudrelier in an official VOR press release. "Brunel and AkzoNobel have sailed well from the start but now they're fighting together there's a chance they could make a mistake if they get too caught up with each other. They have a good lead now but it could be reduced to nothing by the time we get to the bay. The problem isn't the wind, it's the current, but we have a plan, and I think it's a good one."

Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 03 on board Dongfeng. Charles Caudrelier focus and tired after these first days of close racing. - photo © Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4, Melbourne to Hong Kong, day 03 on board Dongfeng. Charles Caudrelier focus and tired after these first days of close racing. - photo © Martin Keruzore / Volvo Ocean Race

Congrats to Team AkzoNobel (and especially to navigator Jules Salter, who broke his own previous VOR 24-hour distance record with this 601.63 nautical mile run) for their proud new record, and to every skipper and crew that got out racing this Memorial Day Weekend.

With luck, this weekend signifies a long, fun and engaging season of racing and enjoying our hard-won freedoms.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt, North American Editor

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