Sunday, 26 June 2011

Transatlantic Race 2011 : History in the Making

2011 Transatlantic Race trophies on display at the opening dinner. Image copyright Dan Nerney.

by Jan Harley

Later today, cannon fire from the iconic Castle Hill Lighthouse will signal the beginning of a historic ocean adventure when six yachts are sent off on the Transatlantic Race 2011. The warning signal for the first of the three staggered starts is at 1:50 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, and will be replicated on Wednesday, June 29, and Sunday, July 3, with the ideal result that the vessels – ranging in size from 40’ to 289’ – will finish off The Lizard on the South Coast of England in close proximity to one another.

The New York Yacht Club has hosted 11 of the 28 North Atlantic races that have been held since 1866, and few have had more entries than the 2011 edition. Modern ocean racing began with the first transatlantic race, won by James Gordon Bennett Jr. Three NYYC members entered that inaugural race, each wagering $30,000 in a winner-takes-all dash across the ocean in bitter winter conditions. Bennett’s Henrietta finished the race on Christmas day to win the equivalent of more than $2 million dollars in today’s money.

More importantly, the inaugural event created a new, exciting and captivating sport, which embraces the values of devotion to duty, technological development and unquestionable sportsmanship. Those values still remain to this day and over the next few weeks triumphant yachts and characters of the sport will join the honor roll for this highly prestigious and historic sporting event.

PUMA's Mar Mostro will compete in the Transatlantic Race 2011 in preparation for the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Dan Armstrong.

Hosting the majority of the 26 yachts - representing ten different nations from the four corners of the globe - entered in the TR2011, Newport Shipyard is a spectacular sight and a hive of activity as crews prepare themselves and their yachts. The 289’ Perini Navi Maltese Falcon is nearly three times the length of any other entry and her revolutionary three masted rig dominates the skyline. The numerous and fantastic maritime creations waiting their opportunity to depart on the race span seven generations and include classic and modern examples of ocean going yachts. From high performance canting keel Maxis to pocket rocket Class 40s, as well as traditional spirit of tradition yachts from days gone by, it is a truly rare sight to see such a fleet gathered together in one place.

Last night, the sailors put aside their dockside labours to attend a very special occasion. Following the Captain’s Meeting and a reception hosted by Thomson Reuters, honored guests and TR 2011 competitors enjoyed a dazzling opening dinner at Harbor Court, the magnificent waterside clubhouse of the New York Yacht Club in Newport, Rhode Island.

NYYC Commodore Robert C. Towse, Jr. was delighted to address the ensemble, with a special mention for representatives of the organising yacht clubs in attendance. “We are privileged tonight to welcome Royal Yacht Squadron Vice Commodore David Aisher, Royal Ocean Racing Club Commodore Andrew McIrvine and Storm Trysail Commodore Eric Kreuter. T his race is the result of the dedication and hard work of the steering committee, which is composed of members of all four clubs, co-chaired by George David and Stephen Frank and I would like to thank them all.”

Sumrun will race. Image copyright Dan Nerney.

“This is a big ocean race, 26 yachts racing just shy of 3000 miles,” continued Towse. “The North Atlantic will be wet and cold in June just has it has been for the 482 boats that have raced before, crewed by 6750 sailors in the history of the race and, as ever, this race will bring together generations to build character and to reaffirm values that they believe are true. The cold climate of the North Atlantic may test that purpose, but at The Lizard finish those boats and their crews will have earned one of the hardest of sailing distinctions. We wish you all the best of luck.”

During dinner NYYC Trustee Clay Deutsch gave a passionate review of the race and colorful description of the competitors on behalf of the organising committee. Every team was given a rousing reception, each in turn rising to the toast. Deutsch summed up the wide-ranging diversity of the entries: competitors include aspiring young sailors, veteran Corinthian amateurs and some of the world’s greatest professionals of the offshore discipline.

Beau Geste, form Hong Kong, is one of the competitors. Image copyright Dan Nerney.

The quantum leap in maritime communications since the first race in 1866 will make the Transatlantic Race 2011 riveting viewing for spectators the world over. All of the competing yachts are not only fitted with hi-tech Yellowbrick tracking devices, but also have the capability of sending back stories of life on board via email and phone via the latest in satellite communication technology.Sponsors of the TR 2011 are Rolex, Thomson Reuters, Newport Shipyard, Perini Navi, and Peters & May.

For more information, visit us on Facebook and Twitter @TransatRace2011

More about the Transatlantic Race 2011

The Transatlantic Race 2011 charts a 2,975 nautical mile course from Newport, R.I., to Lizard Point, South Cornwall, England. Pre-start activities will take place at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, while awards will be presented at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Cowes Castle clubhouse on the Isle of Wight. Three separate starts – June 26, June 29 and July 3 – will feature 30 boats ranging from 40 to 289 feet in length. In addition to winners in seven classes (IRC Class 1 Racer, IRC Class 2 Racer, IRC Class 3 Racer/Cruiser, IRC Class 4 Racer/Cruiser, Classic, Class 40, and Open), whichever yacht finishes the course with the fastest elapsed time will set the benchmark for a new racing record from Newport to Lizard Point, to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Council.

Rolex watches will be awarded to the record holder and the overall winner (on corrected time) under IRC.The Transatlantic Race 2011 is also the centerpiece of the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series (AORS), which includes the Pineapple Cup – Montego Bay Race, RORC Caribbean 600, the Annapolis to Newport Race, Rolex Fastnet Race, Biscay Race and the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Of the seven races in the AORS, three races, including the TR 2011 must be completed to qualify for a series victory. Each race is weighted equally in overall series scoring with the exception of TR 2011, which is weighted 1.5 times. All entered yachts are scored using their two best finishes in addition to the TR 2011. Awards for the AORS will be presented in November, 2011, at the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Awards Dinner in Manhattan.