Saturday, 9 July 2011

Transatlantic Race 2011 : Close, but no Cigar

On board Rambler 100. Image copyright Rambler.

by Kirsten Ferguson

Although conditions in the North Atlantic for the 26 yachts competing in the Transatlantic Race 2011 put at least one on pace to break speed sailing records, the existing record, set in 2008, will stand for a while longer. Via satellite link, navigator Peter Isler (San Diego, California) detailed the knarly conditions of the last 24 hours aboard Rambler 100, which left Newport bound for The Lizard on July 3 (the final start of the three staggered starts for the participating yachts).

Tom Addis looks out of the window on board PUMA's Mar Mostro. Image copyright PUMA Ocean Racing.

“As the sun sets on the fourth day of the Transatlantic Race, the crew aboard Rambler 100 has settled into the shipboard rhythm of the four-hour watches. The drama this afternoon has been our watch on the numbers for our 24-hour run. We've had some awesome sailing and in the end came just 12 miles shy of the 596 nautical mile (nm) 24-hour record set by the Volvo 70 Ericsson 4.“Our 24-hour run from 1400 EDT yesterday to today was 582 miles. Each hour we kept calculating, hoping for an increase, but the best we could do was 584 nm between the 1500 hours and the same for the 1600 hours. The breeze has backed off a bit now, so the numbers are starting to decrease a bit.

Ryan Godfrey on board PUMA's Mar Mostro. Image copyright PUMA Ocean Racing.

“That was fun to watch - but the team’s focus is firmly on the race - sailing hard, making good decisions and no major mistakes. This boat is so big, that every sail change takes a long time. The sails are so heavy, the loads so great - that every step of the process takes time and often shared hands on the heavy loads.“Looking forward - the big tactical decision that could decide this race is coming up tomorrow morning (our clocks are still on Newport R.I. time!), when it looks like the clocking wind will favor the other gybe for the first time since we started. That's always interesting after a few days sailing on one tack - getting used to the feel of going the other way. The timing of the gybe is crucial because it looks to set up the track of the boat through probably the lightest winds we will see in this race... at the boundary between the low over Labrador and the low that's been hovering over Ireland. It looks like we are going to have some very light winds for what looks like about four hours before we connect into the northwesterly from the eastern low.

“So we'll pick a ‘lane’ tomorrow morning - with the breeze still nice and fresh. A few hours later we'll see how our choice panned out as we enter the light air. The weather models have a much harder time predicting the conditions in light winds compared to stronger winds (right now its blowing 23 knots) so there's a bit of voodoo and luck involved.”

Maltese Falcon. Image copyright Dan Nergey.

Indicating it was “time for a nap before all the action,” Isler signed off and sent along photos of the Rambler 100 team averaging over 24.5 knots of boat speed for over 26 hours, including the one at the top of this article.

To follow the race via tracker and get real insight into life on board via the blogs, visit

Sponsors of the TR 2011 are Rolex, Thomson Reuters, Newport Shipyard, Perini Navi and Peters & May, with additional support by apparel sponsor Atlantis Weathergear.