Outsider, Tilmar Hansen's Elliott 52 © Sven Jürgensen Fotografie; Ludde Ingvall's Supermaxi CQS © Rick Tomlinson; Marten 72, Aragon - back to defend her 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race title © James Mitchell
Departing from Marina Lanzarote at noon on the 25th November, a record 23 yachts will compete in the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race - the first leg of the Atlantic Anniversary Regatta. Teams will represent nine different nations: Australia; Belgium; Canada; Chile; France; Germany; Great Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States of America.
The overall winner under IRC will be awarded the RORC Transatlantic Race Trophy at Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Marina in Grenada; 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. A complex weather scenario is predicted for the start making it almost impossible to predict the winner in a highly competitive fleet.
Aragon, the Dutch-flagged Marten 72, will be defending their overall win in last year's race and will be skippered by Jochen Bovenkamp.
"This year it will be really hard to win as just in our own class there is very strong competition," commented Aragon's Boat Captain Nico LeCarpentier. "In the Maxi Class, we have boats like CQS and Sorceress which are both far bigger and more powerful than Aragon, and the Volvo 70 Monster Project which will be very fast in certain conditions. In IRC Zero we have yachts such as Varuna and Teasing Machine, which will be hard to beat on corrected time. This is a going to be a very competitive race and also looking at the weather, the winner will need to be smart as well as fast."
Ludde Ingvall's Australian 98ft canting keel Maxi, CQS is the hot favourite for IMA Trophy for Monohull Line Honours and capable of taking a tilt at the monohull race record of 10 days 7 hours 6 minutes and 59 seconds, set by Jean-Paul Riviere's Nomad IV in the 2015 race. This will be Ingvall's 16th transatlantic race and the team will be composed of a mix of highly experienced sailors and talented Atlantic rookies. CQS was a late entry to the race as a change to shipping schedules meant that the boat could not get back for the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Ingvall commented: "The up-side of this change of schedule is that we will have the chance to help support the Caribbean communities devastated by the recent hurricane by entering some of the events on their circuit. The RORC Transatlantic Race is also a great opportunity for us to put CQS through her paces in a long-distance race over such a famous route."
In IRC Zero, front runners for the overall win include Jens Kellinghusen's German Ker 56 Varuna, and Eric de Turckheim's French Nivelt-Muratet 54 Teasing Machine. Both yachts are new evolutionary designs to the IRC Rule, crewed by top class professionals. Tilmar Hansen's canting keel Elliott 52 Outsider, skippered by Bo Teichmann is extremely well prepared and could well challenge the favourites. "Outsider was built for Atlantic racing and most of the crew have raced a lot together. We have no powered winches so it will be a very physical race for us and we are definitely up for the challenge," explained Teichmann. German Swan 60 Emma, skippered by Alfred Paulsen is looking forward to competing in his first Atlantic race, as boat captain Sven Hadler explains: "Emma's co-owner wanted to race across the Atlantic so this is a dream for him. The crew of Emma are all from Germany and are very experienced sailors. Our first goal is to finish, be safe and to try our best in the race and have a lot of fun."
Gerald Bibot's Belgian 42ft catamaran Zed 6 returns to the RORC Transatlantic Race after competing in 2015, finishing in just over 11 days, beating several Maxi yachts. Three pocket Class40s will also be racing; Berthold Brinkmann's MarieJo, Mathias Mueller's Red, and Marc Lepesqueux's Sensation. The Class40 race record is 12 days 12 hours 36 minutes, set by Gonzalo Botin's Tales II in 2015.
Young team on the Judel/Vrolijk 52 Haspa Hamburg © RORC/James Mitchell
Whilst CQS will be introducing a number of young sailors to full-on offshore racing, they are not alone. Amongst the German teams competing with young talent under 30 years of age and as young as 18 are: JV53 Bank von Bremen, skippered by Alexander Beilken, Max Gaertner's JV52 Haspa Hamburg, Bjoern Woge's Andrews 56 Broader View Hamburg, Friedrich Boehnert's Xp-50 LunatiX, and Hanns Ostmeier's Swan 45 High Yield. Organisations such as the Hamburgischer Verein Seefhart are continuing a long established German tradition for training young offshore sailors. Three generations of the von Eicken family will be racing on German Swan 56 Latona, Owner Johann is joined by son-in-law Pit Brockhausen and grandson Carl, with an age range of 75 to 20 years!
The RORC Transatlantic Race boasts a huge variety of yachts as well as crews of wide-ranging experience; from first-time transatlantic sailors, to professional offshore crews. These include the first entry by an all-female team in the race. Lyssandra Barbieri's Dufour 40 Hatha Maris will be flying the Italian flag, however her crew are from Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA.
The newly appointed RORC Commodore Steven Anderson will also be competing in his British 50ft Bermudan Cutter, Gemervescence and Chris Stanmore Major's Canadian Whitbread 60 is the only yacht to have completed every edition of the race. Two teams will be tackling the 3,000 mile course Two-Handed. Dutch couple, Petra and Berry Aarts will be racing their Jeanneau 54 No Doubt and the highly experienced British Two Handed team, Richard Palmer and Rupert Holmes, will be racing JPK 10.10 Jangada, the smallest yacht in the race.
Johann von Eicken, owner of Swan 56 Latona talks to the young Opi sailors from the Real Club Nautico de Arrecife about the race ©RORC/James Mitchell
RORC Transatlantic Race yachts, including the Canadian Challenger docked at Marina Lanzarote © RORC/James Mitchell
Twitter hashtag: #rorctransatlanticrace