The RORC Transatlantic Race Fast Approaching

Revving up through the Canary Islands

Finot Conq maxi 100, Nomad IV, entered into the inaugural RORC Transatlantic Race 2014. Photo: Gilles Martin Raget/Finot Conq

A varied and international fleet ranging from 40 to 100ft (12.19 to 30.48m) will set off for Grenada on Saturday 29th November from Lanzarote, the most eastern in the Canary Islands chain, in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's new offshore race.

After a week of preparation and social events hosted at Puerto Calero Marina, the inaugural RORC Transatlantic Race will see competitors from several countries weave their way through the historic archipelago before making landfall 2,800 nautical miles away where they will be welcomed at Camper & Nicholsons' Port Louis Marina.

Ever since Columbus started the trend over 500 years ago, the Canary Islands have remained the jumping-off point for yachts crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The RORC Transatlantic Race will provide RORC members and other highly competitive race boats with the chance to compete in a top-level event during the east-west transatlantic crossing.

Run in association with the International Maxi Association (IMA), the race is set to become a firm favourite and fixture on annual racing calendars. Here's a glimpse at just some of the competitors taking part in this year's race:

Vying for line honours

A number of boats will be vying for line honours including the largest boat in the fleet, the 100ft (30.48m) Finot-Conq maxi, Nomad IV (MLT), Southern Wind 94, Windfall and the Baltic 78, Lupa of London.

Jeremy Pilkington's 78ft maxi, Lupa of London (GBR) will be sailed by Daniel Stump with a top crew, including Isle of Wight-based solo sailor and project manager, Jonny Malbon, and young solo offshore Artemis Offshore Academy graduate and top British 'rookie' in the 2013 Solitaire du Figaro, Jack Bouttell on board.

Built to combine the ultimate in performance, this Reichel Pugh-designed Baltic 78ft is a high tech package, built for speed. She has already notched up some impressive records this year, winning the Mini Maxi Racing/Cruising class at Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia and 1st in Combined Class IRC 0 at Giraglia Rolex Cup 2014.

"To take part in the first RORC Transatlantic Race on board Lupa of London will be a great adventure and something we wanted to support," says Boat Captain, Daniel Stump, who has sailed in both the Canary Islands and Grenada previously. "We expect to be at sea for about 12 days and have a superb crew who are all seasoned ocean sailors and, above all, great company. I have been the Captain of Lupa of London for the past 8 years and it has been thrilling to be part of and see the development of Lupa from a fast cruising boat to a podium finisher. I owe this to a wonderful owner who very much enjoys the racing and fine-tuning of Lupa. So on the 29th November when the start gun goes off, it will be all on for Lupa's first ever transat race," continues Stump.

Apollo ready for lift-off

The J/133, Apollo 7 (GBR), was bought and refitted by regular RORC racer Nigel Passmore in order to compete in his first transatlantic race. "I'm taking part in the RORC Transatlantic Race in order to achieve a lifetime ambition of sailing across the Atlantic," explains Passmore.

The Plymouth, Devon-based team has notched up a string of local victories as well as notable wins in the Rolex Fastnet Race and as overall winner of the RORC's De Guingand Bowl and Morgan Cup races earlier this season. A crew of six for the crossing includes Isle of Wight sailor Brett Aarons.

"Once the RORC announced its intention to organise the race, I wanted to make sure I took part in the first event. We intend to do the best we can and enjoy the experience. Maintaining boat equipment and keeping on a race pace for two weeks, 24 hours a day is going to be tough. I'm looking forward to the whole race and ticking off another 'To Do' box when the finish gun goes off in Grenada. It's sure to be a memorable moment," says Apollo 7's owner, Passmore.

Offshore training with veteran circumnavigators

The Spirit of Canada Ocean Challenges Team is delighted to have completed a successful first year on the Volvo 60, Spirit of Adventure (CAN). A season that included the RORC Caribbean 600 allowed 91 individuals, from 27 to 77 years old, to take up the opportunity to sail on the grand prix yacht with two round the world sailors, Derek Hatfield and Chris Stanmore-Major, who between them have more than 400,000 ocean miles and five circumnavigations.

Derek is the first Canadian to race around the world twice after competing in the single-handed Around Alone Race (when he was the fastest 40ft boat throughout the event) and the VELUX 5 Oceans. His latest challenge is training other people to go offshore. Using the Volvo 60 Spirit of Adventure, (formerly Amer Sports One) which was raced around the world in the 2001 Volvo Ocean Race, Derek is now taking people offshore for the experience of a lifetime. The Mk III Volvo 60 is undergoing a refit in Nova Scotia before crossing from the Nova Scotian port of Lunenberg to arrive in good time for the start from Lanzarote. Spirit of Adventure will compete for the second time in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February and already has a full boat for the race.

New kids on the block

Four young sailors from Oakcliff Sailing's training and coaching centre based in the North Shore of Long Island, Oyster Bay, NY have been given the opportunity to compete in the RORC Transatlantic Race thanks to the generosity of their newly donated Class40.

The Oakcliff Ocean Racing Team (USA) were formed almost 12 months ago by Oakcliff's Dan Flanigan and Hobie Ponting, with the goal to race in the Transatlantic Race 2015 from Newport, RI to Lizard Point, UK. The four-man team will start their training in less than a month, sailing the Class40 from Southampton, UK to Lanzarote in time for the start:

"We have worked hard over the past 12 months to make our Ocean Racing Team a reality," explained navigator Hobie Ponting. "Building your own team is difficult and it often seemed like it would never happen. Then all of the sudden we have a boat and a programme and we are headed to Europe! We will use the race to launch our campaign as an offshore racing team and we expect this race to be incredibly challenging. It will not be easy, but nothing good in life comes easy. We are a new, young team who are always in fundraising mode and always learning. For us, the most challenging part of the race will be getting the boat to Lanzarote from England but we are looking forward to being on the starting line with many of the most talented offshore sailing teams around," continues Ponting.

The crew of Dan Flanigan (23), Chris Kennedy (26), Andrew "OD" O'Donnell (27), and Hobie Ponting (23) will be depart Long Island for England at the beginning of November as they meet with the crew of Bodacious Dream to get a walkthrough of the boat before the handover. After completing the race, the team will go into full fundraising mode as they set their sights on the west to east transatlantic.

Three's company on Sérénade

Denis Villotte's 12m Joubert-Nivelt-Pinta, Sérénade (FRA), will join three other French yachts competing in the new race. The Parisian Management Consultant will be competing in his twin-keeled version of the JNP along with Alain Houchard from Caen and Pit Porter from Bayonne.

"I have raced Sérénade across the Atlantic once before in the 2011-12 two-handed race, La Transquadra (2 legs: Saint-Nazaire to Madeira and Madeira to Martinique). I wanted to make another Atlantic crossing in a race again. Though I loved the Transquadra experience, I wanted something different and made an entry as soon as I found out that the RORC was organising a new race. I would like to make a faster crossing than the previous one (16 days, 4 hrs) which won't be easy as the distance is a bit longer and winds might be weaker," explains Villotte.

"Crossing the Atlantic with the trade winds is not so easy when you are racing. You may get sudden strong squalls, especially before dawn and you have to be swift and reactive. Strategic choices may also prove crucial, especially just after the start. Tactical choices (to gybe or not to gybe) have to be made constantly. As for us, we'll be a small crew (only 3) and we won't use the automatic pilot, so the race is going to be a real challenge. I hope we'll be able to make a good result in the race. Whatever happens, it's always a great moment to steer a yacht running downwind in the trades, with her spinnaker on," continues Sérénade's owner Villotte.

How to follow the event

Yachts will be fitted with a race tracker and daily race reports, images and other media assets will be posted on the RORC Transatlantic Race minsite

Pure Grenada
Port Louis Marina
Calero Marinas