The inaugural RORC Transatlantic Race, in association with the International Maxi Association (IMA), starts on Saturday 29th November 1200 CET from Lanzarote, Canary Islands bound for Grenada, West Indies, 2,995 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean.
A blistering start to the 2014 RORC Transatlantic Race is very much on the cards, with a low pressure system expected to arrive from the northwest on Friday, bringing gale force winds and adding to the significant sea state that has already built up during the recent stormy weather in the Canary Islands. By Saturday, as the international fleet tackle the first part of the course, the wind is expected to moderate to 30-35 knots and lighter conditions are expected by Sunday.
After a short upwind leg in front of Puerto Calero Marina, the fleet will ease sheets turning east towards Lanzarote's capital, Arrecife. A fast downwind blast along the east coast of Fuerteventura will put the fleet at full speed, followed by a close reach to Gran Canaria, where a significant sea state is expected to test the competitors. After rounding a buoy off the coast of Gran Canaria, the fleet will harden up, racing north and eventually northwest to Tenerife. For the majority of the fleet, the leg from Tenerife to La Palma should be a fast reach before passing south of La Palma, flying spinnakers into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
The fleet features three Maxi Yachts vying for Line Honours and the exquisite sterling silver trophy donated by the International Maxi Association.
Jeremy Pilkington's British canting keel RP78, Lupa of London was a class winner at the Rolex Mini Maxi World Championship in September and the powerful maxi crew includes Vendee Globe sailor, Jonny Malbon and Figaro rookie, Jackson Boutell.
Southern Wind 94, Windfall is very much in the running for Line Honours, the international crew include the legendary America’s Cup and Admiral’s Cup sailor, Lorenzo Mazza, multiple world champion Francesco Mongelli and Irish Olympic Finn sailor, Tim Goodbody.
Finot Conq 100, Nomad IV has one of the most experienced offshore teams in the race, including Vendee Globe winner, Alain Gautier and yacht designer, Pascal Conq. Boat captain, Jacques Delorme was on board La Poste and Charles Jourdain for consecutive Whitbread Round the World Races and has won two Atlantic doublehanded races with Loick Peyron.
“For the start, the general picture is a north westerly wind. We are expecting 30 to 35 knots at a height of 10 metres with more at the top of our rig, and there could be significant gusts of wind in between the islands,” commented Jacques Delorme. “At times we will be beating into this strong wind and there will be a significant swell because of the wind direction and also because these heavy seas have built up over several days. We are expecting waves of at least four metres, maybe as much as seven metres. So I think we will be very cautious. We will be taking a reef well in advance and not to push the boat too hard, especially avoiding pitching the boat in the big waves. If you want to win a race, first of all you have to finish it. At the moment, after a windy start it could become lighter, but the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) does not pose any problems and currently our routing is suggesting that we will finish the race around the 10th December.”
Cowes-based, Brett Aarons will be racing on Nigel Passmore's British J/133, Apollo. This will be Brett's eighth Atlantic crossing and prior to the start, Brett gave a resume of what the smaller yachts can expect on Saturday.
“It's going to be a hard start to the race – full on around the islands. The jet stream has been funnelling low pressure systems down to the Canary Islands for a while. It looks like it will go light on Sunday but it is certainly going to be a hard race for the first 24 hours. The start of the course is about 160 miles through the Canary Islands before we head out into the Atlantic.
“After the start we will be in the wind shadow of Fuerteventura and it could be quite gusty with the wind clocking west in the gusts, which we will have to be careful about, but it should be quite a fast leg. I think the toughest leg will be to Gran Canaria, as it will be a tight angle with some big waves beam on, making it very lumpy and we will be arriving at a lee shore in about 30 knots of wind at midnight. We have a roller-furling jib and we can run a storm jib off an inner staysail, which might be a nice option. There are some upwind elements after that, but going upwind in big breeze is more controllable, it is easier to spill wind racing upwind than when we are just cracked off. There are not too many navigational hazards around the course, but we will be aware of some tuna pens around the coast. For the first part of the race, it will be tough going and our goal is just to settle down into life offshore and not go at it too hard, as we have another 2,800 miles to go.”
Canadian round the world sailor, Derek Hatfield, will be making his 27th Atlantic crossing as skipper of Volvo 60, Spirit of Adventure, which will be competing in the RORC Caribbean 600 after the race. American Class40, Oakcliff Racing, skippered Dan Flanigan, is a young team of four sailors from Rhode Island, USA, who will all be crossing the Atlantic for the first time. Oakcliff Racing should have a close encounter with Class40 Sensation and their French crew of six. The classic Swan 68, Yacana, owned by Aref Lanham has already covered over 2,000 miles sailing to the start from Greece and will be racing with a crew of 10, mainly from their home port in Greece.
With at least 27 French sailors, the RORC Transatlantic Race crew list is dominated by competitors from France. Yves & Isabelle Haudiquet 's French Pogo 40, Bingo, will be sailing with four crew from the Paul Vatine Yacht Club in Le Havre. This will be Yves third Atlantic crossing. Frank Lang will be making his fifth Atlantic crossing as skipper of X-40, Optim'x. In total the crew from South Brittany have crossed the Atlantic on numerous occasions. Denis Villotte from Paris will be racing JNP 12 Biquille, Sérénade across the Atlantic for the second time.
Tonight, Thursday 27th November, the social programme continues in Puerto Calero Marina with the RORC Transatlantic Race Gala Party at the stylish Amura Restaurant in Puerto Calero Marina.