Historic Transatlantic Challenge headed for stormy weather
By Mike Hanlon
May 23, 2005
May 24, 2005 24 hours into the Rolex Transatlantic Race, the leaders in the Grand Prix class have found breeze while those astern continue to wallow in light air, making five knots or less. The Rolex Transatlantic Challenge is the 100th anniversary of the New York Yacht Club's race for the Kaiser's Cup, which was won by Atlantic with America's Cup legend Charlie Barr at the helm in a race record time that has stood for a century – and with horrendous weather on the way, the record looks set to stand. Just as the 1905 race was delayed by a day due to dense fog in the start area, 100 years later the start also was postponed by one day, on this occasion due to a forecast of potential gale-force headwinds.
The fight in the Grand Prix class is seeing Robert Miller's (Hong Kong/New York, N.Y.) Mari-Cha IV jockeying for position with Charles Brown and Bill Buckley's New Zealand yacht Maximus. Both have taken the most southeasterly route to get out into the Gulf Stream and line themselves up to make the best of the weather ahead. Joe Dockery's (Stamford, Conn.) smaller Carrera has been taking a more easterly route, closer to the great circle, which is the shortest course. As a result, at 1200 GMT today, the latest positions showed Carrera having moved into the lead. She was 969 miles from Point Alpha, the waypoint off southeast Newfoundland, compared to 992 for Mari-Cha IV and 997 for Maximus.
Of concern for the crews at the moment is the weather ahead. “The main storm system will be coming off the Virginia coast this afternoon, and that will turn into a major gale,” says Ken Campbell of Commanders Weather. The message from Campbell is that the yachts should head south. “It is going to be a very rough two days for the fleet.”
At present, Mike Slade's (GBR) Leopard of London is leading the Performance Cruising class 1, while the smallest boat in the fleet, the Swan 70 Stay Calm, is leading Performance Cruising class 2. Among the classics, A. Robert Towbin's (New York, N.Y.) Sumurun is holding a six-mile lead over the Storm Trysail Club-chartered clipper ship Stad Amsterdam.
Yesterday afternoon 20 of the world's largest yachts set sail from New York on the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, a 3,000 mile ride across the North Atlantic bound for England's Lizard point in southern Cornwall and ultimately the Needles, Isle of Wight. The Rolex Transatlantic Challenge is the 100th anniversary of the New York Yacht Club's race for the Kaiser's Cup, which was won in record breaking style by Wilson Marshall's Atlantic and America's Cup legend Charlie Barr, who was at the helm. Just as the 1905 race was delayed by a day due to dense fog in the start area, 100 years later the start also was postponed by one day, on this occasion due to a forecast of potential gale-force headwinds.
With a gray sky and scattered showers over Manhattan, the day began with farewells for the crews as they bade goodbye to family and friends before casting off. Led by Charles Brown and Bill Buckley's new Grand Prix class yacht Maximus, the fleet paraded in line down the Hudson River, past the wall-to-wall skyscrapers of Manhattan's financial district and the site of Ground Zero, to the Statue of Liberty, and under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, marking the entrance to New York Harbour.
By the time the yachts had motored 15 more miles towards Ambrose Light (the top end of the north-south orientated start line), conditions had dramatically changed, revealing a brilliant sun, but light winds: a fluky breeze of 3-5 knots shifting between east and southeast.
100 years ago, aboard the schooner Atlantic, Frederick Hoyt wrote: “After sunrise we kept looking up all the time and by 8am were heading east by standard compass of N 80deg E true and with large jibtopsail and two staysails on we were doing between 11-12 knots. At 1000 a schooner was made out on the leebeam which later proved to be Hamburg, and when at noon she bore two points abaft the beam the faces of the watch on deck wore an expression of delight. The gods were good to us, for at noon, the sun broke through long enough for us to get a latitude sight. Although it did not clear entirely, the sun would show himself once in a while and give us an afternoon sight much to our relief.”