Stop-Start Transatlantic Race

Comanche, Rambler 88, Phaedo3 and Paradox – the four fastest boats in the Transatlantic Race 2015 – are now in hot pursuit of the remainder of the fleet.

Overnight the four have made solid progress with the Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 trimaran Phaedo 3 leading, having covered some 307 miles in the first 18 hours since starting. Jim and Kirsty Clark’s 100’ maxi Comanche was already 50 miles astern of the electric green tri, but was leading her smaller rival, George David’s Rambler 88, by 20 miles with Peter Aschenbrenner’s 66’ trimaran, Paradox, a further 30 miles back. This has been in less than ideal conditions, VMG running and having to gybe frequently in a 13-15 knot westerly as they attempt to take advantage of favorable eddies in the Gulf Stream.

“So far it is beautiful sailing,” said Ken Read, skipper of Comanche. “It is a nice way to break into a Transatlantic Race.”

Miles Seddon, navigator on board Phaedo 3, agreed: “We had stronger breeze than forecast getting out of Newport and it has been good fun. It is nice to get offshore and into the routine of racing again.” This morning, Phaedo 3 was averaging 18-20 knots in an 11-12 knot westerly, gybing along the top of a Gulf Stream eddy, while also trying to circumnavigate the top of some high pressure approaching from the south.

The million-dollar question for the fast boats is can they keep this wind? At present there is a depression to their east speeding away towards Europe, leaving a giant, windless area of high pressure in its wake.

Ken Read believes Comanche will be parked in 24 hours: “The ice gate combined with a high that is developing right in front of us is really going to slow us down for a day or two. If we had started even 24 hours before, we probably could have pulled through, but that’s the way it is. You have to play with the deck you’re given.”

On the faster Phaedo 3, prospects are more hopeful. “A high pressure ridge will spoil our party a little bit,” says Seddon. “If we keep moving quickly we could just get in front of it, but if we slow up then we’ll struggle along at the bottom of the ice gate.” Tuesday to Wednesday could be difficult, but afterwards the boats will be “ripping east,” as Ken Read puts it, with an ETA at the Lizard finish line sometime next weekend.
Despite the forecast Read says they will keep pushing, as their legendary navigator, Stan Honey, seeks a solution, but at present it looks like a mid-week race restart for them and Rambler 88.

At the front of the fleet a similar transition is occurring. Mariette of 1915 yesterday performed a horizon job on the fleet, with 1065 miles left to sail at 1300 UTC. By being further east she has held on longer to a departing depression as the boats behind her yesterday fell into light wind; her turn will come later today.

“The wind died completely, because there was no pressure gradient between the two lows,” explained Ian Moore, navigator on board Bryon Ehrhart’s Reichel Pugh 63 Lucky, leading this group on handicap. This morning the wind slowly filled in from the east and Moore was expecting the breeze to end up in the southwest, but Lucky first has to endure a large occluded front crossing overhead. This is set to bring a 90° wind shift and indeterminate amounts of wind.

Otherwise, Lucky’s race has been excellent, this being the team’s major event of the season in their newly acquired boat, following the RORC Caribbean 600. With big breeze from the start, they have been leading the race on both elapsed time and on IRC handicap. In fact Moore was proud that until a few hours ago, they had averaged 15 knots for the race, during which time they hit a peak speed of 31 knots.

From here prospects are also good. When the next depression arrives, it should take them most of the way to The Lizard. “We are hoping by mid-afternoon to have 15-16 knots from 120° TWA and that means we’ll be back up into the high teens,” Moore added. “From there on we should be sailing at close to 20 knots for a couple of days.”

Soon after last Wednesday’s start, they had a few issues involving sail damage. The tight luff of their A3 parted company with the body of the sail and it was deemed irreparable. They also managed to rip severely their only fractional sail. This they did repair, after 12 hours spent using every available material on board, including Sikaflex, to put it back together.

 

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