Near perfect, record conditions are forecast for the start of the RORC Transatlantic Race, supported by Calero Marinas, the International Maxi Association and the Yacht Club de France. The international fleet is set to depart Marina Lanzarote on Sunday 8th January. Weather forecasts are predicting five days or more of 20 knot plus north-easterlies; a perfect angle for a high-speed 3,000-mile race across the Atlantic Ocean.
The overall winner of the RORC Transatlantic Race is decided by IRC time correction; the glittering prize is the antique sterling silver RORC Transatlantic Race Trophy. The multihull fleet will race under the MOCRA Rule and for Multihull Line Honours. The monohull fleet are divided into three IRC Classes with prize winners for each class, including a special prize for the best Two-Handed team.
Multihull – Race Record beckons
Teams from Belgium, France, Italy and the United States make up the high-performance multihull division. Three of this year’s multihull alumni are turbo-charged MOD70s that are capable of eclipsing the Multihull Race Record (2015, Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 Phaedo3, 5 days 22 hrs 46 mins 03 secs).
Giovanni Soldini’s Multi70 Maserati (ITA) is competing for the fourth time and is the reigning multihull race champion, having taken line honours in a photo-finish last year. MOD70 Zoulou (FRA), formerly Powerplay, is sailed by Erik Maris and has a stellar crew, including highly experienced MOD70 driver Ned Collier Wakefield and the enigmatic Loick Peyron. Frank Slootman’s American MOD70 Snowflake is skippered by US-based Kiwi Gavin Brady. Snowflake was formerly race-record holder Phaedo3 and record-holding skipper Brian Thompson is back on board for this year’s race.
Vincent Willemart’s TS42 Banzai is the fourth multihull in the division and while the Belgium team will not be as quick as the 70-foot trimarans, the class winner is decided by MOCRA time correction. Banzai’s crew includes one of Belgium’s most decorated sailors, Michel Kleinjans; winner of the Global Ocean Race and class winner for the Route du Rhum.
IRC Super Zero – Maxi Showdown
Four Maxis racing in IRC Super Zero are favourites to take Monohull Line Honours and lift the IMA Transatlantic Race Trophy. The largest boat competing in this year’s race is the Supermaxi Swan 115 Jasi, skippered by Toby Clarke. The 21-strong crew includes top professionals; Ken Read, Paul Wilcox, Mark Sadler, Andy Meiklejohn and Mike Pammenter.
Two Volvo 70s will be racing; the Polish National Foundation’s Volvo 70 I Love Poland is skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski, with Konrad Lipski as navigator. Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon has the youngest skipper in the race: Ireland’s Cathal Mahon from Galway. Scott Shawyer’s IMOCA 60 Canada Ocean Racing will be racing two-handed with Alan Roberts.
The dock talk among the Maxis is that weather routing software is predicting as quick as eight days, which would threaten the Monohull Race Record (2022, Supermaxi Comanche skippered by Mitch Booth, 7 Days 22 hrs 01 mins 04 secs).
IRC Zero – Packed with cutting edge 50-footers
The highest rated boat in IRC Zero is the water-ballast Botin 56 Black Pearl with Stefan Jentzsch at the helm. Black Pearl’s crew, which includes Marc Lagesse, Paul Standbridge, Mitch Booth and Peter van Niekerk are hoping it will be third time lucky for Black Pearl. A broken bowsprit and then a dismasting scuppered the boat’s chances in the last two editions.
Arto Linnervuo’s all-Finnish team will be racing Infiniti 52 Tulikettu. Linnervuo completed the race in 2018 with his Xp-44 Xtra Staerk, but Tulikettu is on a totally different level. Weighing less than 7000kg and built with DSS side-foils, Tulikettu is capable of adrenaline-pumping speed. Henri de Bokay’s Elliott 52 Rafale sports a canting keel, but still rates lower under IRC than Black Pearl and Tulikettu. Skippered by Philipp Kadelbach, Rafale‘s crew is mainly from Germany and amongst their recent successes includes Line Honours for the Aegean 600. Eric de Turckheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine was the overall winner of the race in 2017. Since the French team’s victory, Teasing Machine has undergone a series of modifications and was in fine form, winning the 2022 Rolex Middle Sea Race. The Teasing Machine crew includes Volvo Ocean Race winner Laurent Pages and Aymeric Chappellier, who finished on the Class40 podium for the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre.
With a crew from Czechia and Slovakia, Miroslav Jakubcik and Marek Culen will race the smallest boat in IRC Zero; Class40 Sabre II. The co-skippers have raced against each other since childhood but have joined forces to make their first transatlantic race. The largest boat in the class is Marie Tabarly’s 73ft ketch Pen Duick VI, which is also the oldest boat in the race. Originally built for Marie’s father Eric Tabarly for the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race, Pen Duick VI has a great history of Transatlantic racing, including Eric winning the solo 1976 OSTAR.
Eclectic Mix – IRC One
The most wide-ranging class in the RORC Transatlantic Race features six totally different designs racing under the IRC Rating Rule. Lionel Regnier’s 58ft Philippe Briand-designed L’Esprit D’Equipe, winner of the 1985 Whitbread Round the World Race, is the largest boat. The smallest is Kate Cope’s Sun Fast 3200 Purple Mist, which will be raced Two-Handed with Claire Dresser, hoping to become the first all-women Two-Handed team to finish the RORC Transatlantic Race. Purple Mist’s immediate competition will come from Sun Fast 3300 Sea Bear, which will be raced Two-Handed by Peter and Duncan Bacon.
Andrew Hall’s British Lombard 46 Pata Negra will be taking part in its fourth RORC Transatlantic Race. Andrew Hall’s son Sam is part of an experienced crew, including Boat Captain Chris Jackson, who confirmed that Pata Negra has reduced her sail area to be more competitive under IRC. Pata Negra’s closest rival on IRC Rating is Laurent Courbin’s French First 53 Yagiza skippered by Philippe Falle. Global Yacht Racing’s British First 47.7 EH01 has been racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club for many years, but this will be the first RORC Transatlantic Race. EH01’s Irish skipper is Neil Maher, with an international crew from Canada, Germany, Great Britain and the United States. EH01 may not be the fastest boat in her class but has a symmetrical downwind sail plan, giving the tactical advantage of being able to sail a shorter distance to the finish in Grenada.
In the build-up to the race start on Sunday January 8th, sailors taking part in the RORC Transatlantic Race will enjoy a full social programme starting with a Welcome Cocktail Party at the Real Club Náutico De Arrecife. With fascinating battles right through the fleet, race fans can follow the RORC Transatlantic Race as it unfolds. Every boat will be fitted with a satellite tracker and all teams are encouraged to send in their stories from the racecourse.
For more information visit the dedicated RORC Transatlantic Race website: www.rorctransatlantic.rorc.org
Report: Louay Habib
Image: Lanzarote Photo Sport