A diverse and international fleet ranging from 40 to 100ft will set off on Saturday 28th November from Lanzarote, the most eastern in the Canary Islands chain, bound for Grenada in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Transatlantic Race. The monohulls will be competing for the RORC Transatlantic Race Trophy, for the best elapsed time under IRC, and any one of the fleet has a real chance of winning the race and lifting the 104 troy-ounce antique trophy.
In the 6th century, Ireland’s St. Brendan embarked on a legendary voyage that some believe took him to across the Atlantic, nearly 500 years before the Vikings and 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus. The origins of racing east to west across the Atlantic Ocean can be traced back to the Clipper Route of the mid-19th century. This route ran from England down the east Atlantic Ocean to the Equator. A good sailing time for the 3,275 mile run would have been around 21 days; for the RORC Transatlantic Race, the fastest yachts could cover this distance in just six days.
From Normandy, France, Jean-Paul Rivière’s Finot Conq 100, Nomad IV will be the favourite for monohull line honours. In the first edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race, Nomad IV led the fleet out of the Canary Islands until gear failure forced the French Maxi to retire from the race and head back to the Canary Islands for repairs. Nomad IV successfully crossed the Atlantic and competed in the RORC Caribbean 600 before racing back in the 2015 Transatlantic Race, taking line honours in her class. The second edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race is unfinished business for Nomad IV.
From Brittany, Maurice Benzaquen will also be racing for the IRC crown in Aloha. Maurice has been sailing for 25 years, competing in classic yacht races such as the Azores-Douarnenez and back, as well as the 2012 Douarnenez-Barbados. Maurice spent most of 2013 cruising solo in the Caribbean and the East Coast of the USA before returning to France to manage and sail with Juliette Petres in her successful Class 40 Route du Rhum campaign. The introduction to this kind of boat has proved alluring and last year, he acquired the 1250 Pogo, Aloha, a very similar shape and size to the Class40.
“The focus for me is the Transat RORC Transatlantic Race with a crew that will combine professionalism, performance and usability,” commented Maurice. “I am an amateur sailor who has been fortunate enough to have plenty of time to learn. I was a management consultant and I have founded, managed and sold my own practice. I still continue to give advice and help to business start-ups, but I now have the luxury of choosing my schedule. My development as a sailor has been slow, but I now intend to spend as much time on the water as possible and will keep learning and treat myself to my real passion.”
Silvi Belle 2 is skippered by former Caterham Formula One CTO, Mike Gascoyne. Since the late 1980s, Mike Gascoyne has been at the highest level of Formula One design and Silvi Belle was built by Caterham Composites. Slivi Belle 2 put in a sterling performance in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, leading the class at the Fastnet Rock and eventually coming third in the 22-strong Class40 fleet. Mike Gascoigne is no stranger to Grenada or ocean sailing, having sailed Silvi Belle solo across the Atlantic to Grenada in 2012.
“Sailing has always been an important part of my life and the opportunity to combine my love of sailing with my experience of 24 years at the top of F1 motorsports is very unique,” explained Gascoyne.
From Normandy France, Marc Lepesqueux’s Class 40 Sensation is returning, having completed in the inaugural RORC Transatlantic Race last year. In 2012 Marc won the 5000 nm Solidaire du Chocolat and over the past 25 years Marc has placed second and third in the Mini-Transat, raced in five Solitaire du Figaros and completed two Route Du Rhums. In 2014 Marc should not have been in the RORC Transatlantic Race at all. After keel failure in his third Route du Rhum, Marc sailed Sensation to Lanzarote and successfully completed the RORC Transatlantic Race in his old boat with a novice crew from France.
Cutting Edge + Corinthian
The carbon-fibre Infiniti 46, Maverick is skippered by Oliver Cotterell who led One DLL to third overall in the 2013-14 Clipper Round the World Race. Justin Ferris, a veteran of three Volvo Ocean Races is the sail designer for Maverick and the corinthian crew includes Gordon Kay, founder of Infiniti Yachts.
“Maverick has been developed as an offshore racing yacht for the classic 600-mile races such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and Rolex Fastnet,” commented Kay. “Our debut offshore will be the RORC Transatlantic Race and Maverick will sail from Istanbul to Gibraltar, where the race crew will complete the delivery. Maverick is designed by Hugh Welbourn and weighs just 5400 kg. The Infiniti 46 features the Dynamic Stability System (DSS) which projects a horizontal foil out to leeward generating lift and righting moment to enhance performance. Maverick has been designed to sail relatively shorthanded with a crew of just six and is fitted with a canting keel to provide added power.”
Two Boldly Go
Elin Haf Davies and Chris Frost have been campaigning J/120 Nunatak in the Two Handed Class for the 2015 RORC Season’s Points Championship, taking part in eight races including the Rolex Fastnet Race, the pair finished the season ninth out of 92 entries.
Chris Frost also campaigns his classic Swan 36, Finola. After sailing her across the Atlantic west to east, Finola has been class champion at the Swan European Regatta on two occasions. Elin Haf Davies is an extraordinary character, having rowed across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean before sailing across the Pacific from Qingdao, China to San Francisco. Elin has also gained 13 caps in Rugby for Wales A. In 2012 she carried the Olympic torch through Bangor, in recognition of her sporting and fundraising achievements.
Whilst Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo^3 and Tony Lawson’s Concise 10 will be odds on favourites to be the first teams to finish the race, the two MOD70s are not the only multihulls racing in the RORC Transatlantic Race. Gerald Bibot’s 42ft catamaran, Zed 6 is likely to be one of the first yachts to finish the 3,000 mile race and will be hoping to win the class after MOCRA time correction.
Belgian Gerald Bibot raced Hobie 16 catamarans for many years including European and World championships. In 2007, Gerald started to campaign on the Class 40 circuit including Two Handed in the Transat Jacques Vabre and third in class, fully crewed in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. Zed 6 is a return to multihull racing for Gerald. Designed by Christophe Barreau and built by Marsaudon Composites, L’Orient France, the 42ft protoype catamaran has a full interior but weighs just 6400 kg. Zed 6 competed in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race placing third in class.
After a week of preparation and social events hosted at Marina Lanzarote, the second edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race will see competitors race 3000 nautical miles across the Atlantic, where they will be welcomed at Camper & Nicholsons’ Port Louis Marina.
For more information: http://rorctransatlantic.rorc.org/
Report: Louis Habib
Image: © ELWJ Photography