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Transatlantic Race 2015 - Overall

by Jan Harley 1 Aug 2015 08:01 BST 31 July 2015

If the Transatlantic Race 2015 were easy, to borrow a popular expression, it wouldn't be nearly as worthwhile an experience. So the energy level was high last Friday, July 24, as competitors, race officials and dignitaries gathered at the Royal Yacht Squadron's Castle, in Cowes, England, to honour the winners, recount a few sea stories and celebrate the shared experience of racing across one of the planet's least hospitable bodies of water.

A nearly 50 percent increase in entries from 2011, the last time this race was run, shows that interest in long-distance blue-water racing remains high. The six starters that failed to finish due to a variety of technical issues are an equally strong indication that despite modern materials, construction techniques and communication technology, racing from Newport, R.I. to The Lizard off the southwestern tip of England isn't getting any easier.

"The weather was the dominant feature of the race," said Event Co-Chair George David, of the New York Yacht Club, who also raced in the event onboard his Rambler 88. "For the [Start 2] starters, they had great wind the whole way across, in some cases more wind than people wanted."

Bryon Ehrhart's Reichel/Pugh 63 Lucky had the boat speed and crew to take best advantage of the favorable conditions afforded the 20 boats in the second of three starts, a feature of this race designed to group the finishers a little more closely together. Blasting away from Newport in a stiff southwesterly breeze, Ehrhart and his team rarely strayed too far from the rhumb line. The 100-year-old schooner Mariette of 1915 and the 100-foot super maxi Nomad IV were both contenders to be the first boat across the finish line, but Lucky held them off, putting down a time that, once corrected for handicap, would prove impossible to beat.

"The whole crew worked so well together," said Ehrhart, a Chicagoan who previously had success with a 52-foot boat of the same name. "I grew up as a golfer. This is, in my view, one that we prepared a lifetime for; this is like the Masters. It's humbling to have such a great crew perform as high as they did to get to this spot."

Overall elapsed time honours went to Lloyd Thornburg's 70-foot trimaran Phaedo3 (7d:2h:4m:5s) and Jim Clark and Kristy Hinze-Clark's Comanche (7d:11h:35m:11s), which was skippered by Ken Read during the race. Early in the race, a full day of fighting through drifting conditions put any hopes of a course record out of reach. But when the breeze did fill in, the four boats that comprised the final start revelled in the conditions. Comanche set a new record by sailing 618.01 miles in a 24-hour period, becoming the first monohull to break the 600-mile barrier.

"This was the 100-foot boat that Jim Clark wanted: The fastest monohull in the world," said skipper Ken Read. "Our top speeds were into the mid-30s a bunch of times. It is not like you are surfing down a wave, you just You sail it heeled over, and it feels like you are right on the edge, but when you grab the wheel you are in control. The boat is a phenomenal piece of machinery."

The final two finishers were Dizzy, a 48-year-old yawl that started with the first group and completed the longest crossing in the race at just more than 20 days, and Persevere, a four-year-old sloop that started with the second group, but turned around for a repair not long after the start and missed a crucial weather window. Both boats, however, finished in high spirits and, not coincidentally, in time for the final party. Among the crew on Persevere were 14-year-old Breana Rath, the race's youngest participant, and Wasabi, the family cat.

The next running of the Transatlantic Race is scheduled for the early summer of 2019. While the transatlantic course was one of the first offshore courses to be contested—the first race starting from New York in December of 1866—it never settled a regular schedule or a consistent group of organizing clubs until very recently.

"The committee likes the idea of this four-year sequence," said David. "It seems about the right cadence to get enough boats interested and wishing to do it. The preferred format is to run this race collectively by the Royal Yacht Squadron, the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club. It is a good format with four great clubs, and it seems like we have run a good race and everything works pretty well. I expect we'll see that back in 2019."

Sponsors for the Transatlantic Race 2015 are Rolex, Newport Shipyard and Peters & May.

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