|NEW YORK, N.Y.-(19-5-2005) All 20 yachts competing in Saturday’s Rolex Transatlantic Challenge are now docked in New York, most moored alongside the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. Several other of the larger vessels competing, such as Robert Miller’s Mari Cha IV, Windrose, Drumbeat and the massive square rigger Stad Amsterdam, have had to find berthing elsewhere along Manhattan’s western shore due to their sheer size.
Crews are making their final preparations with less than 48 hours left before the start of the race, which takes them across the North Atlantic to the Lizard and on to the Needles, Isle of Wight. Many of the Grand Prix division yachts and the more competitive entrants within the Performance Cruising division have been out on the Hudson River testing new sails. For line honours favourite Mari-Cha IV, the transatlantic passage record holder, this is the first occasion many of her crew have sailed her since she was fitted with new daggerboards, said to dramatically transform her upwind performance.
On the more luxurious yachts in the Performance Cruising class, a different style of final arrangements has been underway. On Whisper, the 115-foot (35.4m) yacht of Minneapolis-based investor John `Hap` Fauth, two cooks have been pre-preparing meals for 24 people for 20 days. Much furniture has been taken off, art has been removed from the walls, and sculpture has been bound in bubble wrap to prevent it from getting damaged on the nearly 3,000 nautical mile crossing.
Today, some crewmembers attended a Safety-at-Sea seminar held at the New York Yacht Club. `They are learning everything from the proper way to heave a towing line, to picking someone up who is overboard, to proper radio communication,` explains David Tunick, chair of the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge’s Technical and Compliance committee.
Tunick’s team has also been responsible for scrutineering the 20 competing yachts. This has proved far from easy, as the boats must comply with different rules if they wish to compete for different records. For example, boats competing in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge have the opportunity to make an attempt on the record of 12 days 4 hours 1 minute and 19 seconds set by Charlie Barr and Atlantic in 1905. These boats have one set of safety requirements and must disengage their powered winches. Mari-Cha IV and Maximus both intend to make an attempt on the west to east outright monohull passage record across the North Atlantic and must comply with additional rules.
Of concern to the crews is the sudden change in the forecast for the start. Far from being a benign, light upwind start, it is currently predicted that an intense localised depression will form just 200 miles to the southeast of Long Island. If this forecast proves correct, then the competitors will be faced with 40-50 knot headwinds from the northeast. `Two days ago and even as early as this morning it was looking like light air,` says Bill Biewenga, navigator on Cortwright Wetherill Jr.’s 131-foot (39.9m) Sariyah, adding that the evolution of the depression appears to have changed. The depression is now set to develop over the Chesapeake Bay area tomorrow before heading northeast. Fortunately, the depression is set to continue moving north on the day of the start, providing the boats with 35-knot running conditions 24 hours into the race.
The Rolex Transatlantic Challenge is sponsored by Rolex and also by Moran Towing Corp., Sandy Hook Pilots, P&O Ports North America, and MedLink. The race is supported by the City of New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Showboats International is the event's official marine publication; program sponsors include Rolex, North Fork Bank and Holland Jachtbouw.