The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Transatlantic Race enters the fifth day with the potential for a real twist of fate at the front of the RORC fleet.
Peter Cunningham’s MOD70 PowerPlay (CAY) still leads the multihulls, but as the first boat into an area of light winds, the ‘hunters’ are catching up with their prey. Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo (USA) and Giovanni Soldini’s Multi70 Maserati (ITA) are homing in on PowerPlay.
The 100ft Maxi Comanche (CAY), skippered by Mitch Booth is over 100 miles ahead with one hand on the IMA Trophy. However, Volvo 70 L4 Trifork (DEN), helmed by Joern Larsen is reeling in Comanche. L4 Trifork is riding on better pressure from the northwest.
News from the fleet includes the latest from Gunboat 68 Tosca (USA), co-skippered by Ken Howery and Alex Thomson.
Comanche’s navigator Will Oxley (2100 UTC 11 Jan):
“Just 1,680nm to go. It has been a very messy Atlantic weather pattern and that looks set to continue into the finish. So far so good. We are happy with our more southerly approach in comparison to L4 Trifork. For the moment they are sailing very fast in close proximity to the low. It looks quite difficult though to extricate oneself from the north; one of the reasons we rejected this option. We watch with interest to see how it plays out.
“The low does seem to be playing havoc with the fleet. We are sailing in 10-15 knot northerlies with the low still disrupting the trade winds. We think we can join the dots into the finish OK but we will have to be careful to avoid some very light air on the 13th. ETA still 16 January.”
Paul Larsen on board MOD70 PowerPlay (01:00 UTC 12 Jan):
“Protecting the exits. That’s the strategy on PowerPlay at the moment with respect to our hunters and the narrow band of pressure we are in. So far so good today; we’ve seen some pretty glamorous sailing with clear blue skies and a warm, clear moonlit night. All the while we coax PowerPlay as deep downwind as every wave, puff and shift will take us. We don’t mind too much if it gets a bit light as that suits our more conservative foil configuration nicely.
“The band of wind that takes us across this mid-latter stage of the course is narrow. We try and keep ourselves between Argo and the westerly extreme of this breeze. Life onboard is very pleasant and even leads to stupid talk like – I wonder if you could cruise on one of these? Offshore sailors have such short memories!”
Two ORC50s are competing in the RORC Transatlantic Race: Club Five Oceans (FRA), skippered by Quentin le Nabour and GDD (FRA) skippered by Halvard Mabire, racing Two-Handed with Miranda Merron. The pair are having their own private duel within the MOCRA Class. Club Five Oceans leads by over 50 miles. GDD racing is playing catch-up after a big issue at the start, as Miranda Merron reports from on board GDD:
Miranda Merron on board ORC50 GDD (23:00 UTC 11 Jan):
“We made a conservative start as we are new to the boat. We had the fractional spinnaker up for no more than two hours when the spinnaker sock strop broke and the whole lot ended up being trawled in the sea. Apart from the halyard, which is obviously still up the mast and needs retrieving when the sloppy sea-state abates, the spinnaker survived intact, but we need to make a new sock strop. Soaking wet on the first day from the wet spinnaker and the sheer effort of getting it back on board! Beautiful starlit night on GDD tonight though!”
Ken Howery has reported on his Instagram feed that the boat and crew of Gunboat 68 Tosca have safely arrived in The Azores. The boat had taken on water which meant they “could not run the basic electrical systems necessary for the safety of the crew,” Howery concluded. “We hope to be back on the way to Grenada in the next few days.”
IRC Super Zero
L4 Trifork is now estimated to be leading IRC Super Zero after time correction from Comanche. The Austrian Ocean Race Project’s VO65 Sisi, skippered by Gerwin Jansen is ranked third after gybing southwest after making a big gain to the north.
L4 Trifork’s navigator Aksel Magdahl contacted the RORC media team, giving an insight into the complex weather for the RORC Transatlantic Race: “Suddenly we got a routing dilemma today. I have all the way been looking at ways to get south without waiting until the last low pressure. As with the last one, we have to take what we get.
“This afternoon weather models suddenly showed an opening to cut south ahead of the fleet. I don’t like to jump onto a sudden change in the models, but it was an interesting opportunity at the same time as the west and north routing was looking slightly more upwind to get south to Grenada.”
The decaying low pressure system in front of the teams racing in IRC Zero has caused a real change to the ranking in IRC Zero. Mark Emerson’s A13 Phosphorus II (GBR) has made a massive gain north of the low and is estimated to be leading the class after IRC time correction.
The most southerly boat, Botin 56 Black Pearl (GER), helmed by Stefan Jentzsch, is still leading on the water, and looks to have made a big gain on their close rivals Max Klink’s Botin 52 Caro (CH) and David Collins’ Botin 52 Tala (GBR). Caro is set up to slingshot north of the low; which way Tala will go is as yet undecided. The British team are perilously close to the wind void at the centre of the low.
Christopher Pratt checked in from Jean Pierre Dreau’s Mylius 60 Lady First III (FRA). The team are representing the Yacht Club de France in the RORC Transatlantic Race:
“At the start of this fourth evening aboard the beautiful lady we are grappling with calm, which should occupy us a good part of the night before attacking the ‘big chunk’ of this crossing of the Atlantic: the depression which disturbs or rather destroys the trade wind since our departure …We are trying to make repairs to the sails that we damaged at the start of the race, but the manoeuvre is not easy when everything is soaked after a whole afternoon under a downpour … The Atlantic in January, this is not really what it used to be!
Richard Palmer’s JPK 1010 Jangada (GBR) racing Two-Handed with Jeremy Waitt is still estimated to lead the class after IRC time correction. Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster (GBR) is still ranked second, but by a bigger margin of 12 hours. Andrew Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra (GBR) is leading on the water and ranked third after IRC correction.
The next conundrum for the leading boats in IRC One is how to manage the decaying low pressure system in their path. The problem is that the weather change is coming to them and in a state of flux. Choosing the correct course to activate a chosen strategy is far from perfect science. Jacques Pelletier’s Milon 41 L’Ange de Milon (FRA) has made his decision; the Atlantic veteran from the Yacht Club de France has gone just north of the systems trajectory – time will tell who will make the right decision.
For the race tracker, see: https://yb.tl/rorctransat2022
By Louay Habib