(Thursday, July 2, 2015) – Yesterday’s second wave of starters in the Transatlantic Race 2015 have been enjoying substantially better conditions for their get-away from the US, compared to the first group that set sail last Sunday. While the latter endured a terrible first night thanks to a combination of light winds and lumpy seas, the former have made fast progress in 15-20 knot southwesterlies.
Frontrunner among yesterday’s starters was the 100ft maxi Nomad IV, chartered for this race by Clarke Murphy, which since starting has covered almost three times the number of miles than any the first group managed over the equivalent period.
From on board Dragon, one of five Class 40s racing doublehanded, Mike Hennessey reported: “It was a good first night – clear skies, full moon, a little bit of a beam sea. We got into the watch system and into the rhythm of things. All in all, it was a pretty good night.”
Overnight they, along with the rest of the fleet, were required by race rules to stay south of the Nantucket Shoals exclusion area and also had to negotiate the Traffic Separation Scheme (effectively the maritime highway for New York-bound shipping) to the south of this. Despite these determining their course, Hennessey said that he and Kyle Hubley had got straight into their night time watch system of two hours on-two hours off following their first dinner of freeze-dried Tuscan Beef Stew.
Generally the tactic for the latest starters has been to head east or southeast as quickly as possible to avoid the light airs of an area of high pressure attempting to snare them from astern. Nomad IV, on which Britain’s Mike Broughton is navigating, is taking the most extreme southerly option, more than 45° away from the great circle (i.e. the shortest course to follow). Nomad IV’s progress is being assisted by a sizable eddy in the Gulf Stream, but her goal is to repeat the move Mariette of 1915 made earlier in the week and key into the strong southwesterlies, currently some 250 miles offshore from Newport. When Nomad IV reaches these later today she will ease sheets turning her bow on course ready for a blistering run, occasionally with a welcome Gulf Stream turbo boost, towards the bottom of the Ice Exclusion Zone, south of the Grand Banks.
In comparison, Dragon is not taking such an extreme course, but Michael Hennessey said they were hoping to key into the top of a favorable eastbound eddy shortly. “But the wind has gone back a bit so there is a limit to how we deep we can go,” he warned. While the wind was around 20 knots overnight, this morning it had dropped to 10 and was backing southwest.
Meanwhile at the front of the fleet, the race’s biggest boat, the 138’ Mariette of 1915, continues to eat up the miles and this afternoon will be the first boat to pass the southwestern tip of the Ice Exclusion Zone. Far from mimicking the technique of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet when it left Newport in mid-May, where the boats all shaved the southerly limit of their ice exclusion zone, on this occasion Mariette is set to pass some 80 miles to the south of the Transatlantic Race’s equivalent. This is to stay in the same strong southwesterlies that have propelled her east at full throttle for the last 48 hours.
Astern of Mariette, Carina has moved into second, ahead of Scarlet Oyster, while another classic ocean racer, Dorade, is hanging on to their shirt tails, despite her 1930 vintage making her 39 years older than Carina.
“We are fighting to stay in the favorable Gulf Stream, but the wind has been challenging that desired course,” reported Dorade’s Captain Ben Galloway. “David Shilton described his last watch as a sail-changing marathon, with at least four changes in three hours, not including reefing and un-reefing the main. This morning it was all hands on deck for one sail change, which had a couple of us running around the deck in our underwear, getting a good drenching in 30 knots of wind.”
Thanks to being in the midst of the balmy Gulf Stream, Galloway reported that conditions below on Dorade were like a furnace, but they had finally been able to open some hatches allowing some air to circulate below. “You could almost see the heat rising out of the butterfly hatch when it opened.”
The forecast has 20-25 knot southwesteries taking Dorade to the Ice Exclusion Zone and beyond. However, the forecast seems erratic. Yesterday the crew on the British Shipman 50, Zephyr, a few miles astern of Dorade, experienced a solid and unforecast 38 knots of wind that, in one gust, topped 50 knots.