Newport, R.I. USA (June 29, 2011) – This morning, the tension was mounting dockside as 14 yachts made final preparations before they took the second start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 in a spectacular scene full of drama.
With a huge number of spectator boats gathered to see the fleet off, the breeze started to build just as the first warning signal sounded from the Castle Hill Light at 13:50 Eastern Daylight Time. A freshening southwesterly caught several competitors off-guard, resulting in three boats -- Scho-ka-kola, Concise 2 and Jazz -- being called over the line at the start. Scho-ka-kola returned almost immediately, however, Concise 2 and Jazz continued to race and it was nearly half an hour before these two yachts returned to cross the line correctly.
Concise 2 is one of two Class 40s in the fleet, and the eagerness of its young crew gave Dragon, which is being sailed double-handed by Michael Hennesy (Mystic, Conn.) and Rob Windsor (East Northport, N.Y.), an early lead in the class – by the time Concise restarted, Dragon was 4.5 miles ahead. No doubt the Concise crew will be digging deep to make up for lost time.
Jazz, the Cookson 50 skippered by Nigel King (Lymington, U.K.), came back very strongly after their premature start. Navigator Mike Broughton (Hamble, U.K.), speaking dockside just an hour before the start, believes it will be an interesting first night. “The cold front should come through as we go around the Nantucket Shoals, and how we play that could be pretty much a key area. I am seeing a bit of coastal racing for this ocean race. This is a fascinating racecourse and has been for hundreds of years. The conditions are the same now as they have been for all those years…the jet stream, the low pressure systems, the Gulf Stream. Many of the grand prix offshore events can be broken down into a series of legs, but this one is more like trying to hit a moving target; trying to work out where you want to go and when that pressure will get there.”
In IRC Class Two, Christoph Avenarius and Gorm Gondesen’s Shakti and Jens Kellinghusen’s Varuna have begun their battle within the race. Both yachts are from Germany and have exactly the same hull, however, there are subtle differences between the two yachts as Shakti’s tactician, Bendix Hügelmann (Hamburg, Germany) explained before the start. “Varuna has more sail area and weight in her keel, which should give them an advantage in heavier conditions. However, we recently raced each other and there was little difference in speed between us. Two days ago, the crews of both Shakti and Varuna had dinner together. We hope to make each other go faster by our close competition, rather than slow each other down. It is also very useful to have another yacht close by, should we need assistance in an emergency. We will be pushing Shakti to win, but safety is always the most important aspect of any yacht race.”
In IRC Class Three, the Reichel Pugh 66 Zaraffa made the best start. Owner Huntington Sheldon (Shelburne, Vt.), at 80 years of age, is believed to be the oldest competitor in the Transatlantic Race 2011, and has a crack crew on board including Axel Maghdal (Norway), Richard Mason (New Zealand), Jens Dolmer (Denmark) and Matt Humphries (England), all of whom have all competed in the Volvo Ocean Race. “This is a professionally run team and Zaraffa won the Transatlantic in 2003 and a lot of people said that was a fluke,” said a defiant Sheldon just hours before the start. “I aim to prove those people wrong.” From the way Zaraffa started it looks as though the team mean business.