Newport, R.I. USA (June 26, 2011) – The sunshine burnt off the morning fog almost on cue as the first start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 got underway with six of the smallest yachts in the fleet beginning their journey across the Atlantic. A gentle breeze wafted in from the southeast to give the competitors some champagne sailing conditions, at least for the moment -- all of the yachts competing in the TR2011 know there are bound to be difficult times ahead.
Skippered by Rives Potts, Jr. (Essex, Conn.), local favorite Carina, a 48’ sloop, got away to a great start, hugging the coast to escape a knot of foul current. Onboard are four fathers and five sons, as well as the youngest crew member in the race, Dirk Johnson, Jr. (Middletown, R.I.). At just 16 years of age Johnson has been sailing since he was a baby and has always wanted to sail across an ocean. “I don’t like trimming so much as I find it hard to concentrate. But I love my position as float. I like to get involved everywhere on the boat. I have been sailing short offshore races for a while and I really wanted to do this race,” he explained. “I guess I will miss home comforts the most, especially my Mum’s lamb chops. But all of my family are sailors and this is in my blood.”
The Army Sailing Association’s British Soldier currently leads the fleet on the water and her skipper, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Bate(Falmouth, Cornwall, U.K.), was relishing the challenges that lay ahead, as he commented just before the start.
“The first goal for us is to get around Nantucket Shoals and then we’ll head into the Atlantic proper. I love the open ocean and the big rolling waves. After a day or so the crew will settle into a routine. For me, the most marvelous thing about this race is enjoying the fun and banter with the crew, you just cannot get that anywhere else. There will be difficult times ahead, but we will battle through. We know that we will get some pretty foul weather, but we know that it will improve. The crew of British Soldier are not all highly experienced offshore sailors, but they are all good characters who can keep each other entertained when the going gets tough and I think that is priceless.”
With just four crew aboard, the German entry Sasha is going extremely well. Owner Albrecht Peters and his wife Erika had a conservative start with their 42’ Olin Stephens design. Eighty years ago another Stephens design, Dorade, won the Transatlantic Race that also started in Newport (finishing in Plymouth, England), and, if the right conditions prevail, Sasha could be extremely competitive after time correction.
Hans Albrecht’s beautiful 86’ yawl, Nordwind, is the oldest boat in the race. Built in 1939, Nordwind has been fully restored by her German owners and sailed 11,000 miles to take part in the Transatlantic Race 2011.
While the high performance yachts that are yet to depart will undoubtedly grab headlines, this group of yachts is worthy of equal praise and the starting area was full of spectator boats wishing them well. The rocky outcrops and grassy hillsides along Fort Adams and Castle Hill were filled with people who cheered the boats on as they crossed the starting line at the Castle Hill Light. Once they leave the shore, it will be several weeks before these yachts will see land again.
Sponsors of the TR 2011 are Rolex, Thomson Reuters, Newport Shipyard, Perini Navi and Peters & May, with additional support by apparel sponsor Atlantis Weathergear.