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The 230-foot Stad Amsterdam, a tall ship that the Storm Trysail Club is chartering for the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, seen here in New York Harbor.

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Great Ocean Race of 1905, a race from New York to England that included some of the most powerful racers in the world. On May 21, the race will be re-created as the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, with owners of super yachts again crossing 3,000 miles of ocean. Charlie Barr's record in that race so long ago has stood for 100 years, and is the oldest race record in sailing. Barr raced the renowned 185' schooner Atlantic eastbound, setting a monohull transatlantic racing record of 12 days, four hours, one minute and 19 seconds. The Rolex Transatlantic Challenge 2005, organized by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) with the cooperation of the Royal Yacht Squadron, is recognized by the World Sailing Speed Record Council as the only event in which a new monohull transatlantic racing record for yachts unassisted by powered winches can be posted. Boats with a length on deck of 70 feet or longer are allowed to enter. What is so very exciting about this race is that New Yorkers will be able to view the yachts at The Intrepid prior to departure and from the shore as the yachts participate in a Parade of Sail.

The Rolex Transatlantic fleet, expected to number 20-30 boats, will carry out pre-race preparations at Pier 86 in New York City. Barr's race record that has stood for so many years may be seriously challenged this year. The line-up of boats is impressive: previously announced as intending to enter are such magnificent yachts as the 140-foot Mari-Cha IV, which last October set the west to east transatlantic passage record of six days, 17 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds; the 94-foot Sumurun, which finished first in her class the last time this race was run in 1997; the 136-foot Ranger, a re-creation of the J-Class yacht that won the 1937 America's Cup; and the 230-foot Stad Amsterdam, a tall ship chartered by members of the Storm Trysail Club (with ten husband-wife teams on board). Among other expected entrants are the 70-foot Bolero, the 81-foot Carrera, the 134-foot Destination Fox Harb'r, and the 140-foot Whirlaway.

The Challenge will feature two finishes: one at Lizard Point, a rocky headland in Cornwall at the southwestern tip of Britain. The first-to-finish times will be taken at that "gate" to determine if any boats have bettered Atlantic's record. If so, the fastest yacht will receive the Commodore Elbridge T. Gerry Cup. The fastest yacht in the Classic Division to break the record will receive the Atlantic Challenge Cup. The fleet will then continue racing another 142 nautical miles to a finish at The Needles, the distinctive outcrop of rocks at the westernmost tip of the Isle of Wight.

"These transatlantic races don't happen often - or often enough, I believe - and perhaps it is pent-up enthusiasm that accounts for such good numbers and, even more gratifying, such good boats so early," said A. Robert Towbin, chair of the New York Yacht Club's Transatlantic Challenge Committee. Robert Towbin, who's won the Classic Division in the 1997 Atlantic Challenge Cup, this race's predecessor, expects 25 to 30 yachts to enter the race. So if you want to be a part of what is considers "one of the greatest sailing races of the 21st century," you may want to mark you calendars now and plan to be down in New York Harbor on May 21 for this start of this historic race. By then, North Cove should be restored to its former splendor, and would be a great spot to view the yachts.

With spring just around the corner, sailors may want to go over the racing rules so they are fully conversant with them by the time the racing season begins. Much better to have them firmly in mind than to find out you are missing an important fact once you are in the protest room facing the committee. UK Sailmakers have a great website that helps you learn and freshen your knowledge online. If you go to http://www.uksailmakers.com and click on Rules Quiz, you will get the animated action that many have described as the clearest presentation of rules they have ever seen. All kinds of situations develop as you watch, accompanied by the applicable rules. There are 17 situations, some covering multiple rules, and new quizzes are added regularly. Even if you have visited the website in the past, you may want to check it out again as there have been additions and upgrades. Not a bad idea to try out some typical situations, before a competitor who really knows the rules of racing, beat you by getting your protest thrown out.

Speaking of racing rules, there is going to be a terrific seminar over at the Manhasset Bay YC on Thursday, April 14 at 8 p.m. Dave Perry Dave, a YRA Seminar favorite, will speak on the racing rules for 2005-2008. In his humorous, easygoing style, and with his tremendous understanding of the subject, Dave brings clarity to the rules in a way that will help all racing sailors feel more confident in their own understanding and use of them, and how that knowledge sharpens racing tactics. There will be ample time for questions from the audience, thereby assuring that the rules most intriguing to you will be covered. There will be a cash bar before the seminar and after, so there will be ample time to catch up with fellow sailors who have been in hibernation throughout the long winter months. Space is limited, so get your reservation in early. For those who would like to have dinner before the seminar, call Manhasset Bay YC (516-767-2150). For more information, call the YRA office at 516-767-9240.

The Thirsty Thursday group is gearing up for another great season. To start it off on the right foot and get everyone on board, there will be a meeting at the North Shore YC at 8 p.m on Thursday, April 21. This is their annual awards and organizational meeting. Ron Fink has asked that any skipper and crew who have any suggestions or modifications to the rules to submit them to him in writing at rrf18@aol.com prior to April 14. All suggestions will be carefully reviewed by the committee and those having merit will be discussed on the 21st. And if there is an interested skipper who would like to join the group, please let Ron Fink know.

After a long spell of either frozen water in the bay or high winds, frostbiters were eager to get out sailing on Feb. 20, but that was not to be for a variety of reasons. The following week, on Feb. 27, four boats were on the starting line, in very cold conditions. Seven races and a crew race were completed. The team of Ted Toombs/Matt Cornachio (#514) came in first, with John Silbersack/Catryn Silbersack second (#007), followed by Greg Corkett and Carter Booth (#538). Matt Cornachio won the crew race. Frostbiting was cancelled on March 6 due to high wind.


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