New York City is ready to offer all comers a spectacle not seen since the Great Ocean Race of 1905. Twenty-one mega sailing yachts - some as long as 250 feet, will gather in the harbor at the southern tip of Manhattan, as owners and crew commence a 3,000 mile race across the North Atlantic. Brought to you by the New York Yacht Club in cooperation with the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, England, the Rolex Transatlantic Race will gather at the starting line off Sandy Hook, New Jersey at the entrance to New York's Lower Bay and head across the North Atlantic to the Needles, a headland at the tip of the Isle of Wight in England. Their goal is to beat a 100-year-old race record of 12 days, 4 hours, 1 minute and 19 seconds. The start of the race is Saturday, May 21, but the festivities will take place during the week prior. From May 17-21, the boats will be docked at the US Intrepid for viewing. There will be an "open boat" opportunity on Wednesday, May 18 to meet with the owners and captains and get a rare glimpse of some of the world's most lavish boats. And on Saturday morning, May 21st beginning at 9:30, there will be a Parade of Sail, with public viewing from Hudson Rive Park and anywhere south of the Intrepid Museum. Boats to watch: Mari-Cha IV (141 feet), the "world's fastest monohull race yacht", Stad Amsterdam, the largest entry (252 feet), a three-masted clipper ship (with 10 husband-wife teams aboard), Windrose, a two-masted Dutch schooner (151 feet) who is the most luxurious entry, the winner of the last Transatlantic Race and an historic classic entry, Sumurun (94 feet), and the most technologically sophisticated, built especially for this task, Maximus (100 feet).
This year's Transatlantic Race celebrates the centennial anniversary of the Great Ocean Race of 1905. The original event came about when Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany issued a challenge to anyone willing to race his 158-foot boat yacht Hamburg across the North Atlantic. While the transatlantic races had been held before then, the 1905 event was significant for drawing a large number of entries - 11 in total - and is remembered principally for the record time set by the race winner, Atlantic. Owners who competed in the 1905 race included James Gordon Bennett, Jr., newspaper heir - The Herald, J.P. Morgan, financier, Cornelius Vanderbilt, railroad heir and Allison Vincent Armour, meatpacking heir. This year's competition has Robert Miller, the duty-free shop billionaire who owns Mari-Cha IV, and as crew member, the Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece. At the other end of the spectrum, Stad Amsterdam has 10 husband-wife teams who will try to break the 100-year-old record. Mike Sanderson, the racing skipper on Mari-Cha IV said "It would be great to get the race record and to give our transatlantic passage record a nudge. Although it is highly weather dependent, achieving this goal is very possible." With some physical upgrades to the boat, such as a canting keel and water ballast to keep her upright, and two twin daggerboards, there should be a dramatic improvement on her upwind performance, without adding weight. "We've got better sails for the trip, and I think it is a no-brainer that we'll be able to kick off a quick time given some good conditions," sums up Sanderson. It is interesting to note that Mari-Cha IV's main competition is the New Zealand boat, Maximus, owned by Bill Buckley and Charles Brown, the latter of whom is Sanderson's step uncle.
Amanda Clark, who has been in our area several times to give sailing seminars to our junior sailors, and has made herself available to coach interested adults, has earned a number one spot on the US Sailing Team for 2005 by winning the Rolex Miami Olympic Classes Regatta. Because of their success at that regatta, Team GO SAIL 2008 was invited to compete in the ABean Cup in Sajima, Japan, an event that is a Women's Regatta by invitation only and consisted of the top six Japanese teams as well as the number one ranked teams from Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand and the USA. Amanda, who is sailing with Sarah Mergenthaler, came in 6th overall, and 2nd among the foreign competitors. In an email, Amanda said, "Overall, the sailing wasn't great, but the relationships and connections we formed with the teams present will be valuable for the future. We now have friends and consistent training partners for future events abroad. We wrapped up our trip by spending the final night and day in central Tokyo before flying back to New York. Accompanied by our translator, we hit up a Karaoke club with the Canadians and Kiwi's, followed by a tour of Tokyo the following day." Next on Amanda's calendar is graduation from Connecticut College, and then off to compete in Kieler Woche in Kiel, Germany at the end of June, followed by a month of training in the New York/New Jersey area for the 470 North American's. Next stop is San Francisco in August for the World Championships. For more information (and photos) about these two very talented young women sailors, go to www.amandaclark.org
With the start of a new sailing season, and with what is hopefully an influx of people new to the sport of sailing, the archives of US SAILING provides some insight into yachting etiquette. There is a library at their office in Portsmouth, RI, that has old publications from US SAILING dating back to the early 1900s, when the organization was called the North American Yacht Racing Union. It is interesting to note how much the sport of sailing has changed over the years, as is indicated by the following excerpt on etiquette as it was published in the 1927 NAYRU yearbook: "The owner's meal flag is a rectangular white flag. It shall be displayed in daylight during an owner's meal hours at the starboard main spreader, or at the starboard main yardarm." (Section1, Number 10); "When a yacht is at anchor and the owner is absent, a blue light shall after dark be displayed at the starboard main spreader on a fore-and-aft rigged yacht, and at the starboard main yardarm on a square-rigged yacht." (Section 2, Number 4); and "At night, during an owner's meal hours, a white light shall be displayed at the starboard main spreader, and at the starboard main yardarm on a square-rigged yacht." (Section 2, Number 5).
The following piece of news fits into the "you won't believe this" category. A 37-year old Australian, Dr. Michael Blackburn, sailed his Laser dinghy from Stanley in Northern Tasmania to Tidal Beach in Norman Bay, Victoria, a feat that took 13.5 hours to complete. As if that wasn't enough, the water he sailed to reach his destination was the Bass Strait, considered one of the most ferocious bodies of water in the world. The perfect weather, with winds of 15-20 knots carried his dinghy, powered only by the single sail of about 7 meters. Blackburn is not new to Laser sailing. He has competed in the Laser class at three Olympics, just missing the bronze in Atlanta, but winning it in Sydney. One has to wonder why anyone might want to sail a dinghy across such dangerous waters, even with a proven history of successful dinghy sailing, except that the challenge presented itself. Blackburn's next goal may be the Volvo Round the World race. Let's hope he is not considering doing it in his Laser.