Transatlantic Race: How far south to go?

Published on November 27th, 2019

(November 27, 2019) – After five days into the RORC Transatlantic Race, the international fleet is experiencing shifty conditions with a light to moderate wind oscillating between nor’ east and east. All of the teams are south of the rhumb line but different strategies are producing a range of tactics along the 3,000nm course to Grenada.

Richard Palmer, competing Two Handed with Jeremy Waitt on his British JPK 10.10 Jangada are currently provisional overall leader after IRC time correction. French Wally 100 Dark Shadow is 2,285nm from the finish and leading the fleet for line honours. Swedish VO65 Childhood 1 has sailed the most miles (945nm) and is the furthest south. Pata Negra is back in the race having made a pit-stop in El Hierro.

Via satellite communication, Jangada sent an update yesterday which highlights the current strategic decisions facing the double-handed team:

“Three days into the race and the strategies are starting to pan out. Before we left, we spoke about making a decision on north versus south of the Great Circle route. As the days pass and the weather forecast is refined, we see that there lies a vast ‘synoptic wasteland’ to the north. The challenge now is just how far south do we go?

“Gybe early and we risk being sucked into that high pressure. Gybe late and sail extra miles unnecessarily. It’s all about trying to pick the layline 2,500nm out! We’ve made that call and are now heading direct to Grenada. We think we still have time to bail out and gybe south again if the pressure starts going slack.

“Childhood 1 and Dark Shadow, especially, are taking the hit now to dive further south into the trade winds. No doubt we will see our fortunes reverse as they make progress in the trades. The question is, will the extra distance out weight the speed benefit? Only time will tell – watch this space.”

“This is a weather-dominated race without a doubt,” commented Dark Shadow’s skipper Yerin Hobson via satellite. “We are seeing shifts between 50 to 90 degrees from one moment to the next, so it has been tough on the crew to stay focused, especially as there are a few cloud patterns which can alter things.

“Dark Shadow is a heavy boat so it is hard for us in light breeze and we are not as maneuverable as Childhood, especially with regard to the shifts. Life on board is in the groove and the mood is good, all helped by a rock star chef and hot showers. Racing at night we have no moon, so it is hard not having a horizon. To keep the concentration we are operating 15 minute stints on the helm.”

Giles Redpath’s British Lombard 46 Pata Negra suspended racing on Day 2 (November 24) and motored into El Hierro, the most southwesterly of the Canary Islands. The young crew, skippered by Andy Lis, discovered problems with their watermaker and wisely took on enough water at El Hierro to last for the race. Pata Negra then returned to their last racing position, hoisted sails, and commenced racing.

To add to the crew’s problems, Andy Lis cracked a tooth requiring medical treatment. All teams in the RORC Transatlantic Race must carry the prescribed medical kit for a World Sailing Category 1 Race and at least two crew must have first aid training. Pata Negra crew Conor Totterdell put his skills learnt at the Dun Laoghaire RNLI to good use, turning the forecabin of Pata Negra into a makeshift dental lab.

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The 6th edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race got underway November 23 from outside Marina Lanzarote for the 3,000nm race across the Atlantic Ocean to Grenada in the West Indies.The largest yacht competing in the 2019 RORC Transatlantic Race is the Wally 100 Dark Shadow and the smallest yacht is the JPK 10.10 Jangada.

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