Ahhh.... birds are chirping, flowers blooming, trees are leafing and young love fills the air. Spring has sprung, or at least the very tentative version we are experiencing this year in the north east of the US. And with spring comes that annual ocean racing rite, the Atlantic Cup.
Starting on May 11 and spanning the eastern seaboard and hundreds of treacherous ocean miles across three legs of racing, the Atlantic Cup starts in the fine dining, fine looking, fine living city of Charleston, where there is always a church nearby in which you can confess your sins. The first leg send you to Gotham, where sin is the norm and the layover inevitably involves excess. Then a second leg takes you to Newport, where the only sin I have been able to find so far is saling and if that is sinning then count me amongst the happily damned. The racing wraps up with a third leg of inshore racing in Newport where we switch from the double handed format of the ocean legs to a fully crewed set up to help speed things up in the corners.
As has been proven across the last 7 years, the Class 40's offer some spectacularily close racing. A single mistake in preparation, sail cross overs, or navigation can mean the difference between first and last in a fleet that has an uncanny nack of finishing within minutes of one another after hundreds of miles of racing. With no transat last fall or winter to bring the european boats west, this year's edition of the Atlantic Cup has brought a strong fleet of mostly US based sailors. With seven boats lining up this coming Saturday with an interesting mix of experience and designs, the racing should be exciting.
- 40 Degrees - the only international entry this year, this third generation OCD boat will be skippered by Peter Harding and Hannah Jenner. After last year's dismasting at the start of leg 1, the Brits are back with a brand new, radical new Southern Spars rig and are thirsty for revenge. The RORC 600 was a good tune up for a pair that are going to fight every mile.
- Bodacious Dream - Dave Rearick is joined again by Matt Scharl on their Farr designed, third generation boat. These corn-fed midwest boys now have a year of practice in their boat, and have got to be considered favorites after the excellent showing they made last year.
- Gryphon Solo - Joe Harris also now has a year of practice in his new ride, a third generation Akilaria, and is joined again by Tristan Mouligne. Joe is a fierce competitor, not known for giving a single inch without a fight. And since Tristan and I work at the same company, bragging rights are on the line.
- Icarus - Life partners Tim Fetsch and Ben Poucher are once again showing what can be done with a roll of duct tape and a lot of elbow grease. Their Rodger Martin designed ride has come a long way since Tim and Ben helped the US Merchant Marine Academy Sailing Foundation put her back in fighting shape. A few weeks back, Tim schooled all of us at Charleston Race week by winning every start and showing great speed. This could be their year, showing what can be done on a shoe string. These guys deserve support, so check them out.
- Lecoq Cuisine - Eric Lecoq returns to the Class 40 scene with a brand new ride, a very sexy looking Verdier design. He is racing with Conrad Coleman, fresh off his finish in the Global Ocean Race last year so the team will certainly not lack from experience. We are all eager (and a bit worried) to see what these guys can produce from their formidable ride.
- Pleiad Racing - Ed Cesare joins the Class 40 fleet with his acquisition of the former Amhas, a first generation Akilaria similar to the one that won the Worlds last year. While new to Class 40 racing, Ed and his team mate Chad Corning are sailing on a professionally prepped boat and boast significant offshore experience.
- Dragon - And then of course, your humble scribe riding on the mighty Dragon, a second generation Owen Clarke design. I am joined this year by Rob Windsor, and we are fresh off a winter of racing in warm embrace of the Caribbean. Stints in Key West, Jamaica and St. Thomas helped keep my sun burn fresh all winter long, if not my sailing skills and we are looking forward to bringing Dragon back into home waters.
The racing kicks off this coming Saturday around noon, and the weather situation is shaping up. At the moment, it looks like a light air run up the coast for the first 30 to 40 hours. As a front moves through later on Sunday, we will see winds pick up to the high teens and switch over to a tight hauled fetch on the other side of Hattaras that will eventually free to a reach as we approach NYC. The light air run makes for some interesting choices coming out of Charleston, forcing skippers to decide when and how to interact with the Gulf Stream that lurks some 40 or 50 miles off of the coast as it passes South Carolina.
If you live anywhere near the three host city's, please come on down to meet some of the teams and check out the boats. In Charleston we are in the City Marina over by the bridge to James Island, in New York City we are down in the North Cove marina located in the World Financial Center and then in Newport we are the Newport Shipyard.
All of the starts are also located right by the shore, which makes it easy to watch the fleet fire it up and shoot for the honor and advantage of leading across the line. Class 40's may not be as nimble as a dinghy, but watching the elephants dance is entertaining none the less! In Charleston you can get a great view from the Charleston Maritime Center, while in NYC in the starting line is directly off of the southern Seawall of North Cove Marina. And in Newport, the starts and finishes are just off of Fort Adams, so bring a frisbee and come spend the day hanging out and watching us mix it up.
Stop on by and make sure to introduce yourself.