At 1410EDT today, the first start gun will fire for the 2005 Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, the latest in a series of transatlantic races run by the New York Yacht Club since 1866. This year's event celebrates the centenary of yacht owner Wilson Marshall and skipper Charlie Barr's record-breaking race for the Kaiser's Cup aboard the schooner Atlantic.
As in 1905, the start line for the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge will be approximately 15 miles south of New York Harbour. But while that race began from the Ambrose Lightship, the 2005 event begins on a start line between its replacement, the Ambrose Light Tower (2.5 miles southeast from the position of the original lightship) at the north end of the line, and a committee boat positioned 0.5 miles due south (true). The line is positioned this way, rather than perpendicular to the wind in the more conventional manner, to comply with the World Sailing Speed Record Council's rules for the New York to the Lizard transatlantic passage record.
Competing are 20 yachts ranging from 70-250 feet (21.3m-76m), divided into three divisions: Grand Prix, Performance Cruising and Classics. The Performance Cruising yachts comprise the bulk of the fleet and are being divided into two classes. Tomorrow's first gun at 1410 EDT will mark the departure of the Grand Prix Class 1, followed at ten-minute intervals by Performance Cruising division Class 2, Performance Cruising division Class 3 and, finally, at 1440, Classic Class 4.
The line-up, by division:
- Mari-Cha IV, 140 feet (43m). Robert MILLER's (Hong Kong/New York, N.Y., USA) state-of-the-art maxi schooner is the present holder of the west-to-east transatlantic passage record. Steered by New Zealand Volvo Ocean Race skipper Mike SANDERSON, the crew are looking to break not only Atlantic's race record but also their own passage record and, in the process, recover` their recently lost 24-hour monohull record.
- Maximus, 100 feet (30.5m). The line-honours rival for Mari-Cha is the newly launched yacht of New Zealanders Charles BROWN and Bill BUCKLEY. She is fitted with a wing mast and a canting lifting keel and has a crew that includes fellow countrymen and America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans such as circumnavigator Mike Quilter, Jeff Scott and Erle Williams.
- Carrera, 81 feet (24.7m). Owner Joseph DOCKERY (Cos Cob, Conn., USA) is hoping for a handicap win in this class. U.S. racing stars among her crew include world champion and America's Cup sailor Ken READ (Newport, R.I., USA) and Volvo Ocean racer Chris LARSON (Annapolis, Md., USA).
- Tiara, 178 feet (54.3m). This giant Ed DUBOIS sloop, owned by Israeli businessman and venture capitalist Jonathan LEITERSDORF, has been chartered to Swiss banker Thierry LOMBARD with a group from the Societe Nautique de Geneve, the defending yacht club of the 32nd America's Cup.
- Drumbeat, 174 feet (53.0m). Although a near sistership to Tiara, the former Salperton is ketch-rigged and may perform better off the wind. Meteorologist Adrienne Callahan (AUS) is on board as navigator with designer Ed DUBOIS (GBR). Tiara vs. Drumbeat will be a good race to watch.
- Windrose of Amsterdam, 140 feet (46.3m). Chris GONGRIEPE's (NED) spirit of tradition schooner has sailed this course twice before. She holds the WSSRC Performance Certificate for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a two-masted schooner. Aboard will be its designer Gerry DYKSTRA, also of The Netherlands.
- Sariyah, 131 feet (39.9m). The cruising ketch is from the drawing boards of famous U.S. naval architects Sparkman & Stephens. In the 1997 Transatlantic Challenge, it was second to finish and second in its class. Serving as tactician is the USA's 2002 Olympic gold medalist Kevin BURNHAM (Miami, Fla.)
- Whisper, 116 feet (35.4m). John 'Hap' FAUTH's (Minneapolis, Minn., USA) Ted Hood-designed sloop includes among its crew Ted HOOD, Jr. and his 18-year-old son Alex (both Middletown, R.I., USA).
- Sojana, 115 feet (35m). This Farr cruising ketch belongs to former British America's Cup challenger Peter HARRISON (GBR) and will have several of Harrison's GBR Challenge crew on board.
- Anemos, 112 feet (34.1m). This Swan is chartered by NYYC member Steve FRANK (Darien, Conn., USA)
- Leopard, 90 feet (29.9m). This Reichel/Pugh sloop is owned by British property developer Mike SLADE (GBR). Her crew includes many top flight America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors, including Jules SALTER, Gordon MCGUIRE and Tim POWELL.
- Selini, 80 feet (24.4m). This Swan ketch, owned by Colin MCGILL (SUI), is new to the racing scene but counts former GBR Challenge sailor George SKUODAS among its crew.
- Tempest, 80 feet (24.4m). Arthur Bugs BAER (Madison, Conn., USA) and William HUBBARD III's (New York, N.Y./Southport, Conn., USA) have chartered this Sparkman & Stephens ketch, which performed well under Baer's guidance two years ago in the DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic Challenge, crossing the line in third.
- Ocean Phoenix, 77 feet (23.6m). This Rob HUMPHRIES-designed sloop is owned by Jose AGUINAGA (ESP).
- Palawan, 75 foot (22.9m). This Ted Hood-designed sloop is owned by NYYC member Joe HOOPES (New York, N.Y., USA), who won his class in the Bermuda Race. Hoopes was selected to carry an Olympic message of peace across the ocean. The message came from Salt Lake City, Utah, the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, and is to be delivered to Torino, Italy, host of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
- Stay Calm, 70 feet (21.3m). This Swan is chartered to Clarke MURPHY (New York, N.Y., USA). Its crew includes America's Cup sailor Ian BUDGEN (GBR) and 'round Britain record holder Jean Philippe CHOMETTE (FRA).
- Stad Amsterdam, 249 feet (76m). This contemporary square rigged clipper ship was designed by Gerry DIJKSTRA (NED). She has been chartered to the Storm Trysail Club, who will have 40 members aboard sailing, including eight husband-wife teams. In addition, there are 28 permanent crew members on board.
- Sumurun, 94 feet (28.7m). Owned by Rolex Transatlantic Challenge Chair A. Robert TOWBIN, this 1914 Fife design won her class in the NYYC's 1997 Transatlantic Race and recently won at Antigua Classics Week.
- Nordwind, 88 feet (26.8m). Built in 1938, this beauty is owned by Dr Hans ALBRECHT (SUI).
- Mariella, 80 feet (24.4m). Built in 1938, Mariella is owned by Italian Carlo FALCONE but sails under the flag of Antigua, where Falcone makes his home.
The course for the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge takes these 20 yachts eastward across the North Atlantic to the south coast of the UK and two finish lines: one off Cornwall's Lizard Point, the second at the Needles at the westernmost end of the Isle of Wight. The distance the boats will sail from the Ambrose Light to the Lizard is approximately 2,900 miles, followed by an extra 150 miles to the Needles.
After the finish, the yachts will be welcomed in Cowes by the Royal Yacht Squadron. From the 11th - 13th June, a series of social events and the Rolex Race Around the Isle of Wight will bring the race to a spectacular conclusion. One highlight of the weekend will be the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge prize-giving at Osborne House on Sunday 12th June. The Rolex Race around the Isle of Wight on Monday 13 June, will take the fleet clockwise around the island and over the same course made famous by the yacht America in 1851.
The Rolex Transatlantic Challenge is sponsored by Rolex and also by Moran Towing Corp., Sandy Hook Pilots, P&O Ports North America, and MedLink. The race is supported by the City of New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Showboats International is the event's official marine publication; program sponsors include Rolex, North Fork Bank and Holland Jachtbouw.