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4 June 2005, 10:16 am
New Record for Windrose
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Rolex Transatlantic Challenge 2005

The Needles, the ancient chalk spikes protruding from the sea off the western point of the Isle of Wight, have seen the first arrivals of the Rolex Transatlantic Race's Performance Cruising class 1 pass by yesterday.
First to cross the finish line yesterday morning was the glamorous form of the 152-foot (46.3m) modern classic schooner Windrose of Amsterdam at 08:24:12 UTC. 'It was a hectic race, there was a lot of wind, usually between 25 and 30 knots,' recounted her Dutch owner Chris GONGRIEPE. 'We blew up three sails, but we have a sailmaker on board to repair them. And we had some damage from the high waves. It washed away a Dorade box, and we ended up with lots of water in the galley.'

The biggest problem the crew encountered was when the furling mechanism for Windrose's genoa broke five days after the start, creating a chain of cataclysmic events in a building wind that ended up with them dropping the sail in the water and ultimately destroying the heavyweight 300 sqm sail. 'It was very difficult to maintain speeds on a close reach,' admitted Gerard DIJKSTRA, Windrose's designer, on board for the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge race as navigator. The lack of a genoa resulted in them being unable to sail upwind and dictated their tactics for several days until such time as conditions moderated enough to allow them to hoist their blade jib as a replacement.

The tough crossing aside, Windrose's largely Dutch crew was pleased to have bettered Charlie BARR's race-record time set by Wilson MARSHALL's three-masted schooner Atlantic in 1905. 'We've put the ghost of Charlie Barr to rest, that was important,' said DIJKSTRA. Their time of 10 days, 17 hours and 15 minutes between New York and the Lizard bettered their WSSRC Performance Certificate for the fastest transatlantic crossing by a two-masted schooner.

Arriving at the Needles 1 hour and 27 minutes astern of Windrose was Mike SLADES's substantially smaller Leopard. Slade said he was overwhelmed to be back for three reasons: he could see his wife's race horse 'Unfurled' compete in the Epsom Derby tomorrow; Leopard came second in class by 10 miles over a 3,000 mile course; and they, too, had sailed faster than Atlantic in 1905.

SLADE, a highly experienced yachtsman, claims the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge has also been the toughest race in which he has ever sailed. 'It is great racing around the Solent, across the Channel, the Sydney-Hobart, Fastnets, Bermuda Race, but it is when you really get out into the ocean, that's when you really find out what makes the world go round. It is fascinating, and it is very difficult, and it is very tough; we've had a wonderful, wonderful two weeks, thanks to Rolex,' said SLADE. 'Those first five days in the northerly section when we all went up by the Flemish Cap, talk about The Perfect Storm and the two lows coming together…it was all pretty hairy stuff up there, and the boats got beaten about up there. Thirty knots on the nose for five days solid is hard, it is hard on the crew. You would go to bed in your bunk and you'd wake up in mid-air. And then you get 30 knots from the back, and suddenly you are into seven days of racing downwind in a drag race,' said SLADE.

Prior to the race, SLADE had made an undisclosed wager with GBR Challenge boss Peter HARRISON, racing ketch Sojana in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, and this had been behind their decision to follow their rival north into the near-freezing Labrador Current before rounding Newfoundland. 'Peter and I have a lot of money on a private bet, although we might call it quits because they had an accident,' recounted SLADE. 'We thought Sojana was our main problem, but as it turns out, Windrose is a fantastic yacht, built for galloping across the Atlantic.' At one point Leopard had been 200 miles behind the Performance Cruising class 1 leaders but had made up nearly all of this deficit by the finish.

The handicap race in Performance Cruising class 1 has yet to be decided with the conclusion of the match race between the 170-footers Drumbeat and Tiara.

In Performance Cruising class 2, Bugs Baer and William HUBBARD III's 1970s maxi Tempest is leading the Swan 80 Selini on handicap. The boats in the mid-Atlantic had been having a lively time. 'Yesterday morning dawned and we were ghosting along under spinnaker as the breeze was building (as we expected),' wrote Clarke Murphy, skipper of the Swan 70 Stay Calm. 'It built and built into a steady 35 knots by late morning, gusting to 40. This breeze from the southeast provided fantastic power-reaching conditions and was perfect for Stay Calm. At the same time, the seas built, and by late afternoon, there were 10-15 foot rollers and white foam blowing off the top everywhere, with big rollers appearing over the right shoulder of the boat. She would take up and surf down one out of every 10 or so and scream at 17-20 knots, with (crewmember) JP holding the record at 23.'

Among the Classics, A. Robert TOWBIN's Sumurun continues to lead both on the water and on handicap as they, too, encounter gale-force winds. 'We are looking to see who can make it out of this 45-knot low cell and first into the southwest breezes,' reported a crewman on Nordwind.

On the equivalent day during the 1905 race for the Kaiser's Cup, Frederick HOYT, on board Atlantic, wrote:

'Our long race is nearly over. At 8.15 this morning we made the light on Bishops Rock about a point on the lee bow; an excellent land fall and at 9.37 GMT it bore north true giving a passage of 11 days, 16 hours and 22 minutes. We now have but 49 miles more to go, but the wind is light and almost aft. Still under balloon staysails and spinnaker we are slipping along fairly well and hope to get the Lizard Light bearing North before 5.15, for that will make the passage under 12 days and we shall beat Endymion's record by almost two days.'

Barby MacGowan. Image, Windrose:© Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
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