The water-ballasted 86-foot American turbo sled Zephyrus V, currently racing in the DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic Challenge, is today making an attempt on the world 24-hour ocean sailing speed record.
John BERTRAND, skipper of the San Francisco, speedster, announced the record bid at 2:00 p.m. U.S. East Coast Summer Time (1800 hours Greenwich Mean Time) when the maxZ86 Class yacht was 500 miles north-northwest of the Azores.
"I want to emphasize that we are still racing in the DaimlerChrysler North Atlantic Challenge, although we may deviate from a conventional course over the next 24 hours as we attempt to make the most of an available weather window,"
Bertrand said in a satellite telephone call from the boat.
Zephyrus V started from Newport, R.I., in the 3,600-mile race to Cuxhaven, Germany, six days ago. She is expected to finish in Cuxhaven about July 4.
Volvo Ocean Race veteran Ian MOORE, who is navigating Zephyrus V, said that the American boat must maintain an average speed faster than 20.16 knots for a 24 hour period in order to beat the record of 484 nautical miles in 24 hours set by John Kostecki and the crew of illbruck Challenge on Leg Seven of the Volvo Race from Annapolis, Maryland to La Rochelle, France, in April last year.
Bertrand said that the strong winds of an overtaking North Atlantic low pressure storm system offered a 30-hour window of opportunity for about 30 hours to surf at speeds of 24 to 25 knots, with a possibility of touching 30 knots at times.
"We'll have to punch right through the eye of the storm as it overtakes us, in order to take advantage of the strong reaching conditions,"
Bertrand said. "We'll get the double benefit of a crack at the record and the possibility that the added speed will boost us on our way to the finish, despite the longer distance.
"This boat was built to break records and this is an opportunity that is too good to miss, especially because we know that the American yacht Zaraffa which started a week ahead of us is positioned to comfortably win the race and set a new race record in the process. Zaraffa's crew encountered phenomenally good weather conditions and did a great job of taking full advantage of them. We're taking a slightly different tack."
When Bertrand announced the record attempt, Zephyrus V was sailing on an easterly course at 20 knots in a northwesterly breeze of 25 to 28 knots and building seas.
Moore is no stranger to attempts on the 24-hour record. Last April, he was the navigator Gordon Kay's new 96-foot maxi Bols in an abortive bid last April off the South Island of New Zealand Both of the yacht's steering wheels were destroyed when crew members were washed down the deck by big seas.
Moore explained that Zephyrus V's sprint would be recorded by automated satellite positional fixes. The fastest time between fixes 24 hours apart would be selected and sent to the World Speed Sailing Record Council for ratification.
The high speed flyer is operating under a handicap. Zephyrus V broke her port running backstay two hours after the start. Although they replaced it with a spare runner, her crew determined that the starboard runner was suspect and jury-rigged a backstay from Vectran line, a stretchier material than the PBO original.
"By punching through the low, we'll avoid sailing hard to windward, which is something we don't want to risk with the jury-rigged backstay,"
The water-ballasted Zephyrus V has logged three first-to-finish victories, and has broken the long-standing record for the Pineapple Cup race from Fort Lauderdale to Montego Bay, Jamaica, since her launching in May, 2002.
Zephyrus V is owned by Dr. Robert McNeil of San Francisco, California, who campaigns her with his regular crew led by John Bertrand of Annapolis, Maryland. Bertrand is an Olympic silver medalist and America's Cup tactician. The international crew for the transatlantic race includes regular crew boss Mark Sims, plus Volvo Ocean race sailors including noted helmsman Gordon Maguire and navigator Moore. Larry Leonard, head of Quantum Sails, is another regular crewmember.
Built by McConaghy Boats in Sydney, Australia, Zephyrus V is the successor to McNeil's 75-foot Zephyrus IV, with which he and Bertrand shattered the Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro Race record in 2000 by almost two days. In the same year, they broke the Middle Sea Race record in the Mediterranean. She sails under the colors of the St Francis Yacht Club.