The 21st entry in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge is another giant yacht, the 174-foot (53m) Drumbeat. Better known in sailing circles as Salperton, the yacht was acquired by her present owner in October of last year. A ketch, her mainmast towers 197 feet in the air, and both masts, made of carbon fibre, support a downwind configuration of 26,000 sq. ft. of sail. This is balanced by 91 tons of lead in a deep fin keel. Aside from the 250-foot (76m), three-masted square rigger Stad Amsterdam - chartered by members of the Storm Trysail Club - Tiara and Drumbeat are the largest entries in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, and due to their similarity, look set to match race their way across the North Atlantic come the start on 21 May.
'I think the draw for the owner was celebrating the centenary of a great race and the opportunity to race against Tiara,' says Drumbeat's British skipper Julian SPIER. This will be the first occasion on which the two giant yachts have raced one another.
While both Tiara and Drumbeat were designed by Dubois Naval Architects, and built by Alloy Yachts, there are some differences between them. Launched in 2004, Tiara is two years newer than Drumbeat and a fraction longer. She also has a helipad, but most significantly, while Tiara is a single-mast sloop, Drumbeat is a ketch.
'I think in terms of sail area we possibly have an advantage off the wind, and they have an advantage on the wind,' says SPIER. This is fortunate for Drumbeat, as the prevailing winds for the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge course are off the wind. While Tiara's rig allows her to carry bigger sails, Drumbeat's ketch configuration allows her to carry more sails, in particular mizzen spinnakers, to improve her performance downwind.
Another advantage for Drumbeat is that her crew has more experience racing her, as they have competed in regattas in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
Despite Drumbeat's colossal size, SPIER reckons they will compete in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge with a crew of 18-20 divided into three watches. Thanks to modern aids such as hydraulic winches and hydraulic furling for the sails, Drumbeat can be handled by just six crew, although 'we'll have experienced helmsmen along with crew who know how to sail the boat,' adds SPIER. Among the crew will be the yacht's designer Ed DUBOIS. For the race they are not going to strip the boat down but will remove superfluous items such as the tenders.
At present, both Tiara and Drumbeat are in Antigua, as are several other entries in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge including Anemos and Windrose, but they will be heading north in the next week.