Yesterday morning at the 0800 UTC position update, A. Robert TOWBIN's 94 foot (28.7m) Fife ketch Sumurun, built in 1914, was still tackling the Atlantic Ocean with 543 miles to go to reach the finish line at the Needles Fairway Buoy off the western tip of the Isle of Wight, Great Britain. In terms of distance to the finish line, Sumurun was 50 miles ahead of Hans ALBRECHT's 88 foot (26.8m) Nordwind, and 100 miles in front of Carlo FALCONE's 80 foot (24.4m) Fife yawl Mariella, the latter two boats originally built in 1938.
One hundred miles is extremely close, considering the classics have been at sea for more than two and a half weeks. However the distance to the finish only tells half the story. The canny TOWBIN, a veteran class winner from the New York Yacht Club's 1997 Transatlantic Race, has spent a long time on port tack heading for northern Spain and is now considerably farther south than Nordwind and Mariella. In theory this should put Sumurun on a faster point of sail to make the final run in past the Lizard and on toward the Isle of Wight. However, in an email from the boat, TOWBIN wrote, 'We have had 20 to 30 knot winds from the northeast for two days and expect them to continue for another day. This has brought heavy seas coming also from the northeast... just the direction we want to go.'
From on board Mariella, Sophie LUTHER wrote on Wednesday night, 'Our rivals have now tacked on to starboard and are making a very northerly course for the Lizard, while we are still trying to get as east as possible for the new wind shift.' She continued, 'Tension is building for the last leg to the Needles. Looks like it could be a nail-biting finish. The good news is our speed is still good, and the log has just hit over 3,000 nm from New York, so surely we must be nearly there?!'
The question remains: will the Classics reach Cowes in time for the prizegiving on Sunday night? The forecast shows easterlies continuing to blow in the Western Approaches and in the English Channel, only turning favourable on Sunday. Based on her having 543 miles to go and having averaged 6.1 knots over the course so far, Sumurun should reach the finish line at 0400 UTC on Monday morning. This will give TOWBIN and his crew just four hours to prepare for the gun for the Rolex Race Around the Isle of Wight.
TOWBIN is philosophical, 'Whatever happens in the race of the classics, our hats are off to Norwind and Mariella and their crews. As we write this, 420 miles from the Lizard, these two beautiful boats are right with us, making this Rolex Transatlantic Challenge not only a contest to beat Atlantic's record, which has now been done, but a modern day challenge to keep boats built before 1950 competing, as they did in the past.' Sixteen yachts are presently entered in the Rolex Race Around the Isle of Wight, clockwise around on the original America's Cup course. John GRANDY, Rear Commodore of Yachting of the Royal Yacht Squadron, says they have tried hard to recreate the same course as sailed in the 1851 race, won famously by New York Yacht Club Commodore John COX STEVENS aboard America in what would subsequently become the America's Cup.
'Due to the generosity of Trinity House, we have the services of a disused light vessel that will be in the approximate position of the old Nab light vessel that was there in 1851,' said GRANDY. The light vessel has long since been replaced by the Nab Tower, northeast of the light vessel's original position. 'I have put in for safety reasons various passing marks, but otherwise it is straight around the Isle of Wight, starting and finishing at the Squadron Line. I am sending them around the Bridge buoy off the Needles, because if we have to shorten course, that is the obvious place to do it,' he continued.
The present forecast indicates that the wind will be northwesterly by race day on Monday, 13 June. Competitors will also have to deal with strong tides that flow in and out of the Solent and around the Isle of Wight. 'They start off with a fair tide,' said GRANDY. 'They have to be back through the Needles by 1500 to avoid the ebb which will start building up after that.'
Aside from concluding the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, the Rolex Race Around the Isle of Wight is also a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, and the winner will receive a silver plate, a replica of one once awarded to Lord Nelson.
The Rolex Race Around the Isle of Wight will start from the Royal Yacht Squadron line with a first warning signal at 0800 UTC (0900 local time).
RTAC Fleet Update as of 9 June - 1200 UTC
(Yacht - Class - Finish Time/Distance to Finish (Time stamp - UTC))
Mari-Cha IV - GP 19:18:37 UTC 1 June
Maximus - GP 00:35:08 UTC 2 June (Leader GP Overall)
Windrose - P1 08:24:12 UTC 3 June
Leopard - P1 09:51:06 UTC 3 June
Drumbeat - P1 14:30:50 UTC 3 June (Leader PC Overall)
Tiara - P1 15:25:35 UTC 3 June
Sojana - P1 17:55:44 UTC 5 June
Whisper - P2 21:17:41 UTC 5 June
Seleni - P2 06:40: 50 UTC 6 June
Tempest - P2 13:27:00 UTC 6 June
Stay Calm - P2 22:49:50 UTC 6 June
Sariyah - P2 10:12:03 UTC 7 June
Anemos - P1 30.3nm (9 June 12:00)
Sumurun - CL 543.3nm (9 June 12:00)
Nordwind - CL 596.8nm (9 June 11:30)
Mariella - CL 645.4nm (9 June 08:00)
Stad Amsterdam - CL Retired (arrived Cowes, 4 June)
Carerra - GP Retired (in Newport, Rhode Island, USA)
Ocean Phoenix - P2 Retired (arrived Azores)
Palawan - P2 Retired (arrived Cowes, 9 June)