Rolex Transatlantic – Day 1

May 22, 2005   

It is eighteen hours from the start and Tempest is leading its class on handicap. Our start was far from stellar in fact third time did the trick! First, we were over the line at the pin end by what must have been only a few feet, but over is over. We were so far from the Committee Boat that we could not see their visual signals. Their radio message was partially drowned out by helicopter noise. So we sailed on but five minutes later, we understood that we were officially recalled, and turned the boat around. The air was light, our speed was slow, and it took more than ten minutes to return. The news helicopter was really interested in us now, and kept circling. We were sailing backward from the rest of the fleet - good story. Finally we re crossed the line and heard the Race Committee tell us on the radio '.. you have cleared the line.' Once again, in slow, light winds, we turned the boat around and started across the line, the helicopter still circling. We were about eighteen minutes late.Then we heard the voice of the Race Committee officer loud and clear: 'YOU HAVE NOT CLEARED THE LINE!' We realized that the earlier complete message was "We will notify you when you have cleared the line.” Once again, painfully slowly, we turned the boat and went back to the starting line. Finally, the voice said 'YOU HAVE CLEARED THE LINE!' And just to be sure, we repeated it back for confirmation. We finally started 24 minutes late in more wind this would have meant 5 miles.   While we were returning and restarting, a slightly stronger breeze came in from the right. We went right with the second hand number one on our own and in two hours overtook the classics division and within 4 hours we were in the middle of our class but to weather and in more wind. We are heading southeast for the Gulf Stream an unusual choice as most boats leaving the east coast sail the Great Circle as it is 225 miles shorter than the southern route. The decision is based on an unusual weather pattern – there is an omega high in the jet stream blocking the easterly track of the low pressures that come across the North Atlantic. Going north would mean we would be beating into a 40 knot headwind for several days as we would be on the northern edge of the low pressure system. Going to the Gulf Stream will mean a large current in our favor, reaching conditions, as we will be on the southern part of the low and in warm seas. We worked hard all night, changing sails frequently as the light winds shifted speed and direction. Heavier winds will come in a day or two. 

Lesson learnt: Don’t be over early on a long race and taking educated risks could pay off!

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