Saturday, December 12, 2015

RORC Transatlantic Race Update

J/120 Nunatak sailing RORC Transatlantic race (Tenerife, Grand Canary Islands)- The J/120 NUNATAK, skippered by that colorful, dynamic and highly successful duo, Elin Haf Davies and Chris Sharp from the United Kingdom are well on their way in the second edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race.  As of 1800 hours on Monday, November 30th, NUNATAK was sitting on first in IRC 2 Class, first in IRC Double-handed class and second in IRC Overall!  They are competing against world-class Class 40 teams in the double-handed division.

The race got away as scheduled from Marina Lanzarote with the fleet enjoying a reaching start in Atlantic swell and a solid 15 knots of breeze from the northeast. Close battles are expected within the fleet for the next 3,000 miles before the yachts reach the finish at Camper & Nicholsons, Port Louis Marina in Grenada.

On the first day of the RORC Transatlantic Race, the fleet was heading west, following the setting sun. The race course sends the yachts to the north of Tenerife, a 120-mile blast reach from the southern tip of Lanzarote in Atlantic swell - a spectacular way to spend a Saturday night! After rounding Tenerife, the next mark of the course is Glover Island Light, Grenada, about 3,000 miles south west across the Atlantic.

J/120 Nunatak at RORC Transatlantic race start"A fantastic start," enthused Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of the Royal Ocean Racing Club. "Beautiful conditions for the fleet which all got away extremely well under full sail. Every single yacht competing in this race has been so well prepared and they are all expecting a very competitive race across the Atlantic. There are battles throughout the fleet which will undoubtedly have many twists and turns over the next few days and weeks of racing. Safety is always our top priority and after that major consideration, these teams are all up for the challenge of pushing hard across the Atlantic."

First away were the monohulls. Frost and Davies were racing their J/120 NUNATAK Two-Handed in their first ever Transatlantic Race.  Chris and Elin were in a buoyant mood as they passed the RORC Committee Boat for their safety inspection. "See you in Grenada!" shouted Elin. "And, you're buying the drinks when we make it before the prize-giving!"

Elin Haf Davies and Chris Frost on J/120 NunatakMeanwhile, two days later on board NUNATAK, Chris was sampling the cuisine prepared by Elin. She laughably explained her less than Michelin 5-star preparations; “Chris got offered either ‘partially cooked’ or ‘burnt’ pasta for dinner last night. Reminding us both that it wasn’t for my cooking skills that he agreed to have me on board as co-skipper. I would explain our watch system, but probably best you just look at the tracker. When it’s going in a straight line, Chris is on watch. When it’s all over the place, I’m on watch. We are both having an amazing time, enjoying as much sleep as we can and loving the good work that Nunatak is doing to power us forward.”

The fourth day at sea finds NUNATAK holding near rhumbline.  With the light winds, experienced yesterday and last night the clutch of 40 ft yachts have come to the fore after IRC corrected time. Provisionally, NUNATAK is winning both the Two-Handed Division as well as leading the IRC fleet overall after time correction. Not wishing to dampen their fireworks, this may be due to the fact that NUNATAK has taken a more westerly route, closer to the rhumb line. In doing so, NUNATAK has stayed in the high pressure vacuum but by tomorrow morning fresh winds are likely from the east, which will improve their position.

On the morning of day five of the RORC Transatlantic Race, the boats that escaped the high-pressure ridge first have made significant gains, most notably Jean-Paul Riviere and the crew of Nomad IV. Yesterday the smallest boat in IRC was wearing the crown. NUNATAK was working her way just south of the rhumb line and making good progress in the light winds, benefiting from minimizing the mileage required to the finish.

J/120 Nunatak on YB trackerYesterday we heard from the intrepid duo on J/120, NUNATAK, apparently not aware of their position in the race, have been concentrating on sightings of dolphins and contending with smelly deck shoes! Today is a significant day for Elin Haf Davies as eight years ago, she was rowing across the Atlantic from La Gomera to Antigua, a journey that took 77 days!

“We only have one major problem to deal with - my deck shoes,” says Atlantic rower and adventurer, Elin Haf Davies in her blog from the boat. “They smell so bad that Frosty (Chris) was so desperate to get away from the smell that he went up the rig, making an excuse that the spreaders needed to have padding on them to stop them from putting holes in our kites!”

“Yesterday we got caught in a wind hole which made me worry that this crossing was also going to take 77 days,” exclaimed Elin. “That would have been a major issues given that we’ve only packed enough food for 21 days (assuming we can stomach eating the dog food/meatballs).  The wind has continued to drop over night. As the Autohelm could handle the conditions, we had dinner together on deck, which was really beautiful at night. Overnight we went from A4, to Code 0 and then to jib as the southerly breeze stopped us from going south as quick as we wanted to.

Dolphins came to visit which was just amazing, as always, and far better than the floating fridge we had to by-pass the night before. Luckily, the wind picked up again last night and with the help of our Code 0, and then our A2, we’re now on the move again.”

Hard to believe that six months ago I had never helmed down wind with a spinnaker, and now I’m helming down wind across the Atlantic at speeds of up to 11kts (and loving it!) with Chris fast asleep below deck. Okay, the fact that he’s fast asleep might be more to do with extreme exhaustion rather than complete confidence, but you’ve got to start somewhere right?!

It’s major credit to Chris for having the patience to teach me, and for putting together our 2H campaign this season (with help from his Dad, thanks Roger). It’s obvious to say that if he’d raced the season with Mike, Kev, Tim or one of his other mates, he would have been able to compete far more competitively, rather than coaching me. But it’s fair to say for both of us that we’ve had so much fun so far this year, and this race across the pond so far is also proving to be an amazing experience which makes both of us grin from ear to ear. Thanks RORC for the opportunity.”   Follow their posts on RORC’s Facebook page.   Here is the RORC Yellowbrick fleet tracking   For more RORC Transatlantic Race sailing information