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Posted by on Jun 22, 2011 in Racing Sailboat, Sailboat Racing, Sailing, UK, US |

Transatlantic Race Preview

History is in the making again in Newport, where yachts from 40 to 289 feet long prepare for next week's staggered starts.

For over three hundred years Newport, Rhode Island has welcomed the world’s finest yachts. Steeped in America’s Cup history and yachting folklore, Newport Shipyard has been the setting for some of the most famous moments in yacht racing. And right now the scene is being set for an occasion which will surely rank amongst the greatest that Newport has ever witnessed.

The 2011 Transatlantic Race, organised by four of the world’s leading yacht clubs (Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club), is the jewel in the crown of the Transatlantic Ocean Series. The race has three starts with the smallest yachts setting off from Newport on 26 June. A second start will take place on 29 June, and the largest yachts will leave on 3 July.

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Phaedo, a Gunboat 66, will start the Transatlantic Race alongside Maltese Falcon. Photo: Richard Langdon

The scene dockside can only be described as spectacular, now that the world’s fastest and most luxurious yachts have gathered here. Two races have already taken part in the seven race series, but the race across the Atlantic is the big one.

Last to leave Newport will be the two giants of yacht racing. Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard and George David’s Rambler 100 are both canting keel, carbon fibre Maxi yachts, arguably the two fastest monohull racing yachts ever built. Unofficially, this is probably the only occasion that these two boats will ever line up for an Atlantic sprint, and either could complete the 2,975 mile course in just eight days.

The Maxis will be giving the smaller boats a seven day head start and it will be fascinating to watch as they catch up to the fleet, somewhere in the wilderness of the North Atlantic.

Two entries could possibly steal the Maxi thunder. Karl Kwok’s Farr 80, Beau Geste was optimized for IRC Handicap racing and whilst it is unlikely that the team from Hong Kong will claim line honours, they could win the race after time correction.

A clear and present danger to the Maxis for line honours is Kenny Read’s Volvo 70, PUMA Ocean Racing. This will be the first race for any of the new Volvo 70s, so nobody really knows how fast the new Juan K designed yacht is. A few days from now, we will find out.

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The A40 British Soldier is filled with crew just off active service in Afghanistan. Photo: RORC/Tim Wright

The largest boat in the Transatlantic Race dwarfs the high performance race boats. The Maltese Falcon, chartered by Elena Ambrosiadou, is 289-feet long. Centrepiece to the art deco interior is a glass atrium housing a spiral staircase to all three decks. The main deck is a wide-open space featuring a main saloon, an enormous aft-cockpit, two separate studio areas and a majestic dining room. There is uncompromising comfort for twelve guests in five staterooms and one incomparable master cabin on the upper deck with a private cockpit. Aloft her revolutionary sailing rig has three self-standing and rotating masts made of carbon-fibre.

There is no other boat like the Maltese Falcon, but the enormous super yacht will have a striking adversary. Handsome blonde millionaire Lloyd Thornburg has entered his Lamborghini orange Gunboat 66, Phaedo. The super cool catamaran has been ripping up in the Caribbean for months and the outlandish carbon fibre rocket ship will be lining up with Maltese Falcon on 29 June.

The lower size limit for the race is 40 feet and whilst the Army Sailing Association’s A40, British Soldier will be one of the slowest boats, it is filled with the most courageous crew. All of them have seen active service in Afghanistan and yacht racing is a way of taking it out on the sea.

We hope to be speaking to the yachts on a regular basis and many of them are capable of sending pictures and even video back to land. Stay tuned for more updates.

For live tracking information, visit the Transatlantic Race 2011 website.

—Louay Habib