Record hunters, who for years have lined up for this legendary eastbound Atlantic sprint, are used to skirting the banks of Newfoundland to make for the Old Continent. Indeed, it’s by making for these rather inhospitable areas that they can close on the great circle route and hence the shortest distance to travel. For the fleet of MOD 70s, who will set off from New York on Saturday at 1100 hours (local time*), forecasts are indicating an express ride, though the thirty sailors aren’t likely to hesitate in lengthening the distance to travel a little so as to benefit from optimum conditions: “For the time being, it’s fairly windy from start to finish and even the most pessimistic routing gets us across the Atlantic in under six days. We’re seeking to study all eventualities, those where we won’t be able to latch onto the system we’re targeting… With 24 hours until the start, it would seem that the great circle route (the shortest distance), isn’t the one we should be favouring. Indeed the routing models are pretty much in agreement as to the first half of the course, with a fairly southerly trajectory to kick off with, but we may have to climb a little further North at the end. The most optimistic routing indicates a course of around 3,100 miles and the more pessimistic one of over 3,450 miles, whilst the direct route equates to around 3,000 miles,” explains Sébastien Josse.
For his part, Antoine Koch, whose main role is the onboard navigation on Edmond de Rothschild Group, unravelled the weather pattern in this Krys Ocean Race for us: “We should leave the United States with a depression, which has already formed over the Saint Lawrence estuary and we’re likely to set off ahead of a warm front. The timing is where the difficulty lies. If we manage to stay ahead of this warm front, it will be a fast transatlantic and a relatively simple one in terms of the weather. In fact, the depression is fairly deep and it will break the Azores High. The fact that the anticyclone is pushed southwards will enable us to carve out a fairly straight and fairly southerly trajectory. However, if it catches us up, and there won’t be a lot in it, it’ll become more complicated. Indeed this depression is characterised by a long cold front, which is parallel to the isobars, and along which some small secondary depressions will form. In the latter, there may be no wind to the North and, conversely, a lot of air to the South.”
Just hours from the start, though the navigators are still focusing on the best wake to trace in order to make the North-West tip of Brittany and have a chance at taking the chocolates in Brest, they’re also taking into account how lively and tough the days will be, for men and machine alike: “There shouldn’t be many manœuvres as there is a lot of starboard tack in prospect, but equally we’re not likely to get much sleep. The tendency is for medium to strong winds with 80% of the course performed in over 20 knots of breeze, with a passage of around fifteen hours where we may have to hunker down with over 35 knots of breeze. This means speeds of around 30 knots on a frequent basis, as we’ll be sailing downwind. Such points of sail are tricky with our trimarans and there will be some risk-taking involved. We’re going to need to be especially vigilant and not hesitate to ensure that there are a lot of switches of helmsman to ensure there is constant lucidity and the required concentration levels. The expected conditions will lead us to hunt down the limits of our boat as we’ll be in race mode. However, my crew are well honed now and we’ve been sailing together for over a year and, on this boat specifically, for nearly six months. I have great trust in them”, explained the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group.
Tomorrow, Saturday, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild will leave the dock in North Cove Marina at around 0900 hours (local time*) to calmly prepare for the start, which will take place at 1100 hours (1500 UTC), just off the Statue of Liberty. In the meantime the sailors are making the most of the last few moments on land. Some are treating themselves to a last tour of New York, whilst others are racking up some sleep: “We’ve been in an enclosed park since we arrived in New York so Edmond de Rothschild Group has been ready to go for a few days. On a personal level I’m going to make the most of my afternoon to cut myself off a bit and calmly go through the scenarios for the start of the race. We need to have the weather system in our heads as well as the sail changes, which will be required over the first few hours. As there will be few tactics called for all in all, these manoeuvres and our choice of sail plan will be extremely important. The first few hours will be crucial, to position ourselves nicely ahead of the front. On the one hand we’ll have to be the first to hit fresh wind and also select our latitude so as we’re well positioned. The start of the crossing itself will be quite tactical and we’ll have to have our fingers on the pulse from the outset as it’s likely to be a drag race after that”, concluded Sébastien Josse.
*New York time equates to UTC-4 hours
The crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group
Sébastien Josse (skipper, helmsman)
Antoine Koch (navigator - helmsman)
Christophe Espagnon (trimmer - helmsman)
David Boileau (trimmer - helmsman)
Thomas Rouxel (trimmer - helmsman)
Florent Chastel (bowman)
The programme for the Krys Ocean Race
Saturday 7 July (1100 local time, 1500 UTC): START OF THE KRYS OCEAN RACE
Friday 13 July: first ETAs possible in Brest
Saturday 14 July (1800 UTC): Prize-giving for the Krys Ocean Race
Monday 16 July (0800 – 1500 UTC): Brest City Race (2 races scheduled)
Thursday 19 July (0800 UTC): Closing parade Tonnerres de Brest
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