Nailbiter

I don’t exactly know what it is about maxi trimarans that completely captures me. It’s a feeling I’ve had since a child when I used to sail past the likes of Paragon, Apricot or even the mini-cat ‘Alien’ on the Lymington River in my little Topper dinghy and just marvel at the technology before me.

I’ve never had the opportunity to sail on one but would literally offer a kidney to do so and for the last 35-odd years every time I open Seahorse or flick around the internet I find myself an unashamed fanboy. I absolutely buy into the, probably apocryphal, story that there are legions of French schoolchildren whose only ambition in life is to emulate the likes of Loick Peyron, Franck Cammas, Marc Pajot and a hundred others of the absolute greats of French sailing, and get their hands on the fastest piece of multihull weaponry to make the oceans their playground.


Lady First 3, Mylius 60 owned by Jean Pierre Dreau © Lady First 3

The RORC Transatlantic Race has absolutely got me and it’s largely due to the multis dicing it out at the front of the fleet. Their speeds and sled records are something to just marvel at and the commentary and footage coming back from these ocean Goliaths are something that will live long in the memory.

81 year old Peter Cunningham’s ‘Powerplay’ (read that again slowly) has led since the start and played a clever tactical game keeping between Giovanni Soldini’s ‘Maserati’ (replete with its new sub-sponsorship by clothing brand Fila) and Jason Carroll’s hard-driving, never-say-die team onboard the absolute weapon that is ‘Argo.’

The middle line has paid handsomely for ‘Powerplay’ over the first five days but here we are on day six watching for an enormous cross as the southerly positioned Argo comes crashing into Powerplay’s rumb line and the tracker has Argo up by 20-odd miles whilst the wind overlay looks to show them in similar breeze. Powerplay is a smidge faster. I just can’t call it but will Argo squeak ahead in the dying embers of the race? That’s my day done just watching the tracker…

And what of Peter? Yes you read that right, he’s 81 years old and blasting across oceans with a team that you would literally die to sail with. That’s inspiration right there. The rocking-chair can hurry up and wait. I’m buying a mutihull in my late 70’s and to hell with the kid’s inheritance. Brilliant. Inspirational. Off the scale. Sell the house, the dog, the wife…the oceans await.


On board Multi 70 Maserati © Maserati/Giovanni Soldini

It’s a brilliant race. It should happen more often. The Atlantic Ocean is still, to my mind, a monumental challenge and something that I long to do on something fast, racy and scary. A multihull will do just fine but the boat that is stealing the headlines and winning the hearts of the sailing community is Comanche.

Currently she’s two days up (or thereabouts) on the race record and it’s a sail for the ages. Mitch Booth is driving it like a getaway car from the taxman. By the time they get to Grenada he’ll have blasted off the decals down the side. The Comanche crew of absolute all-out professionals clearly saw this race as one to not just win but obliterate and it’s a rare performance at the outer edge of monohull performance. They are miles ahead of the chasing pack. Amazing.


Comanche – Maxi 100 © Shannon Falcone/@racingSF

And hats off to the social media team at the RORC who are doing super filters and collating the onboard footage from the boats, packaging it up nicely and filling our timelines with real action.

There was a great one today from a stern-camera onboard the first Austrian team ever to run an Ocean Race campaign. Their VO70 Sisi was at full pace with the crew up on deck driving hard and it beautifully captured the desolate existence of ocean sailors far from land with belief in their steed. Brilliant stuff – congratulations to Myles Warden-Owen and his team at Cahto Communications who do the RORC social feeds such monumental justice.

PowerPlay’s owner, 81-year-old Peter Cunningham © PowerPlay

And great reporting too from Louay Habib who’s bringing the race to life in words. I particularly enjoyed the quote from Paul Larsen on ‘Powerplay’ when he said: “On the last daylight watch the wind hit double figures again. We gybed and headed south as Miles (Seddon) relayed the news that Maserati had overtaken Argo and was three knots quicker than us on the last sched. Nothing sharpens a racer’s focus more than news of lost miles. These light days suit us just fine… but there’s still 1,000 miles to go. With respect to our foiling hunters, never laugh at the crocodile until you cross the river…”

Brilliant analogy and it’s all eyes now on the tracker as Argo nears Powerplay’s line. It’s January, it’s cold, it’s dull, the wind’s all over the shop but thank goodness we’ve got the RORC Transat to keep us engaged and enthused.

Nice one RORC.


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