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The Transat is Back

Experienced Frenchman Thomas Coville is a favorite to win the rejuvenated Transat race. Photo courtesy of Sodeb’O

Experienced Frenchman Thomas Coville is a favorite to win the rejuvenated Transat race. Photo courtesy of Sodeb’O

Back in the late 1950s a small group of British sailors got together and came up with the crazy idea of racing each other across the Atlantic, singlehanded. The Observer newspaper stepped in with sponsorship, and in May 1960 five intrepid sailors started the Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race, or OSTAR—the genesis of singlehanded ocean racing.

Sir Francis Chichester won that inaugural race from Plymouth, England, to New York. The race was held quadrennially from then until 2008. It grew in popularity through the 1960s and 1970s, peaking in the 1972 edition when an amazing 125 skippers entered the race.

In 2004, the Observer’s involvement ended, as did the race’s Corinthian aspect. Renamed the Transat, the event was restricted to professional sailors. Forty boats entered the race, which finished in Boston instead of New York. In 2008, just nine skippers entered, and with advent of the recession that was the end of that.

Until now. The rejuvenated Transat has a new sponsor in French baked goods company Bakerly LLC. It will again finish in New York, where it will be hosted at the One 15 Brooklyn Marina. At time of writing it had attracted 24 entries, including five Multi 50s and three Ultime class trimarans—the most powerful racing sailboats on the planet.

These 105ft boats cost in excess of $8 million and can hit speeds of 50 knots. They can be sailed fully crewed, doublehanded or solo, and require skills of the highest order. Their skippers are some of the most talented sailors in the game. Young superstar Francois Gabart, on MACIF, set a new record while winning the last Vendée Globe race. Thomas Coville on Sodeb’O has broken records in both monohulls and multihulls. Yves Le Blevec (Team Actual) is an accomplished Multi 50 sailor who has stepped up into the big league.

You can follow the race on thetransat.com, but be quick because the big boats will only be on the water for a little over a week—a far cry from the 40 days it took the 1960 race winner to cross the Pond.

MHS Summer 2016

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