In late July two giant trimarans, Banque Populaire 5 and Groupama 3, set out from Ambrose Light off New York, their bows aimed for Lizard Point on England's southwest coast, both bent on breaking the fully crewed west-to-east Transatlantic record. The record, set by Franck Cammas on Groupama 3 in 2007, was 4 days, 3 hours, 57 minutes and 54 seconds, a pace so quick that both teams needed a perfect weather window-big breeze and relatively flat seas-to succeed. When that window opened both boats gunned it, with Groupama 3 leaving some two and a half hours before the newer, bigger BP5. Both boats are massive (Groupama 3's LOA is 103 feet, while BP5's LOA is 131 feet), both crews are highly experienced, and for several nail-biting days onshore pundits "watched" as the two speed machines screamed across the Pond.
BP5 managed to shatter the 24-hour record for distance sailed by a crewed boat, which had previously stood at 794 miles, set by Cammas on Groupama 3 in 2007. Pascal Bidegorry and his BP5 crew ticked off a mind-blowing, World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC)-ratified 908.2 nautical miles in 24 hours; that's an average speed of 37.84 knots.
If this doesn't impress you, consider that BP5 carries 11,410 square feet of sail when flying her full main and gennaker. For comparison, most conventional cruisers average perhaps 6 knots offshore and would take 20+ days to sail the same passage. So why are these G-class trimarans so fast? Part of the reason is their size, but another reason is that they are quick enough to stay with-or outrun-weather systems, allowing them to constantly sail in optimal conditions. Our trusty cruiser would likely enjoy a day or two of good breeze before the weather systems rolled them, leaving lighter winds in their wake. - DAVID SCHMIDT
Back to the "race." While Groupama 3 started before BP5, the big blue trimaran quickly passed its smaller rival. BP5 held the same tack the entire way (and only traveled 40 miles more than a rhumbline great circle course), sailing in big winds that allowed her to hit a top speed of 47.15 knots. These conditions propelled BP5 across the Pond in a mere 3 days, 15 hours, 25 minutes and 48 seconds (WSSRC ratified; that's an average pace of 32.94 knots), an improvement of 12 hours 32 minutes and 6 seconds over Groupama 3's record. Amazingly, Groupama 3 finished just 10 minutes astern.
Big Cat Hits
Another chapter in America's Cup history was written this summer when defenders Alinghi launched this strangely beautiful mega-catamaran, Alinghi 5. The wave-piercing bows are but one of the revolutionary features; check out the S-shaped daggerboards. But here's the real shocker: Alinghi 5 uses an engine (deemed legal in court) to power her hydraulic systems, including her winch package.
The cat will square off against BMW Oracle Racing's challenger, the equally large trimaran nicknamed DoGzilla (DoG = Deed of Gift), next February. The 33rd defense will take place in Ras-al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, not far from Iran. The battle of the egos has begun. - DAVID SCHMIDT