The four-boat Atlantic Cup fleet is proving every bit as competitive as expected, with the boats remaining in visual contact for much of the first 24 hours after leaving Charleston, South Carolina, bound for New York City.
The start on Sunday morning was a spectacular one, with the closely matched, double-handed Class 40s all blasting off the line and then reaching past historic Fort Sumter under deeply reefed mains in 20-25 knots of breeze.
Early Monday morning, Gryphon Solo, Dragon and Pleiad Racing all gybed in quick succession for Cape Hatteras, while No. 116 waited a bit longer in an effort to dig in a little deeper into the Gulf Stream.
In another development that could have a major impact on the race, the crew of No. 116 ripped their larger A2 spinnaker and are now finding themselves forced to race with a much smaller downwind headsail.
At midday on Monday, the fleet was forecast to arrive in New York City some time Tuesday, in what is expected to be an exceptionally fast downwind race. While there the fleet will be joined by a fifth Class 40, Flatline, which was unable to take part in the opener.
The second of the three stages comprising the regatta will then begin on Saturday, May 17 with another offshore, double-handed race to Newport, Rhode Island. The regatta will conclude with a fully crewed inshore series on Narragansett Bay over Memorial Day weekend, May 24-25.
“The weather for this year’s offshore leg from Charleston to New York is going to prove a fun chess match, but a dicey one with luck being a part of the equation,” said Charleston sailor and three-time solo circumnavigator Brad Van Liew. “The good news is that it looks to be an interesting leg with a predominantly southerly breeze, and aside from a periodic thunderstorm, it doesn’t look to be a boat breaker of a Cape Hatteras rounding.”