The crews of the two matched IMOCA Open 60 Estrella Damm and W-Hotels set out today from Ambrose light, at the mouth of New York Harbor, on their way to set a new record between New York City and Barcelona, Spain. Both yachts are carrying a mixed Spanish-American three-man crew. The passage is expected to take about three weeks.
In a weather briefing on Wednesday, meteorologist and veteran ocean racer Marcel van Triest said the weather conditions look set to provide the crews with a fast start, with winds off Ambrose Light out of the southwest around 17-19 knots. With luck, van Triest said, they will be able to ride these winds, and the frontal system spawning them, until Saturday or Sunday.
“The key for the crews will be to stay ahead of the weather front, and they should be able to do that for the first 48-60 hours. It will certainly be fast and wet to start with, and they will have to work hard to stay ahead of the front for as long as possible,” van Triest said.
After that, said van Triest, things are going to become pretty light for a time in a transition area, which will be made easier the farther north they are.
As for the crews, they couldn’t be happier.
“We have had a very good time in New York, but we are itching to get going,” said Estrella Damm crewmember Alex Pella, shortly before their departure. “The weather looks pretty good for the first four or five days with southwesterly winds. Then there will be a shift to the northwest, then there may be a bit of a stop, or not, that is not very clear. The first four for five days will be a question of straightforward speed, and then some strategy will be required after the shift…. If everything is OK, in nine or ten days we could be off Gibraltar.”
“The earliest we could leave was [Tuesday] and we have been ready to go since Sunday,” said Pella’s teammate, Stan Schreyer, whose wife is about eight months pregnant. “All the preparations were made to go Monday, so the past couple of days have been quite relaxing…. I do hope we sail fast enough so I don’t miss the baby!”
Although the two boat are both funded by Spain’s Fundaci Navegaci Ocenica de Barcelona, which also organizes the doublehanded Barcelona World Race, set to take place Dec. 31, the two crews said they are very much in the crossing to win, and that they don’t expect to communicate out on the water. This past weekend, the boats staged an inshore regatta on New York Harbor as they continued preparing before going to sea.
The New York Yacht Club is also supporting the record, and hopes a number of other boats will attempt to better it in the years to come. For more on the record, click here. SAIL's Web site will also be posting reports on the two boats throughout the passage.