For most of us, racing a 21-foot boat a thousand miles would be the adventure of a lifetime. For entrants in the Transat 6.50, it merely means that leg one is over, and you're now looking at the next 3,240 miles of Atlantic separating the Portuguese island of Madeira from the finish line at Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. The second start is Saturday, and American Clay Burkhalter has a good foundation to build upon in the race for best elapsed time for the full crossing.
Burkhalter arrived sixth in Madeira, 17 hours out of first and 6 hours out of fifth. With so much racing still to come, it's easy to imagine getting some of that back.
This is the 30th anniversary of an event that has launched a good many of Europe's top pros. The leader so far in 2007 is Frenchwoman Isabelle Joschke with a leg-one time of 5 days, 15 hours, 33 minutes. This is Joschke's fourth year in the class and her second "mini-transat". Her philosophy: stay at the helm as much as she is able, and – hold this thought – "The race starts in Madeira."
Here's Joschke on the right. If she can hold onto her lead, she will be the first-ever female winner of the Transat 6.50.
There are 46 entrants in prototype (custom) boats and 43 sailing series boats.
So, Clay, how close was the racing? At one point, he said, his Acadia, USA 575, broke a spinnaker halyard, and four boats sailed past him while he rigged the backup. USA 575 is the first American-designed Mini to enter the European Mini Proto fleet since a Tom Wylie-design, American Express, won in 1979.
The Editors of SAIL
But before we go, here's a look at the course . . .