Organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in association with the International Maxi Association & Yacht Club de France
Calero Marinas - Marina Lanzarote, Arrecife, Canary Islands to Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Marina, Grenada
A flotilla of spectator boats and a huge crowd in Marina Lanzarote witnessed the start of the 2023 RORC Transatlantic Race, which is supported by Calero Marinas, the International Maxi Association and the Yacht Club de France. In glorious conditions, the fleet got away to a clean downwind start, a mile from Marina Lanzarote. The RORC fleet were in full view of spectators along the seafront of Arrecife, Lanzarote’s capital. As the boats rounded the turning mark outside Puerto Calero, well-wishes shouted encouragement from a pack of ribs and an armada of cruising boats.
After passing under the volcanic mountains of the Los Ajaches National Park, the fleet raced through the narrow Strait of Bocaina which divides Lanzarote from Fuerteventura. The RORC fleet must leave Tenerife to port, before heading into the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The next mark of the course is 3,000 miles away across the Atlantic. Glover Island is just a few miles from the finish outside Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Marina in Grenada.
José Juan Calero, Managing Director of Calero Marinas commented at the start: “Nine years ago with the RORC, we decided to create a proper race across the Atlantic. Today, anyone in the world that wants to race across the Atlantic Ocean will be looking at this race. This year it has been so amazing to see the people of Lanzarote getting more involved. We had a thousand people in Marina Lanzarote to give the teams a great send off, and our complimentary spectator boat was completely full of 130 people watching the start from the water. This has been an amazing and beautiful experience; we are so very, very happy.”
Three powerful 70ft trimarans approached the line on port, but undoubtedly the smallest multihull in the race won the start. Vincent Willemart’s TS42 Banzai (BEL) approached the line on starboard, and with right of way, the trimarans respectfully gave way. Frank Slootman’s MOD70 Snowflake (USA), skippered by Gavin Brady, and MOD70 Zoulou (FRA), with Erik Maris at the helm, soon powered up. However, Giovanni Soldini’s Maserati Multi70 (ITA) was not the quickest in light airs, with its four foils more a hinderance in low wind speed. At 17:15 UTC Snowflake was achieving 18 knots of boat speed, a mile ahead of Zoulou, with Maserati four miles astern.
IRC Super Zero
Volvo 70 Green Dragon, skippered by Cathal Mahon got a cracking start near the pin end, but Volvo 70 I Love Poland, skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski was soon up-to-speed. Swan 115 Jasi (SWE) was a magnificent sight and was the first in class to pass the mark at Puerto Calero. At 17:15 UTC Jasi was through the Strait of Bocaina, three miles ahead of I Love Poland (POL). IMOCA 60 Canada Ocean Racing (CAN), co-skippered by Scott Shawyer & Alan Roberts was third.
Botin 56 Black Pearl (GER), sailed by Stefan Jentzsch, pulled off a stunning start at the pin end and immediately unfurled an enormous gennaker to take the lead on the water. By contrast, Eric de Turckheim’s NMYD Teasing Machine (FRA) chose the inshore end of the line. As the class leaders approached the turning mark at Puerto Calero, Black Pearl was clear away. Henri de Bokay’s Elliott 52 Rafale and Arto Linnervuo’s Infiniti 52 Tulikettu were in the chasing pack with Teasing Machine. A difference in tactics through the Strait of Bocaina saw Black Pearl go to the Fuerteventura coast along with Tulikettu and Teasing Machine. However, Rafale has split gybes heading north of the rhumb line, it will be interesting to see if their different approach pays off.
At 17:15 UTC, Laurent Courbin’s First 53 Yagiza (FRA), skippered by Philippe Falle leads on the water from Andrew & Sam Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra (GBR). Lionel Regnier’s Briand 58 L’Esprit D'Equipe was third.
Chris Jackson on board Pata Negra blogged as the sun set on the first day: “Great to start the race and be on our way. All settling in well on Pata Negra. The breeze is a little lighter than we hoped for, but there’s plenty of days to come for that to change. All happy aboard!”
IRC Two-Handed competitors in this year’s race are Kate Cope & Claire Dresser racing Sun Fast 3200 Purple Mist (GBR), and Peter & Duncan Bacon racing Sun Fast 3300 Sea Bear (GBR). Both teams have made a great start, with Sea Bear just ahead on the water, but Purple Mist leading after IRC time correction.
RORC CEO Jeremy Wilton watched the start from the water and spotted a fantastic moment when two historic round the world racing yachts were close-racing as they approached the Puerto Calero mark: “We have some great stories in this race,” commented Jeremy Wilton. “Penduick VI skippered by Marie Tabarly has been beautifully restored, which her father Eric would have been so proud of, and L’Esprit D'Equipe, winner of the ’85 Whitbread is a part of sailing history. The RORC want to attract the high performance boats like the MOD70s, Volvo 70s and the Supermaxi Swan 115 Jasi, but we also want the Corinthians as well. We want diversity and that is really evident in this fleet, with classic yachts and passionate two-handed teams like Kate and Claire on Purple Mist and Peter and Duncan on Sea Bear.”
“It’s fantastic to see the fleet start the race,” commented RORC Racing Manager Steve Cole. “In the build-up, we have had really good communication with the competitors who have given us all the information required in good time. This has allowed us to concentrate on other aspects of the race such as safety inspections. There have been a few tiny things that needed some attention, but all of the boats are well-prepared to cross the Atlantic. We now move to the next phase; monitoring the race 24 hours a day. We wish all of the boats fair winds and we look forward to seeing the competitors in Grenada.”
Image: A spectacular start for the diverse fleet in the 2023 RORC Transatlantic Race which set off from Arrecife, Lanzarote in the 9th edition of the 3,000 mile race to Grenada © James Tomlinson/RORC