The Other Side of the Dock: Leg 2 from Initiatives
The Other Side of the Dock: Leg 2 from Initiatives
Sailing World’s roving big-boat correspondent Ryan O’Grady recaps Leg 2 of the Atlantic Cup, where he served as the media crewmember onboard Initiatives.
In life, there are the haves and the have nots. The same dichotomy exists in Atlantic Cup Class 40 sailing as well. On one side are teams like Germany’s Jörg Riechers. Jörg came to Charleston armed with the newest and most expensive Class 40, a shore team, and the resources to be able to fly in some of the world’s best crews for Leg 1 and this weekend’s inshore series. Thanks to the generous backing of his sponsor, Mare, there is funding for a Class 40, a Mini, and all of the logistics needed to make things run smoothly. It’s no surprise then that Jörg has finished first in Leg 1 and second in Leg 2 of the Atlantic Cup. He’s a fantastic sailor, and he has the luxury of not having to worry where tomorrow’s funding will come from.
On the other side of the dock are Americans Emma Creighton and Rob Windsor. At 27, Emma became only the second American woman ever to complete the grueling 4,200-mile Mini Transat Race. Prior to that, Emma got her sea legs by working as a delivery crew and captain. Yet with thousands of ocean miles under her belt, she couldn’t find any fully crewed American offshore programs to take her. “They’d take 18-year-old guys who had never been offshore before to race,” Emma says, “while I’d only be called for a delivery.” Determined to beat the boys’ club at their own game, Emma got her hands on a Mini, a 24-foot, singlehanded boat popular in France, and began racing it on the West Coast, placing third in the doublehanded Pacific Cup. She then moved to Europe to find the competition and financial backing needed to properly support a Mini campaign and more. For Emma, the Mini Transat was a huge accomplishment. She was the only female to complete the race, and one of the few mostly self-funded teams to complete the race. Gear donations from Ronstan and Samson helped, as did financial support from the Richmond Yacht Club. The French press is taking notice, too, as Emma became a bit of a media darling after the Transat. She needs that fame if she can hope to break into the world of French sponsorship. Without it, her goal of competing first in the Class 40 circuit, and later in the Barcelona World Race will be daunting. Emma was only able to compete in the Atlantic Cup by bartering for the use of Tanguy De Lamotte’s Initiatives in return for delivering it from the Solidaire du Chocolat to the start of the Quebec to St. Malo Race. “When I got the boat, it was just sitting on a mooring.,” Emma joked. “There weren’t even any dock lines, so don’t break anything!”
Rob Windsor, of Centerport, NY, shares similar aspirations to Emma. As a sailmaker for Doyle Sails in Long Island, Rob was first exposed to Class 40 sailing when Doyle began building sails for Mike Hennessey’s Dragon. Rob soon found himself as Dragon’s part-time project manager and Mike’s co-skipper in the inaugural Atlantic Cup. With a victory in that event, Rob was able to arrange a spot with Fabrice Amedeo’s Geodis sailing team for 2012. According to Rob, that program was to have included the Quebec to St. Malo race as well as the Atlantic Cup, providing him with the global exposure needed to secure funding for his own Class 40 project. Rob’s hopes were dashed, however, when Geodis shattered a bulkhead on its delivery to Charleston after the Solidaire du Chocolat. With the boat stuck in the yard, Rob was high and dry for 2012, until a phone call from Emma a few weeks ago. “ I had met Emma in Mexico where the Class 40s were,” Rob said. “Since she was the only other person who spoke English as a first language, I thought I should go and introduce myself to her.” They hit it off and soon enough, Emma asked Rob to join her as co-skipper of Initiatives for the 2012 Atlantic Cup.
As one of the least-funded teams in the Atlantic Cup, a good result was critical to help grow their global sponsorship resumes. With a gut-wrenching 10th place finish in Leg 1, the duo was determined to break the top five in Leg 2 and prove that even with an older, underfunded boat, they could still hang with the top teams. With light air forecasted for the 221-mile leg from New York to Newport via Barnegat, NJ, redemption would require patience.
Leg 2 started with around 8 knots of downwind breeze and a good ebb tide to help push us out of the harbor. A conservative start put us in the back row, so redemption would require some smart plays in the wind shifts and currents of New York Harbor. After close crosses with Mare, Icarus, and Dragon, Rob and Emma had managed to pull to the front of the fleet by the time we reached the Verrazano Bridge. Passing Icarus, we were close enough to be able to lob a few good-natured insults back and forth. While the American teams were all close on shore, at sea it was a battle to the very end, and we hoped to put Icarus in our rearview mirror soon. Now the question was how close to shore to go for the run down the Jersey coast. Dragon and a few others opted to go as close to the beach as they could, while we chose to remain about three miles off the coast with the majority of the fleet. In the light air, positions changed with every wind shift. We must have passed Mare and Icarus three times each. By the time we all reached the turning mark at dusk, Bodacious Dream and Dragon, who had remained inshore, rounded in front of Icarus, as well as Mare and us who too rounded just in front. Icarus was so close that we could hear Tim Fetsch shouting to Ben Poucher: “OK, you’re a bow guy now. Wait, now you’re a trimmer. Hey, turn your light to red!”
We needed to get away from these guys just to get some peace and quiet. Ahead of us was about 180 miles of upwind sailing. The question was to tack to starboard and head for the Long Island shoreline or continue on port out to sea. Our pre-race routing suggested that if the wind was greater than 10 knots, more wind would be offshore, and the breeze at the time was 9.8 knots. That seemed close enough to 10 for Rob and Emma, so offshore we went. In our camp were Bodacious Dream, Mare, and Icarus. Dragon, Campagne de France, and a number of others chose to head for shore. The first big roll of the dice had been played. In a day we would know who was right.