Chris Gartner Sets His Sights on the Transatlantic

You read about Chris Gartner, the captain of Maltese Falcon, in the Starting Line of our July/Aug 2011 issue. Here is the complete interview.

Sailing World

Maltese Falcon

Onne Van Der Waal

This summer, 30 teams will compete in the Transatlantic Race—the first of three starts is off Newport, R.I., June 26. The flagship of the fleet is Elena Ambrosiadou’s 289-foot Maltese Falcon, for which captain Chris Gartner has high hopes. “We all wanted to put Maltese Falcon to the test, as she is a phenomenal sailing machine,” says Gartner, who’s been handling the neoclassical clipper since its launch in 2006. “We hope to better the 24.9 knots of boatspeed we hit in a full mistral in the Gulf of Lyon.”

Here's the rest of Michael Lovett's interview with Gartner.

How old are you?
Chris: 46 years young

Where do you live when you're not aboard the boat?
C: Antibes, France

How did it come about that MF entered the Transatlantic Race?
C: We all wanted to put the Maltese Falcon to the test as she is such a phenomenal sailing machine and we know she would be perfect for this race!

Does the race coincide with the boat's long-term cruising plans?
C: No, it really has put a dent into our summer program but since we were in the Caribbean until May it happened to work out perfectly for us to sail in the Transatlantic Race.

Will the owner be aboard, or did somebody else charter MF for the race?
C: Elaine Ambrosiadou will be sailing on the Falcon for the Race.

When was the last time MF went racing?
C: We raced in the St Bart's Bucket this year and we had a very nice time racing with so many other fast and beautiful yachts and we managed to impress the fleet once again with how well a 289 foot, Three masted DYNA Rig can go to weather and sail around a race course with the other boats!

As captain, do you look forward to racing the boat, or is it a pain in your butt?
C: NO, it is not a pain in the butt as I love to race and racing the Maltese Falcon with the crew that we have will surely be a wonderful experience! As part of TEAM MALTESE FALCON I am looking forward to this more than anything that I have been involved with as the Trans Atlantic Race will allow us to prove what a great blue water sailing yacht the Maltese Falcon is!

How do preparations for the Transatlantic Race differ from those you make prior to other passages?
C: Our preparations prior to this race really do not differ much to what we do when we set the boat up for any blue water passage as we always have the same frame of mind when we do these passages, SAIL FAST!

Will you be leaving any cruising toys like the submarine, for instance at the dock?
C: We are still working on this but the weight savings are marginal for us, about 1% of the ships 1100 GRT so we will probably race with our tenders in place which also keeps two big tender bays enclosed on the bow of the boat. By the way, the submarine is not longer part of the boat's inventory.

I read that MF once hit 25 knots in a 60-knot puff. What was the scenario? Is that as hard as you feel comfortable pushing the boat?
C: Actually it was 24.9 knots with only the three lowest sails set in 60 knots of wind and yes that was really pushing it then but five years later I know that Rob Bell the Co-Captain and myself are much more experienced in sailing the Maltese Falcon so we will be much more comfortable and we hope to better our 24.9 knots of boat speed that we hit in a full mistral in the gulf of Lyon!

How hard will you push the boat during the Transatlantic?
C: This depends on our friend Mother Nature but we want sail fast!

What are your goals for the competition?
C: Sail safe, very fast and to sail across the finish line before RAMBLER 100!

What would be optimal conditions for MF in the Transatlantic?
C: True Wind Angle= 130-135 degrees, True Wind Speed= 29-39 knots, Apparent Wind Angle= 95-100 degrees with big following seas and very little rain averaging 18 knots.

How do you depower?
C: We have two ways to depower, ease out on the sheets which means rotate the rig and dump the pressure or bear away and strike the sails. The first way is the way we depower if we have a lot of sail area up in gusty conditions, we like to say it is very similar to sailing a dinghy when you are overpowered and you dump the sheets, the only difference is that the Maltese Falcon is 289 foot dinghy.

Is there a set order of sails that you furl?
C: Yes, we furl by striking the sails from the top down. The Royals, then the Top Gallants, then the Upper Topsail and then the lowest sail on the fore and main mast called the Course and the Crossjack on the mizzen mast. The Lower Topsails are our storm sails which we use in the worst conditions.

Other adjustments?
C: No

How do you trim the sails?
C: By easing or trimming in on the sails which on the Maltese Falcon means to rotate the masts clockwise or counter clockwise depending on what tack you are on.

Are there ways to adjust the sails other than rotating the mast and furling/ unfurling?
C: We can tighten or loosen the outhauls on each sail to make them more full or flat which does help out in light or heavy conditions.

Have you been looking at weather patterns, etc, in advance of the race?
C: We have been looking at the weather models but we will start to concentrate on that when we get to Newport around the first of June.

Where are you now?
C: 150 nautical miles off of Cape Hatteras having a beautiful sail in the royal blue waters of the Gulf Stream, life is great when sailing on the Maltese Falcon.