On May 11, a great ocean race will be departing from Charleston, S.C., and no, I’m not talking about the Volvo Ocean Race. The Atlantic Cup will soon be here, and 14 Class 40s are set to do battle in a doublehanded series up the U.S. East Coast. Departing Charleston on Friday, May 11, the fleet will speed northeast, finding the Gulf Stream Current to help propel them towards the first leg finish in New York City. After a short break and Pro-Am Race in New York Harbor, the fleet will depart on Leg 2 from New York to Newport, R.I. Once in Newport, a day of fully crewed racing will crown the overall Atlantic Cup champion. The unique format, as well as a cash prize for the winner, has attracted many of the world’s best Class 40 sailors.
Some of the sailors you may already know. Miranda Merron is one of the world’s most accomplished female offshore sailors. She’s competed in the Volvo Ocean Race as navigator on EF Education and set the outright record for the Around Britain and Ireland Race on the Open 60 Aviva. Her co-skipper, Halvard Mabire, has competed in five Whitbread races and has an astonishing 32 Transatlantic Races under his belt. Merf Owen is a famous designer of shorthanded offshore yachts, including Ellen MacArthur’s Open 60 Kingfisher, as well as Mike Golding’s many Open 60 yachts. For the Atlantic Cup, Merf will be sailing Dragon, his own 2008 Class 40 design, with Long Island sailor Mike Hennessy, who was runner-up in the 2011 Atlantic Cup and last year’s Transatlantic Race.
Most of the sailors, though, are not yet household names. Since it’s inception in 2004, the Class 40 was designed to allow cost-effective access to the world of professional shorthanded sailing. Many of the sailors in this race are young and are using the Atlantic Cup to gain experience in the hopes of moving up to the Open 60 Class. Boston-based sailor Jesse Naimark-Rowse is the youngest American to ever complete the Mini Transat, and now teamed up with Stephane Le Diraison on TALAN-BUREAU VERITAS,_ will be looking to improve on his third place Mini Transat result. To do so, they will need to beat Atlantic Cup veterans Ben Poucher and Tim Fetsch, who will again be sailing _Icarus on loan from the U.S. Merchant Marine Sailing Foundation. Tim is a well-known boat captain to Annapolis-area sailors and has been busy prepping Icarus with Ben during his spare time. Elsewhere in the fleet is Englishwoman Hannah Jenner on 40 Degrees. At 31, Hannah is the only woman to ever skipper a Clipper ‘Round the World yacht, but she’s not the youngest female skipper in the fleet. That honor goes to American Emma Creighton, who at 27 was the only female to complete last year’s Mini Transat.
With all of the assembled talent, the Atlantic Cup is going to be a compelling race, and race organizers are using every available means to bring the action to the public. Following the lead of the Volvo Ocean Race, most boats will have an embedded media crewmember onboard. As one of the media crewmembers, it will be my job to provide running commentary on the action throughout the race. Since the Atlantic Cup doesn’t have the financial resources of the Volvo, we will be relying on social media to bring you the action. Real-time updates from the boats will be posted to the event’s website, as well as on our Facebook page, and Twitter (@TheAtlanticCup) feeds. I’ll also be sending along photos and video when we are in range of cellular signals, and a daily blog will be posted here on Sailing World.
The boats have assembled in Charleston; the crews are making their final preparations, and the event newsfeed is up and running. Come join us on a great offshore adventure! The race begins at 6pm on May 11 from the Charleston Maritime Center. If you’re in the area, come to the official pre-race party, proceeds of which will go to the official race charity, the Boomer Esiason Foundation to help in the fight against cystic fibrosis.