PLYMOUTH, England — The 2016 Transat bakerly yacht race fleet left the south coast of England on Monday and set course for New York City.
Some of the competitors will make the 2,050 nautical mile journey in just over a week while others may take a month, but all the skippers accept the challenge of crossing the North Atlantic alone.
There was no shortage of pre-race nerves as the sailors prepared to cast off from Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour Marina ahead of the starting gun, fired at 14.30 hours by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent. Gray skies pregnant with rain and a stiff breeze across a building swell gave a foretaste of what was to come.
Sebastien Josse (pictured right), who is helming the Imoca 60 Edmond de Rothschild, summed it up for all in the 24-strong fleet. He knows that ocean racing is a unique sport that pits human endurance against the elements.
“I am in the mindset of someone who is about to experience very demanding times physically and mentally,” he said. “The Transat bakerly is not much fun but I am very happy to be here.
“I know I am going to be cold and it’s going to be tough, but I know why I am doing it. I want to do well and I am just thinking through all the things I must not forget and the mistakes to avoid.”
His fellow Frenchman Armel Tripon on the Class40 entry Black Pepper was just as realistic about the task ahead. “Although I slept well I feel I have a little ball of nerves in my stomach but it will disappear once I am on the water,” he said.
Event Director Herve Favre commented: “This race is one of the classics in solo sailing… I am delighted to see this hugely competitive fleet of sailors on state-of the art racing machinery now taking on The Transat bakerly 2016 and we wish them all the best for the undoubted challenge that lie ahead.”
The fleet is divided into four classes and each will produce an official winner of The Transat bakerly. The fastest boats are the giant trimarans of the Ultime class (as pictured top), three of which are battling it out for line honours, with the first expected to reach the finish at New York in a bare eight days — weather, as always, permitting.
They are the glamour entrants that captivate French yachting enthusiasts.
Behind the leaders comes the five-strong fleet of smaller Multi50 trimarans which could traverse the “pond” in 12 days, alongside the six IMOCA 60s — the state-of-the-art monohulls used in the Vendee Globe solo round-the-world race that starts later this year.
The slowest boats will be the smaller monohulls of the 10-strong Class40 fleet which should take around 15 days to complete the course but they will fight in a tight boat-for-boat racing formation.
Although size distinguishes the various competing yachts, they all will face the same weather challenges. Strong winds, storms and possibly gales with a chance of icebergs for those who take a more northerly course.
Somehow you get the feeling they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Transat bakerly 2016 race fleet will cross the finish line off the new ONE15 Brooklyn Marina in New York.