While the West Coast sailing scene celebrates Memorial Day with the running of a revamped Spinnaker Cup race from San Francisco to Monterey and an all-new multi-stage California Offshore Race Week, East Coast sailors are focused on the New York-Vendée solo transatlantic race beginning on Sunday and the Atlantic Cup doublehanded coastal race beginning on Saturday. Both feature world-class talent and take place in modern, high-tech boats designed for shorthanded offshore racing.
After the finish of the solo transatlantic Transat Bakerly and the America’s Cup World Series, Sunday’s New York-Vendée is just the latest in a string of major, high-profile international yacht races to take place in the Big Apple in May. The last major singlehanded race that the IMOCA Ocean Masters will campaign before their quadrennial crown jewel — this November’s Vendée Globe — the New York-Vendée will likely have more than a few surprises. With 14 IMOCA 60 monohulls on the line, including six of the new-generation semi-foiling designs, New York-Vendée features all of the big players who’ll compete in the upcoming Vendée Globe, which has the potential to be the fastest and most competitive edition ever. Racing across the Atlantic from west to east in the summer is when 24-hour distance records oftentimes get broken, and with half a dozen revolutionary new boats on the line, we’ll be watching this one with bated breath.
The pre-race favorite for the 3,100-mile New York-Vendée would have to be Banque Populaire skipper Armel le Cléac’h, who comes into the race riding a groundswell of momentum after winning this month’s Transat Bakerly and placing second on his maiden run with the new boat in last fall’s carnage-filled Transat Jacques Vabre, in which four of the five new-generation boats dropped out due to damage. Many thought the new Hugo Boss to be a total loss last November when it was floating low in the water with no mast while its two crew were airlifted to safety by the Spanish Coast Guard. No stranger to overcoming adversity, British skipper Alex Thomson and his distinctive new boat will — incredibly — be on the startling line Sunday in what will be his only true test run of the boat before the solo, nonstop, round-the-world Vendée Globe in November.
On Saturday, nine Class 40s will depart from Charleston, SC, to race 648 miles doublehanded up to New York. Once there, the fleet will regroup to race 360 miles up to Portland, Maine, beginning June 4. The third and final leg of the Atlantic Cup will be a series of inshore races in Maine, where each boat will sail with a crew of six.
Follow the action of boat events via their tracker sites: Click here for the New York-Vendée tracker and click here for the Atlantic Cup tracker. Then stay tuned to ‘Lectronic for updates on these two early summertime thrillers.