Puma set for surprise handicap win

Ken Read's Volvo Open 70 second home and provisional winner of Transatlantic Race 2011

Monday July 11th 2011, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom

Puma's VO70 mar mostro followed George David's Rambler 100 across the finish line of the Transatlantic Race 2011 off the Lizard at 05:40 GMT today, skipper Ken Read and his Volvo Ocean Race crew completing the 2,975 nautical mile course in 7 days, 11 hours and 40 minutes.

But of more significane for the Puma Ocean Racing team, calculations, the race committee has confirmed that none of the 24 yachts still racing has a mathematical probability of beating mar mostro on corrected time, and they shall be declared provisional winners of IRC Class One and IRC Overall for the Transatlantic Race 2011.

“We entered the race with zero expectations, just like the other IRC handicap racing we’ve done this year,” commented Ken Read. “We wanted to learn the boat and the crew. Now here we are in the position of possibly winning a race that we didn’t expect to win! We are pleasantly shocked. We didn’t break anything, the sails held up, the team is certainly coming together, and there’s not a single negative to this race. It was a great experience.”

mar mostro reached a maximum speed of just over 30 knots early in the race, travelling 551 nautical miles on day three. By day five, however, light air slowed their pace towards the finish at The Lizard and the last several hundred miles were slow going.

“The finish was excruciating,” said Read as he detailed a bizarre twist to the finish. “We approached The Lizard knowing we had to get there quick because the current was about to change and go against us. As we entered the English Channel the breeze was dying steadily to the point where the current did change. Literally, when the race committee said we were finished, we were stopped and about to throw the anchor as we would have been going backwards with the current. ”

While mar mostro is now en route to the team’s summer training camp in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Rambler 100, which took line honors yesterday and established a new record with an elapsed crossing time of 6 days, 22 hours, 8 minutes and 2 seconds, has made its way under motor to Endeavour Quay, Gosport, where the Juan K-designed supermaxi will be based until the Rolex Fastnet Race next month.

Puma made it through the windless zone better than us,” commented George David, skipper of Rambler 100 who was quick to compliment Read and his team, who have frequently sailed with him on board as their new VO70 was in build. “Maybe they had a better roll of the dice or maybe they just outdid us. Puma’s mar mostro is a 2011-edition Volvo 70 and has a world-class crew, so to just lose out on handicap is not such a bad thing. Our time was the fastest average speed that any monohull has ever crossed the Atlantic Ocean and we have got to be very happy with that.”

Meanwhile back out on the North Atlantic where 24 boats are still racing, Jazz, Chris Bull's Cookson 50, has opened up a big lead on the other competitors in IRC Class Two. With 240 miles to go, Jazz expects to get to the finish line early evening Tuesday and have a cushion of about 270 miles over Varuna and Shatki.

“We have cracked sheets after having a light spot during the early hours and then we have been on the wind by mid morning,” reported Jazz navigator Mike Broughton. “The highlight of the morning has been a welcome onto the continental shelf by, at times, an escort of over 40 dolphins. Seeing groups of them speed in from the side at about 30-40 knots, then arc in to parallel our course and slow down on and ride our bow waves is an awesome sight that even the most seasoned sailors never tire of seeing.”

In IRC Class Three, Zaraffa, skippered by Huntington Sheldon, is in good shape for a class win and has just about 100 miles left to finish the race. Unfortunately, it could take some time yet as there is a complete lack of decent wind in the vicinity of The Lizard, so much so that Zarraffa is now well north of the rhumb line - in the Celtic Sea - looking to pick up breeze.

The leading boats in IRC Class Four still have over 500 miles left to race. Carina, the McCurdy and Rhodes 48, skippered by Rives Potts Jnr, is still leading on the water, but the Army Sailing Association’s British Soldier, with lighter displacement, has made up substantial miles. The British Army crew is 60 miles behind Carina, but the new wind is due to fill in from the west and British Soldier should get into fresh pressure before Carina.

In the Open Class, Maltese Falcon is struggling against her nimble rival Phaedo in the light airs. The 289ft Perini Navi weighs 1100 tons, while Phaedo is a mere 17. As a result Phaedo is nearly 200 miles ahead of Maltese Falcon with just over 100 miles to the finish.

As for the two Class 40s, Dragon has started reeling in Concise 2. “We have had one heck of an opportunity over the past 48 hours, riding what has seemed like a private seam of pressure,” said Mike Hennessy, who is sailing Dragon double-handed with Rob Windsor, while Concise has six in her crew. “As a result, we have clawed back something like 200 miles that Concise was able to put on us with their brilliant run in the middle of last week. Now comes the tricky bit, as our low pressure catches up to their high pressure. Are we far enough out on the leading edge of our system that it will pull us right up to their stern? How will the passing lanes play out as we cross below Ireland? Will we end up in the same mess they have been wallowing in? Questions to ponder over our oatmeal this very chilly morning.”

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