But while the principle behind the race remains the same, a new generation of ocean racing machines sees a classic reborn in 2016. Giant Ultimes, flying Multi50s, powerful IMOCA60s and hardy Class40s, helmed by some of the world’s finest solo sailors, could make for one of the fastest crossings yet.
This year’s race has attracted a star-studded line up of offshore greats, from the likes of Vendée Globe competitors Sébastien Josse and Armel Le Cléac’h in the IMOCA60, to Transat Jacques Vabre winner Erwan Le Roux and Route du Rhum winner Thomas Coville on the flying multihulls and seasoned offshore competitors Miranda Merron and Thibaut Vauchel in the Class40.
Between the two cities, competitors will be alone faced with the towering waves of the Atlantic, blinding fog, ferocious winds and the danger of ice drifting down from the Arctic. The fleet will spend anywhere between eight and 18 days at sea, dependent on the boat. Racing upwind for the majority of the race, The Transat will be a hard slog for the skippers. Frequent rest, good nutrition and staying hydrated will be key to staving off fatigue and staying in the game.
- Rhumb line
- The shortest route on paper — i.e. on a Mercator projection chart — is a route which steers a constant compass course, known as the rhumb line route; this is 2,902 nautical miles. This lies between 40 degrees and 50 degrees north, and avoids the most severe weather.
- Great circle
- The actual shortest route is the great circle route, which is 2,810 nautical miles (5,200 km). This goes significantly farther north; sailors following this route frequently encounter fog and icebergs.
- Northern route
- It is sometimes possible to avoid headwinds by following a far northern route, north of the great circle and above the track followed by depressions. This is a longer way, though, at 3,130 nautical miles (5,800 km), and places the sailor in greater danger of encountering ice.
- Azores route
- A "softer" option can be to sail south, close to the Azores, and across the Atlantic along a more southerly latitude. This route can offer calmer reaching winds, but is longer at 3,530 nautical miles (6,540 km); the light and variable winds can also lead to slow progress.
- Trade wind route
- The most "natural" way to cross the Atlantic westward is to sail south to the trade winds, and then west across the ocean. However, this is the longest route of all, at 4,200 nautical miles (7,780 km).
By Dr Eigenvector