Sunday, 1 May 2016

Transat 2016

It's hard to imagine a preoccupation more quintessentially White and European than the 3,000 nautical mile, east-to-west, single-handed Transat yacht race from England to the USA.
The race is held every 4 years and is organised by the  Royal Western Yacht Club of Plymouth. Transat 2016 will commence from the port of Plymouth at 2.30pm on Monday 2 May as the boats, along with their solo skippers, begin their grueling voyage to New York. 
The Transat is the oldest and first solo Transatlantic race to be created, the first edition starting from Plymouth in 1960, and is now one of the most important events in the professional racing calendar. Blondie Hasler, the founder of the Transat in 1960, spelt out a simple vision for this now historic race - “one man, one boat, the ocean.
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.
The skippers.
The actual course steered is the decision of the individual skipper, and the result of the race can hinge on the chosen route:
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

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