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2013 – First 24 Hours Recap from The Expert

May 12, 2012

So it’s been an interesting first 24 hours so far in this iteration of the Atlantic Cup presented by 11th Hour Racing.  The start was in a beautiful 12-15 kt easterly and all the boats seemingly got off the line cleanly, lead by #116-Icarus and #17-Transport Coherence, both of whom timed the start beautifully and had a big advantage from the get go.  The biggest surprise of the start was seeing #115-Mare and #54-Dragon being at back of the fleet as both boats are very well sailed and it seemed like they either misjudged the amount of current at the start or opted for a conservative  start to a long leg.

The fleet stormed towards the first (and only) turning mark very tightly bunched and fighting for inside position at the mark to be in a controlling position for the beat out of the harbor. Unfortunately, 40 Degrees #90 had a rig failure at the mark and were forced out of the first leg prematurely.  All were ok onboard, but it must have been pretty distracting for the boats being that tightly bunched with a rig tumbling down right beside them!

The fleet continued their march out of Charleston harbor and the lead boats of the start did well to stay in front through the narrow tacking angles created by the harbor.  The incoming and outgoing ship traffic made things interesting and there was a ton of action with multiple close crosses for all the boats.  Once freed up from the confines of the harbor, the long tactical game began and it’s been interesting to follow the progress and decision making so far.

Before the start, the weather models showed a pretty light air first night for all the teams.  This lead to some speculation that some of the boats might head directly east and try to get into the maximum favorable current provided by the Gulf Stream.  That would require the boats to sail a fair bit more mileage so it didn’t seem like there was a solid consensus as to what the best option would be; better current or less miles along the rhumbline.  It seems like there was more breeze last night than initially forecast so there was no major move east, and all the boats remained fairly tightly bunched throughout the evening. The high pressure road block around Cape Hatteras, however, began to influence things today as some of the boats slowed to a crawl and a slight bit of fleet separation has begun.

#101-Campagne de France have continued their masterful first bit of sailing and have maintained the lead they acquired early on and have stayed somewhat in the middle of the course.  However, a small pack of boats, including #115-Mare, #118-Bodacious Dream and the surprisingly quick #73-Toothface have started a transition further east and might be picking up a bit of helpful current as it seems like they have gained on the main pack.  #54-Dragon is a bit back but seems like they are trying an even more aggressive easterly path to try and avoid the high and grab some current push.  There also seems like a small pack of boats including #30-Initiatives and #109-TALAN Bureau-Veritas that are trying to hug the shore.  This might be an interesting play as it seems like the breeze past Hatteras will be stronger inshore and it might be favorable to be the closest to shore when the breeze fills after the high.

Right now it’s tough to make a definitive call and I’m sure the tension levels are very high on all the boats as the weather is so unsettled ahead.  Each team is capable of winning this leg and only #101-Campagne de France has so far shown any real advantage.  I think the next 12-15 hours are going to be crucial to the outcome of this leg as there is so much unknown around the high pressure and the first boats to get through the transition are going to have a huge advantage as they push up the coast.

Stay tuned to the tracker on www.atlanticcup.org for realtime updates and we’ll try to make sense of the coming days events!

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