NEWPORT, R.I. — Faster boats and advanced weather forecasting technology have dramatically changed how sailors approach long ocean races such as the Transatlantic Race 2019, which will start from Newport, R.I., on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, and finish off the Royal Yacht Squadron's iconic castle in Cowes, England.
A century ago, ocean racing was a reactive sport, sailors took what Mother Nature dished out as it came. Now, bigger and faster boats enable teams to attack a course, aggressively searching for the strongest and most favorable winds. Of course, it’s not without risk.
In the Transatlantic Race 2015, the Prospector team found itself on the leading edge of a powerful weather system for much of the 3,000-mile passage from Newport, R.I., to England.
“We always had good pressure and knew when we needed more it was just off to our left,” says Paul McDowell, one of a consortium of owners based out of Eastern Long Island’s Shelter Island Yacht Club. “Playing with that weather system, which we took to calling ‘poking the bear,’ was tricky though. For one 36-hour period we got a little too close and ended up sailing in some really difficult conditions; 40- to 50-knot winds with huge breaking seas. In those 36 hours, we learned a lot about the boat, our crew and what not to do next time. We all look back on that now with mixed degrees of fondness and relief to have survived it.”
For ocean racers, the relief peaks when crossing the finish line, but the fondness grows slowly and eventually becomes the predominant emotion. Which explains why the Prospector team, with more than two years to reflect on that race, was among the first boats to officially sign-up for the Transatlantic Race 2019 and continue a tradition that dates back to the first transatlantic sailing competition, which started from New York Harbor on Christmas Day 1866.
The Transatlantic Race 2019 will be the 31st race between Europe and the United States organized, at least partially, by the New York Yacht Club. The Transatlantic Race 2019 is organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, the New York Yacht Club, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club.