Today the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona race set sail at 1210 local time. On the start line directly off North Cove Marina in the shadow of the One World Trade Centre, newly built on the site of Ground Zero, it was GAES Centros Auditivos and Team Neutrogena that got the best start in the light conditions, making the most of the ebb on the Hudson River, the banks of New York’s famous waterway lined with spectators.
But in a great display of tactical prowess it was Hugo Boss, sailed by American-Spanish crew Ryan Breymaier and Pepe Ribes, that headed off to the left side of the course. They benefitted from the best current close to Governors Island. As the rest of the fleet was becalmed in the centre of New York Harbour’s Upper Bay, the silver IMOCA 60 was able to slip past the fleet, into first place.
Hugo Boss was first to reach the turning mark off Ellis Island, some three minutes ahead of the French crew Marc Guillemot and Morgan Lagravière aboard Safran with Spain’s Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin on Gaes Centros Auditivos holding third in turn just over two minutes ahead of Team Neutrogena.
Once under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the boats were heading for a mark at the entrance to the channel leading towards New York harbour. This mark is in the same position as the Ambrose Light and it is from here that the record passage between New York and Barcelona will be measured.
As the boats now head out into the Atlantic, tactically the next 24-48 hours will be among the race’s most crucial. To minimise the chance of contact with icebergs the race management team has including an ice zone the boats are prohibited from entering, which extends all the way down to 40degS. So the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona boats are now heading due east, but directly in their way is a depression, centred some 650 miles off the coast. As a result the boats will encounter building northeasterly winds the further offshore they sail tonight and will have to make the decision to head north or the south of the depression.
After arriving into New York only yesterday morning, the repair work and preparations for the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race have still not been completed on Nandor Fa’s Spirit of Hungary. However the Hungarian team did officially start the race on time today. Co-skipper Marcell Goszleth explained : “The plan is to start with the fleet and do our best but after the start we informed the jury and the race committee that we suspended racing and we have now come back to finish all the repairs before we continue on. We hope to leave as soon as possible.”
Hugo Boss’ Ryan Breymaier commented: “It looks like it will be quite light today, but as it is bright and sunny this afternoon we’ll get a nice sea breeze to get us out of the harbour and along the Long Island shore for the first afternoon. Then we’ll head offshore to try and get into more gradient wind.”
After making a reasonable exit from New York Harbour, Neutrogena’s Guillermo Altadill also believed reaching the gradient wind was crucial. "One of the keys to the race will be entering that as soon as possible after losing the influence of the coastal heat/sea breeze.”
According to GAES Centros Auditivos’ Gerard Marin, how crews handle this first depression could be one of the only tactical choices of this Atlantic crossing: “Afterward, it seems to be simple and quick to Gibraltar, a horse race without tactics,” he says.
Morgan Lagravière, experienced Figaro sailor turned IMOCA 60 rookie, sailing aboard Safran was looking forward to the light conditions at the start. “That will make our lives easier, as during the first hours racing, your body needs to re-adapt to life at sea. Also, we’ll be going from very comfortable conditions to rather Spartan conditions in cramped quarters.”
As to the time it will take to get to Barcelona, Ryan Breymaier reckons to 10-11 days to Gibraltar and 13-14 days in total, whereas Neutrogena’s Guillermo Altadill predicts 15 days to the finish in Barcelona. Marc Guillemot thinks 8.5-9 days to Gibraltar and possible another four to the finish.