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Coming to America…..

The Transat CIC is set to bring solo ocean racing’s biggest, most modern IMOCA and Class40 fleet to the very heart of New York City.

The city of New York is inextricably linked to the long history of solo ocean racing. Some years before anyone had really worked up the idea of racing solo around the globe, in 1957 English yachtsman Colonel Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler proposed a solo race across the Atlantic from Plymouth to New York.

And so on June 10th 1960 the Observer Singlehanded TransAtlantic race set off with five intrepid solo skippers starting off Plymouth, not all on the day. Racing the biggest boat in the fleet, the 40 footer Gypsy Moth III, English yachtsman Francis Chichester won, crossing the finish line in the approaches to New York after 40 days 12 hours and 30 minutes. Remarkably all five of the starters finished, French pioneer Jean Lacombe on his 21.5 footer Cap Horn reaching New York fifth after 74 days having started three days late and taking the most southerly route close to the Azores.

When he won the second edition of the OSTAR, contested in 1964, 32 year old French naval lieutenant Eric Tabarly ignited France’s enduring national love affair with ocean racing and solo adventures at sea. On the 44ft ketch Pen Duick II, which he had built for the race, and following a carefully calculated route which was the result of his comprehensive pre-race weather studies, Tabarly finished into Newport three days before England’s second placed Chichester. Tabarly had never used his radio during the race and for 19 days of his passage had no self-steering.

This historic transatlantic race has variously finished in New York, Newport Rhode Island and Boston over the years. New York offers so much, not least passing the Statue of Liberty and arriving in the ‘city that never sleeps’ docking against the Manahattan skyline. But the Hudson River is a very, very busy stretch of water to bring a race finish but bringing ocean racing right to the very heart of one of the world’s richest and most dynamic cities has a huge appeal.

To the heart of the city

So it is both appropriate and exciting that The Transat CIC 2024 solo race from Lorient will finish into New York, just as the very first pioneering race did in 1960.

New York has a long and proud maritime and sailing history. The New York Yacht Club was founded in July 1844 when John Cox Stevens and eight New York yachtsmen met about his new yacht Gimcrack off the Battery at the foot of Manhattan Island. Stevens served as the first commodore who went on to be part of a syndicate which owned America which won what became the America’s Cup in 1851 in England. And, of course the NYYC held the America’s Cup until 1983 when they were defeated by Australian and the club continues to play an important role in the popularity of sailing in the city and out of Newport where they have their famous Harbor Court base.

New York has many marinas, sailing and boating facilities and recreational sport is popular. After they finish the Transat CIC race, the raceboats will be berthed at the ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina in the heart of Brooklyn Bridge Park, between Piers 4 and 5, very close to Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights. With a fleet of 33 IMOCA 60 yachts including many of the latest, cutting edge foiling designs representing nine different nations. Competing in this fleet will be James Harayda who will race under the US flag and 13 of the latest Class40s which includes Italians Alberto Bona (IBSA) and Ambrogio Beccharia (Alla Grande Pirelli) who will be among the favourites to win. As such this will represent by far the biggest and most significant gathering of modern ocean racing yachts to be hosted in New York for many years and it will represent a great draw to sailing, boating and non-sailing fans alike to come and visit the race fleet after their race. Hopefully this new activity might inspire more young, and not so young American ocean racers to pursue solo and short handed racing and perhaps even compete in the next Transat!

Harayda flies the stars and stripes

Gosport, England based James Harayda, at the age of 26, will be one of the youngest skippers on The Transat CIC. He is looking to complete his qualification for the Vendée Globe solo round the world race which starts in early November this year. In Autumn 2022 he completed the solo Route du Rhum transatlantic race from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe but missed most of the 2023 races due to technical problems with his IMOCA.

Harayda’s father is American and his family lived in Dallas when he was young and more recently has spent three seasons professional sailing out of Newport RI.

“I am super excited to be coming back to America, this time with my own boat and my own programme. Two of our partners are American, both based in New York. Ashursts are a major law firm with offices there so we plan to engage with the team in the New York office. They are quite excited. But I think there is something unique and special racing into New York Harbor, that iconic skyline. That is something I have always wanted to do.” enthuses Harayda, “It will be so exciting to see the city from the water. It will be so welcoming. And I hope that our presence will inspire other Americans to get into this kind of sailing. Right now you can count the number of American boats which do this kind of racing, and indeed sailors, on one hand. I am not sure why that is -perhaps the distance from France which really is the epicentre of solo sailing – but I think being there will be big thing. And we have a few things planned bringing guests in and showing them the boat and explaining the kind of racing we are doing will really help spread the word.”

“My preparations have been good. It has been a long time since I did a race. We had a longer winter than planned and so got a lot of work done in terms of the reliability of the boat and the ergonomics. We have not managed to do that much in the way of performance upgrades. We hope to do some of that in the build up to the Vendée Globe but in the mean time it is about making the boat as bullet proof as possible. And for me I just need to spend as much time on the boat as possible, sailing and racing.” Harayda highlights.

All welcome, inspiring for the future

Historically many prominent American solo sailors have competed on The Transat over the years. Rich Wilson, a NYYC member, is the only American to have completed the Vendée Globe twice. He has very fond memories of his formative challenges on The Transat and he believes the activity in the heart of New York will be big boost for US offshore sailing.

He is really looking forwards to welcoming the fleet: “ The Transat CIC carries on the historical legacy of the original race that really began single-handed ocean racing: the Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race, the OSTAR. I had the pleasure and huge challenge of sailing on two of them. In 1988, in a little 35’ Newick/Colpitt trimaran “Curtana”, and in 2004 in the Irens designed 50’ trimaran ‘Great American II”. It’s an incredibly challenging course: upwind for 3,000 nm, starting at 50deg N, through the gales, and fog, and across the Grand Banks, and the icebergs, and I remember most of all the the cold, cold, cold.  In preparation for the Vendee Globe 2024 one could not devise a more challenging, almost cruel, race!”

Other prominent American skippers who plan to be in town and believe The Transat will be great for ocean racing in their home country and beyond, include the winning skipper of The Ocean Race, Charlie Enright who says, “It will be amazing to see so many IMOCAs, and friends, in NYC this spring. This really showcases the strength of the class and the bright future that lies ahead. The American audience should do all they can to check out this impressive scene while it’s here in our home waters.”

And Italian American Francesca Clapcich skipper of UpWind by MerConcept who has set her sights on the 2028 Vendée Globe enthuses, “Having the IMOCA fleet finishing in New York for the Transat CIC is great - getting these boats on my home waters! Interest in offshore sailing in the USA is growing, thanks to 11th Hour Racing Team winning The Ocean Race - the first American team to do so - and more recently the huge audiences following Cole Brauer in her Class 40. The Transat CIC finish will be a chance for Americans to see more of our sport - high performance racing in high-tech, state-of-the-art raceboats. The fleet is full of the most incredible talent and I’ll be following the race closely as my long-term goal is to be racing in the 2028 Vendée Globe - solo, non-stop, around the world.”


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