Roger Langevin and Branec IV finish – 14th June 16:49 UTC

Roger Langevin aboard Branec IV has arrived in Newport 2nd place overall but it remains to be seen if he or Asia Pajkowska and Cabrio 2 will take the Multihull Class title.

David Southwood, Race Director said, “Branec IV appeared over the horizon off Newport in a heavy sea and a force 7 wind. He was well reefed down with just an inner staysail set. At the end of his 18 day voyage he was forced to tack agonisingly through the finish line which he crossed with great joy at 12:49 local time. He paraded Branec IV through the harbour to traditional gun salutes from the yacht clubs and hooting from vessels moored in Newport Harbour.”

Andrea Mura arrives in Newport – 13th June 22:12 UTC

Photo credit: Billy Black - http://billyblack.com/

The mighty monohull Vento Di Sardegna stormed across the finish line at Newport Rhode Island USA with the delighted, ecstatic and exhausted Italian skipper Andrea Mura at the helm to claim victory in the Royal Western Yacht Club’s 2013 edition of the Original Singlehanded Trans-Alantic Race, OSTAR.

The threat of rain clouds and fading light could not dampen Mura’s joy at clinching his second Trans Atlantic victory in successive years to record the unique double of Two-Star (two handed) and OSTAR (solo) back to back.

The official time keepers stationed on the  finish line at Castle Hill, Race Director David Southwood of the RWYC and Norman Bailey of the host Newport Yacht Club recorded Mura’s finish time at 22:12 UTC (18:12 local time)  to give an elapsed time for the three thousand mile solo epic of 17 days 11 hrs 22 minutes at an average speed of around 7 knots.

Mura had regained the lead from Roger Langevin in the trimaran Branec IV ten days ago when 1600 miles out and stretched his advantage to 150 miles last Sunday when the first named storm of the 2013 hurricane season, aptly also named ‘Andrea’, slowed the front runners south of Newfoundland. The Frenchman tried every move possible to close the gap, often sailing close to the coast of Nova Scotia in search of a favourable slant in the breeze but Mura using all his stamina and experience covered all the moves and kept the door firmly closed. Langevin is expected in Newport on Friday afternoon.

Photos and a video interview with Andrea will be uploaded soon!

Bravissimo Andrea! 

Race report #10: Wednesday 12th June

Andrea Mura is on final approach to Newport with less than 250NM to go. We’re expecting him in at around 1930 UTC / 1530 EST tomorrow, 13th June. Billy Black will be out shooting photos and video of the finish and questions are being prepared for an interview as soon as Andrea has cleared US customs.

Current ETAs based on progress between position updates suggest Branec IV will sail in nearly 24 hours after the Italian’s finish. Many of the boats are taking a route very close to the Nova Scotian coast to avoid a bubble of low pressure. Roger Langevin reports mixed feelings about his return to this coastline where he suffered a dismasting in 2003 aboard Branec III. He and many of the other competitors will still have to contend with rain and strong winds associated with a depression developing in the Gulf of Maine.

Far to the east of the main pack, Ralph Villiger aboard Ntombifuti has reported a challenging couple of days spent becalmed in fluky winds but has already closed more than half of the distance between him and Eira Class leader Geoff Alcorn. He is now in much better airs and is averaging over 6 knots towards Newport, just north of the rhumb line.

Yesterday night it appeared that Asia Pajkowska aboard Cabrio II had caught up to the invisible line of Branec IV’s handicap and had taken Multihull Class lead. Roger Langevin has since reclaimed that title but it will surely be encouraging for Asia to know that if she continues to push herself and her boat, she’s certainly not out of the running for a class win.

Local favourite and the only US competitor, Jonathan Green continues to impress with his Beneteau Oceanis 351, Jeroboam. Having taken an early lead in the Jester Class at the beginning of the race, he should be arriving in Newport on the 18th June to a very warm welcome.

Fourteen days and getting colder by Jerry Freeman

The front runners of OSTAR 2013 are racing in the cool and shallow Canadian continental shelf waters after fourteen days of open ocean.  Race leader Vento di Sardegna passed to the north of Sable Island early on Tuesday. The name gives a clue to the constituents of this very low uninhabited bank lurking 90 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia where it has trapped many a ship. Andrea may have had a glimpse of the drilling rig ‘Deep Panuke‘ that is working to the west of the island.  Rig supply ships and fishing boats will present an extra hazard to the coastal shipping in this area which is renowned for its poor visibility. Sea temperature here is about 12 degrees and the air temperature is 10 degrees on Banquereau Banks buoy today.

Andrea Mura was able to extend his lead to about 150 miles on Sunday night as the storm passed over Vento while Branec was effectively hove to on starboard tack for few hours 35 miles off Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, in a strong to gale force south westerly.

Comparing the fleet’s progress at the end of fourteen days to the 2009 front runners gives a clue to the tough conditions they are facing this year; in 2009, La Promesse was just 526 miles from the finish against Vento’s 669 miles to go but a fast final sprint looks possible. In the 32 foot boats Hannah White in her Figaro Pure Solo was at 858 distant compared with Richard Lett in Pathway to Children at 1164 miles.

The absence of icebergs to the south of Newfoundland this season has encouraged all the boats to take a more northerly track but the saving in distance has not been enough to compensate for the less favourable winds. The south westerly breeze looks to be set in for a few days and a lot of tacking is in prospect. Spare a thought for Jac Sandberg in the smallest boat in the fleet, Spirit, currently laying fourth on the water. His track has taken him to the most northerly of the fleet at 50 degrees north a few days ago and you dont want to be up there as we all know what happens at 50 degrees north and 40 degrees west *. Jac is enduring the coldest conditions with sea temperature of seven degrees and although the air is six degrees with the wind chill it feels like two degrees, add a bit of fog or drizzle and you have the full set for Dutch ambrosia.

© gogospirit.com - Jac’s boat Spirit has a nice cuddy but no spray-hood so no doubt his time spent in the cockpit will be brief.

Several boats are experiencing electrical problems and are having to resort to back up pilot systems and hand steering while amps available for the computer are limited which is why less reports are coming back from the boats. Jac has been bragging about the efficiency of his methanol consuming Fuel Cell Systems but of course it does not generate any heat to warm the tiny cabin. Richard Lett has enjoyed a few hours of Eberspsacher heater to dry his socks and raise morale but it remains to be seen if he has enough fuel to repeat this luxury too often. Charles Emmett on British Beagle has charging efficiency issues and reports fuel rationing while Mervyn is at the helm of Tamarind and possibly heading for St Johns 320 miles distant to repair the pilot. Nico has ordered a mini USB cable from Amazon to re-charge his tracker battery but delivery may not be quick enough to get the Class 40 back on the chart.

The leaders may be planning their final days but the bulk of the fleet have the most taxing period of the race yet to come with poor visibilty, light head winds and increasing ship traffic to contend with. Sails and gear will be showing wear and tear and the bighting cold will sap any enthusiam for deck work.  There is still a very long way to go and thirty days is a respectable time.
* As Rudyard Kipling wrote;
WHEN the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren’t waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven’t guessed)
You’re “Fifty North and Forty West!”

Race Report #9: Monday 10th June

As of 0000 UTC the RWYC race office duties have been transferred over to the Newport, RI team. Banners and flags are going up and the Newport Yacht Club OSTAR office is open daily from 1000-1600. Race clothing is available but in limited supply so be sure to come in and see the team before they’re sold out!

In the Atlantic, the fleet continues to make good progress towards the finish with Andrea Mura on the Open 50 Vento Di Sardegna and Roger Langevin on his 53’ trimaran set to complete their transatlantic journey sometime in the middle of this week. Andrea Mura has recently moved up to 3rd place in the Gypsy Moth class, overtaking Nico Budel’s Class 40 sec Hayai.

Roger Langevin reported a frustrating night with uncooperative wind angles and heavy seas preventing a direct sailing course to Newport. Things had changed by the morning as winds shifted around to the north and he was happy to be pointing straight at the finish, at least for the time being.

Mervyn Wheatley aboard Tamarind has suffered an autopilot failure and is now hand steering towards St John’s, Newfoundland but is not retiring. He plans to carry out quick repairs and resume the race as quickly as possible. In the 2000 Europe 1 NewMan STAR, Mervyn had a similar failure and was forced to hand steer for 13 days.

Nico Budel’s Yellowbrick tracker has developed a problem and he is now reporting a daily position which will be added to the system manually. No cause for concern if he doesn’t appear to be updating as regularly as the other competitors.

Race Report #8: Saturday 8th June

On day 13 of the OSTAR, Roger Langevin reports from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland; mist, cold, oil platforms and fishing boats have all made an appearance as he says, “tradition requires”. The 53 foot trimaran Branec IV is holding on to 2nd place for line honours with just 45NM difference between him and Andrea Mura aboard Vento Di Sardegna who sailed into the lead early on Monday 3rd June.

With the tropical depression ‘Andrea’ working its way up the eastern seaboard, the race for line honours is still wide open. With just 900NM to go, both of these lead boats will find themselves headed by 30knot winds as they try to head south west towards Rhode Island.

In the east, Ralph Villiger is making good progress; he left the European continental shelf behind him around midday on Friday and continued into the deep waters of the Atlantic. Earlier today Ralph commented on his facebook page that he was becalmed just 60NM off where the Bismarck sank 72 years ago. Hopefully the weather will begin to cooperate and he will be back on the move again soon.

As of the 08:00 UT update, the tracker shows that the main body of the fleet is converging on the rhumb line, Asia Pajkowska on Cabrio II has rejoined the fleet from her long journey south and is making great progress despite her unfortunate 24hour delay caused by hydraulic failure in her steering system at the start of the race.

Jonathan Green on Jereboam continues to lead the Jester Class westward with Tamarind, British Beagle and Sunrise battling for the 2nd place position some 130NM behind.

Richard Lett and Jac Sandberg continue their epic battle at the top of the Gypsy Moth Class. Still separated by less than 30NM these two competitors have rarely been far apart but they need to keep the pressure on as Nico Budel’s Class 40 sec.Hayai is now thundering up from behind. Whether or not Andrea Mura can extend his lead sufficiently to take the lead despite his heavy IRC handicap is unknown. Pathways to Children, Spirit and sec.Hayai have around 1300NM to go and it looks like it might be an exciting drag race and a photo-finish.

Andrea meets Andrea!

The first named tropical storm of the 2013 hurricane season, aptly named ‘Andrea ‘
is currently drenching the Florida and the  Carolinas as it moves rapidly North along the Eastern seaboard of the USA.

Andrea Mura leading the Ostar fleet in his fifty foot monohull Vento Di Sardegna will encounter the downgraded  ex-tropical depression on Sunday as he crosses the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the winds are forecast to be in excess of 30 knots from the west and south west, and gusts will be much higher.
He may try to pass to the north of its centre along the coast of Newfoundland but there is the danger of being too close to the coast on a lee shore if the south westerly dominates.

The famous Newport Bermuda 1-2 starts on 8th June with 23 boats entered for the solo leg and they will be anxiously eyeing the weather for 19th edition of this biennial classic short handed race as southerly gales are possible with heavy rain.

RWYC race director David Southwood has set up base at Newport YC , with the assistance of Norm Bailey, Jill Southwood and Alex Burgis and the race office will formally open on Monday 10th June. The first boats are expected to arrive in the middle of the week. The Yellowbrick system is showing the boat’s ETA between late on the 11th through to the early hours of the 12th June.

Jerry Freeman

Race Report #7: Day 8 by Jerry Freeman

Eight days of racing has produced an interesting tactical battle at the head of the fleet between Vento and Branec as they pass the half way point, both are fifty footers but one monohull with better pointing ability and one trimaran with higher reaching speeds. Expect to see Andrea placing a loose cover on Roger as they work through the variable winds for the next day or so; tacks are likely to be made in stealth mode after a tracker fix to gain maximum surprise and separation and the Gulf Stream comes into play at fifty west.

Comparing their progress with the 2009 Ostar times; at the end of the first seven days the eventual winner, La Prommesse had 1500 miles to go and Vento had 1577 this time, Pathway to Children had 1792 to go compared to QII’s 1715 in 2009, so the pace is slightly slower but still very good as 2009 was an exceptionally ‘fast’ year.

The weather prospects for next few days are not great, Aeolius decided to give the fleet a second bashing over the weekend with a strong southerly ahead of a cold front laying north to south along 27 west longitude and to follow that with a frustrating four days of light and variable airs which will dramatically reduce the daily miles made good. The only solution in these conditions is to hand steer and trim for every wind change just as you would on a Sunday in the club races but this one is three days long not three hours.

Skippers have reported a few problems through water ingress and wear and tear that are reducing the efficiency of all systems. The electrical self-steering is most at risk and those with back-up windvanes have already put them into action while wind generators suddenly become vital power sources when the black boxes all fail. Accumulated gear failure over the next thousand miles may be the deciding factor in the final results.

Boats on the great circle and anywhere to north of the rhumb line have a greater chance of meeting shipping from and bound for New York and the Gulf of St Lawrence as they route from the Newfoundland to Bishop Rock(Scilly Isles) and they may be travelling at 18 to 20 knots, the AIS and Sea Me are invaluable for solo sailors in these situations allowing perhaps a one hour nap before radar targets set off the proximity alarms.

For students of the psychology of the open ocean the enormity of the challenge is beginning to sink in as the boats end their first seven days at sea and there is a daunting 1000 miles to go until the  Newfoundland Grand Banks. Dividing the task into manageable bite sized chunks is useful as the half-way mark is approaching which is traditionally celebrated with an enormous curry feast and the opening of cards and gifts from family and supporters when a solitary tear may be shed.

Douglas Adams regrettably never did the OSTAR but had he done so I am sure that he would have said; ”The North Atlantic is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.”

Jerry Freeman 04/06/2013

 

Race Report #6: Tuesday 4th June

The last 48hours of the 2013 OSTAR have seen some exciting developments. Early updates on Monday 3rd showed Andrea Mura closing in on Roger Langevin’s position. Around midday the two 50 foot yachts were less than 20NM apart and Mura had finally overtaken and reclaimed his first place position. Late on Tuesday 4th, Mura had extended his lead on the trimaran to over 40NM and it seems that the match race for Line Honours has truly begun.

Almost 400nm to the north east of the two lead boats, the Gypsy Moth class leaders Richard Lett on Pathways to Children and Jac Sandberg on Spirit have continued to sail consistently and despite Spirit being forced further north during the strong winds of Sunday, they are once again neck and neck with less than 10NM difference in their distance to finish. Third place in the class is currently held by the Italian Open 50, Vento Di Sardegna who still owes a lot of time to the smaller boats.

Late on Tuesday, the tracker update showed Ralph Villiger on Ntombifuti had set sail, put Brest behind him and is ocean bound. He’s enjoying a favourable 10-15knot wind from behind the beam which is forecast to continue for at least the next 20hours. Hopefully this will aid in him closing the nearly 600NM gap which now stands between him and the rest of the fleet.

Jonathan Snodgrass reported on his dismasting and repair progress. In the early hours of Wednesday 29th, Lexia’s foremast failed and Jonathan was forced to cut it free to prevent hull damage. Falmouth coastguard offered assistance but Jonathan insisted on returning to Falmouth under his own steam. Having since returned to Plymouth, he has ordered a new mast and suit of sails and is planning to re-join the race early next week.

Race Report #5: Sunday 2nd June

As a big front hits the furthest west of the fleet from the SSW, winds of up to 37knots and waves up to 6m are forecast. This front will pass over the tracks of most of the boats with only Asia Pajkowska on Cabrio II too far south to feel its full effect.

Andrea Mura (Vento Di Sardegna), currently holds second overall just behind Roger Lagnevin (Branec IV) with only 0.3NM difference in DTF between them. Mura has travelled much further south than Langevin and will be experiencing less of the forecast gale force winds.

An exciting race has developed between Pathways to Children skippered by Richard Lett and Spirit skippered by Jac Sandberg. With just 32NM between them, they are the most northerly boats in the fleet and will experience some of the roughest conditions over the next 24hours. Sandberg owes Lett time on handicap so a real battle will be fought between these two smaller boats.

Jonathan Green, skipper of Jeroboam is still leading the Jester Class ahead of OSTAR veteran Mervyn Wheatley on Tamarind. Green has shown an impressive performance so far by keeping up with boats in the class above such as sec.Hayai, the Class 40 skippered by Nico Budel who is taking a longer route.

The Jester Class race itself is exciting to watch as they approach the 2000NM to go mark, there is currently less than 170NM between first and last place boats.

Ralph Villiger of Ntombifuti has reported making good progress on his repairs and hopes to be back on the course soon with his sights set on catching up to Eira Class leader, Geoff Alcorn (Wind of Lorne 2) who is on his second OSTAR. Villiger estimates Alcorn may have up to 600NM on him when he leaves Brest but is determined not to see his OSTAR journey come to an end in France.