I am not called the Nautical Nomad for no reason. I just left Newport, RI, the self-described sailing capital of the world, after a whirlwind month leading up to the start of the Bermuda Race. I saw Dorade through a mini refit, prepped her for the race, raced in the New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, and in my "spare" time took two very different tours: the replicas of Columbus' ships, the Nina and the Pinta, which were visiting nearby Bristol, and the maxi trimaran Spindrift Racing. I am now sitting in my hotel room in Bermuda, surrounded by screens of various sizes, awaiting the arrival of the rather slow-moving race fleet and trying to nail down all the logistics involved in shipping a boat to the Med and running a race campaign over there.
First, let's cover the fast boat I toured. Spindrift Racing was tied up at Newport Shipyard patiently awaiting a weather window to make an assault on the transatlantic record. This MOD70 trimaran and her Banque Populaire crew broke the Jules Verne round the world record in 2012. Doña Bertarelli and Yann Guichard refitted the boat with a shorter rig to enable them to carry more sail area in more breeze, and needless to say the boat is a beast. If the weather gods play nicely by their cutoff time at the end of August, Yann, Doña and their crew of ten have a great chance of besting the current transatlantic record time (3d 15h 25m 48s), which would mean an average speed of more than 32.94 knots!
If that isn't mind-blowing enough, next on Yann's agenda is the singlehanded Route du Rhum race in November, which runs from St Malo to Guadeloupe. Try to imagine handling an almost 70 foot trimaran by yourself that is capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots and takes one person nearly two hours to gybe... well that is beyond me for sure. But speaking to Yann about it, you would think he was undertaking nothing more complex than crossing the road.
In order to handle a third of an acre of sail area, Yann plans to replace the standard coffee grinder pedestal with a bike to harness the max power output from his legs. I quizzed both Yann and Doña on their fears for such a powerful machine being handled by a relatively small human being, but both were incredibly calm. The project is immaculately run with no expense spared, they trust their team and the boat, there are systems in place to prevent pitchpoling at high speeds when the pilot is driving, and the boat is fast enough to outrun the gnarliest of weather systems. Impressive doesn't even come close to describing this boat and these sailors—or the fact that they co-skipper such an intense project and remain committed companions in life as well.
For more info and updates about the transatlantic record attempt, visit Spindrift Racing.
The Nina and the Pinta
At the opposite end of the speed scale are the Columbus Foundation's replica ships, the Nina and the Pinta. These two tour ports together to educate people about the new world discovery voyages that Columbus undertook in 1492. Nina, the smaller of the two vessels, was built entirely with hand tools—not a drill or jigsaw in sight. She therefore boasts to be the most historically accurate replica ship in the world. The Pinta came later and, being larger, was built with a little modern assistance. Both ships are definitely worth a look, and the volunteer crews have nothing but love and enthusiasm for their mission.
Nina is just 65' long, but on one of the original voyages they crammed 100 men on board. Accommodation for the crew was whatever space they could find among the supplies and live animals that took up most of the space below. With a total sail area of 585 square meters, she is a far cry from Spindrift Racing. But without the bravery and ambition of the nautical explorers throughout history, perhaps there would be no such thing as transatlantic record breaking attempts.
For more information, visit the Columbus Foundation.
Stand by for more tales as I pack my bags and leave Bermuda, bound for the Med.