Typical trade wind sailing has so far characterized this year’s ARC, making for fast passages for those at the front of the fleet.
Several well-known boats are on this year’s entry list. Rothmans, the Swedish-flagged super-maxi is a Whitbread Round the World veteran; ex-Challenge round-the-world boats Challenger 4 and One Hull took the start in Las Palmas as well. Phaedo, a carbon-fiber 66-foot Gunboat, recently out-dueled Maltese Falcon, the world’s largest sailing yacht, in last summer’s TransAtlantic Race.
Vaquita, the Akilaria 40 that despite her diminutive size was one of the very first arrivals, was skippered by owner Christof Petter. Christof’s crew included Andreas Hanakamp, ex-skipper of Team Russia during the 2008/09 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Andreas’ company ‘Segelwelt’, based in Austria, has been managing the Akilaria 40 campaign now for a couple years.
“It’s all about expectations,” he says. “The goal, whether it’s the Volvo or an event like the ARC, is to achieve success, however it’s defined.”
“For a lot of people, an Atlantic crossing is the Mount Everest of sailing,” Andreas went on. “There are a lot of ‘traps’ sailing across an ocean or competing in a big regatta, and I try to spot them and avoid them.”
Christof, with Andreas, campaigned the boat last year as Wesailforthewhale, in ARC2010. Andreas likes to partner his projects with good-for-the-world causes, and both efforts in the ARC were run in conjunction with the ‘Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society’ (WDCS), as was his campaign aboard Team Russia
Andreas’ attitude, which he thinks is perhaps the most important aspect about all of the sailing projects he manages, is decidedly optimistic. He exudes a kind of unique passion for the sport – he cares enough that he and the Vaquita crew took the boat out to the finish line to watch Scarlet Oyster arrive, not because he knew them (he didn’t) but, he says, with a definite sparkle in his eye, “because they sailed the boat so well we just wanted to give them a really good welcome.”
Several of Andreas’ contemporaries participated on other boats. A few ex-Volvo racers were onboard Polina Star 2 and Med Spirit, (among others) while the crew of Triumph, a Swedish-flagged Baltic 64, included ex-Ericsson 3 skipper Magnus Olsson, one of Sweden’s most beloved sailors. Magnus made history in the 08/09 Volvo by winning the race’s longest-ever leg, which included a Cape Horn rounding en route to Rio, with an all-Nordic crew, many of whom were racing round the world for the first time.
“I’m too old now to do the high level racing – nobody wants an old guy anymore – so for me, this was a very good opportunity to do something that I love,” Magnus mentioned. He was kneeling on the dock next to Triumph, helping his wife mend Triumph’s genoa.
“I was asked by a group of eight guys, ‘Magnus, can you help us to arrange a sail across the Atlantic?’ I said ‘well, I can probably do that!’” For the group, who had previously sailed with Magnus and Skip Novak to Antarctica (and who had actually been to Everest), an Atlantic crossing was on their bucket list.
“My ambition was to teach them a little bit more about ocean racing, ocean sailing,” he said. “I pushed them fairly hard, and they have enjoyed that.”
“I think it’s important that ARC is a competition,” Magnus said. “It makes it more fun, makes it more exciting for the nerves.”
For his part, Andreas Hanakamp believes that the chance to sail with ‘legends’ like the Volvo sailors is a motivating factor for some to sail in an event like this. Indeed, Magnus already has another group tentatively lined up for ARC 2012
Phaedo, the bright orange catamaran who edged out Vaquita by a few hours across the finish line, is sailing in her first ARC. But it’s her third trip across the Atlantic just this year. Her owner, Lloyd Thornburg, has been aboard for all three, including this past summer’s TransAtlantic Race from Newport to England. Which is interesting, because as Lloyd admits, Phaedo was actually designed and built as a cruising boat.
“We came into that [race] really sort of last minute,” Lloyd offered. “We had the racing bug but we were also kind of exhausted. Then the new captain of the Maltese Falcon was on the dock in St. Barth’s talking about how excited they were about the TransAtlantic Race and on and on and on. [Phaedo’s captain] Paul and I got to talking and it sounded really really cool.”
Phaedo, though miniscule in comparison to the Falcon, was ultimately classed against her in a head-to-head, no handicap race-to-the-finish over the 3,000-mile course, a race that also included the likes of Rambler 100, and the Volvo 70s Abu Dhabi and Puma’s Mar Mostro, some of the highest-profile racing boats in the world.
“We changed leads four or five or six times,” Lloyd went on.
“She was ahead, we were ahead, she was ahead. Towards the end, it was blowing maybe 30+ knots. We still had the full main up and the screecher, we were absolutely screaming, doing 20+ knots all the time, surfing. We did a 385 nautical mile day. When the Falcon passed us to leeward, she had done a 405 nautical mile day,” Lloyd continued excitedly.
“We saw her in the fog. It kind of looked like a ghost ship, all you could see was the skeletal structure of the mast and the crossbeams. You couldn’t see the sails, you couldn’t see the boat, you just saw this like skeletal structure on the horizon. That was really cool.
For Lloyd, building Phaedo was a chance to design his dream cruising boat to take him around the world, and quickly.
The ARC was a chance to relax and enjoy a crossing for a change. Instead of constant trimming and hand-steering, he and his crew let the autopilot do the work and usually waited until daylight to make sail changes.
“The worst moment for us was when we ran out of ice cream,” he joked.
The ARC is many different things to many different people. To some, the idea that a 12-metre family cruiser can cross tacks at the start line with some famous boats and sailors is what makes the ARC so unique an event. It is the opposite of major high-level ocean racing, which according to Magnus Olsson is “becoming so professional and so expensive, so you get less and less boats in most of the regattas, which is not so good.”
For Andreas Hanakamp, the ARC, like all of his sailing projects, is about realizing expectations, promoting a good cause and helping others fulfill their dreams, something Magnus Olsson can surely relate to. For the crew of Phaedo, it was a chance to relax after a brutal racing schedule, yet still enjoy the friendly competition.
In the end, Magnus perhaps summed it up best. “We’re all going to talk very good about this event. We’re all going to say, ‘this was a great thing, ARC is good, well arranged, well run in all of the ways. I think the whole thing has become a big success, the owner is happy, the group is happy, I am happy!”