Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss and Yann Eliès’ Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir emerged from beneath the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the entrance to New York Harbour early this morning, the latest two arrivals in the Big Apple for next Sunday’s start of the New York Vendee Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode.
The two IMOCA 60s spent Saturday and Saturday night match racing down from Newport, Rhode Island, on a 150 mile long passage that took then along the south side of Long Island. The British and French crews were exceedingly lucky with the weather – while this passage is typically upwind, they enjoyed building downwind conditions thanks to a depression easing out into the Atlantic from Virginia.
Both boats spent the last few days moored at the famous Newport Shipyard in Newport, Rhode Island, one of the top yachting hubs of the US east coast. Normally the largest and most expensive grand prix yachts in most ports they visit, the IMOCA 60s were on this occasion alongside ship-sized superyachts and some of the world’s largest racing yachts.
“Newport really is the Mecca of sailing,” enthused Eliès. “It is ideal for boat maintenance, everyone there is ready to help and it has an amazing maritime culture. The yachts there are majesty. They dwarfed us!”
Five other IMOCA 60s, including the non-French entries No Way Back, skippered by the Netherlands Pieter Heerema, Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi on Spirit of Yukoh and US/New Zealand skipper Conrad Colman on 100% Natural Energy, will be delivered from Newport down to New York this week ready for Friday’s Currency House New York-Vendee Charity Race and Sunday’s start of the 3100 mile New York Vendee Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode.
Hugo Boss and Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir set sail from Newport at 1000 yesterday (Saturday) and reached New York at 0545 local time this morning. While they were part racing, in fact these two top IMOCA 60s were using the opportunity principally to do some two boat testing, especially interesting as Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir is a ‘conventional’ IMOCA 60 with daggerboards whereas Hugo Boss is a latest generation design with state of the art foils.
“It was nice for us because except for the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre we’ve never sailed against another boat!” admitted Thompson, words reiterated by Eliès: “Since we were leaving from the same place to go to the same place and we had the same objective – to do some testing on the way, we decided to leave together. I haven’t lined up with another IMOCA 60 since the boat was put back in the water. I also wanted to get back into sailing her singlehanded, even though I had crew on board with me. Alex more wanted to test the performance of his boat.”
On the way they saw up to 16 knots of wind and both skippers were pleased with the experience. However they weren’t being drawn on which boat was the faster.
As Eliès observed: “The differences weren’t that obvious. In terms of speeds, sometimes he was faster, sometimes me. I have never sailed side by side with a foiling IMOCA 60 with the new generation foil. I didn’t see a big difference between them and last year’s foils.
“When we arrived in New York early in the morning was absolutely magical. It was completely deserted, with a light breeze, we were able to sail all the way up to the Verrazano bridge and beyond to the Statue of Liberty. It was fantastic.”