july5 1sNEWPORT, R.I. - Eyes are glued to the tracker and bets have been laid for when the first two arrivals in the Transatlantic Race 2019 will reach Cowes.

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At midday UTC, Lee Seng Huang's 100-foot maxi, SHK Scallywag had just passed Portland Bill and was using her length and towering rig to defy both the current and apparent lack of breeze in the forecast. The Andy Dovell design was making 12 knots directly at Hurst Narrows and the western entrance to the Solent prior to the final 11 nautical mile leg to the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line off Cowes. She had extended her lead to 45 miles over David and Peter Askew’s VO70 Wizard, which at midday was nosing into Lyme Bay to the east of Start Point.

july4 1sNEWPORT, R.I. - On this July 4, when the U.S. celebrates Independence Day, the spirit of cooperation with “ye olde country” is alive and well in the Transatlantic Race 2019. Co-organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club, the race is a friendly reminder of the tight bond that exists between the two seafaring nations. First sailed more than 150 years ago in 1866, this is the 31st race across “The Pond” organized by the New York Yacht Club.

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“Our morning opened with playing the Star Spangled Banner, followed by America the Beautiful over the VHF Intercom, music thoughtfully provided by Bob (Langstine) and his iPad,” said Mark D’Arcy, navigator aboard Hiroshi Nakajima's Hiro Maru (top photo). “Chip (Adams) kindly distributed kazoo’s and adorned the mast with both the U.S. and Japan national flags to celebrate the day.”

july3 1sNEWPORT, R.I. — With the Irish coast just 200 nautical miles away for race leader Wizard at 1500 UTC today, the front runners in the Transatlantic Race 2019 might seem to be on the home straight, but there remain many hurdles and potholes ahead before they cross the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line this weekend.

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At present David and Peter Askew’s VO70 and Lee Seng Huang's 100-foot maxi SHK Scallywag (top photo) are attempting to find the best way to exit an area of high pressure just off Ireland’s west coast. Once free, the forecast warns of fickle headwinds for the final 160 nautical miles they must sail up the English Channel to Cowes.

Since late evening Monday the tracker has stopped functioning onboard SHK Scallywag. Positions are now being sent through manually from the maxi and at 1500 UTC this showed her having made major inroads into Wizard’s lead. On Monday morning SHK Scallywag had been trailing her rival by around 90 miles. At 1500 this afternoon this had dwindled to 38 miles, although Wizard was making better speed further from the high’s center.

july2 transat 1 sNEWPORT, R.I. - For the last three days the frontrunners in the Transatlantic Race 2019 have been striding across the North Atlantic at 20-plus-knot speeds, eating up the miles to Cowes in the strong southerlies - exactly the dramatic conditions and high octane experience their crews signed up for.

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Sadly, the big speeds and ‘yeehaa’ moments are soon to come to an end for the two frontrunners, David and Peter Askew’s VO70 Wizard and Lee Seng Huang's 100-foot maxi SHK Scallywag, at least. Already this morning, Wizard’s boatspeed had dropped from 20 knots to 15.

The reason for this slow-down is a ridge of high pressure centred off the west of Ireland that lies in their path. As Wizard’s navigator Will Oxley described it: “Wind speed is dropping, the sky is clearing and the barometer is rising. The sleigh ride is coming to an end and now it’s back to tactical sailing. The trick is to get into the high enough to use its shape to get a nice lift on the exit, while keeping enough windspeed to keep moving. Sometimes it feels a bit like Icarus - making sure we don’t fly too close to the sun (read ‘high’).”

july1 wizard sNEWPORT, R.I. — David and Peter Askew’s Wizard (at right) continues to set a blazing pace across the Atlantic, leading the fleet of 12 yachts competing in the Transatlantic Race 2019.

On Saturday, Wizard, the canting keel VO70 that won the 2011-’12 Volvo Ocean Race as Groupama 4, hooked onto a low-pressure system delivering strong southerly winds between 25 and 40 knots, and took off like a bat out of hades.

Wizard put up a 24-hour run of 492 nautical miles between 1230 UTC from Sunday to today. At today’s 1400 UTC position report Wizard had 1,196 nautical miles to the finish in Cowes, Isle of Wight, England.

“We’ve had an awesome past few days,” said navigator Will Oxley. “We’ve been staying on the low. It’s been quite wet and squally. We sailed a conservative plan for a day or two, but now we’re going to back to full noise. The breeze is down to 20 knots and there aren’t any squalls, so we’re able to use the full sail plan.”

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