Century-old race record falls

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Supermaxi Mari-Cha is one of six yachts in the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge to beat Charlie Barr’s mark

One of sailing’s oldest and most-coveted race records has fallen to Robert Miller’s 140-foot carbon fiber super-maxi Mari-Cha IV, winner of the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge from New York to England.

Mari-Cha, the world’s largest raceboat, finished the 2,925-mile course from Ambrose Light to The Lizard in 9 days, 15 hours, 55 minutes, 23 seconds — 2-1/2 days faster than famed America’s Cup skipper Charlie Barr’s record time 100 years ago on the 185-foot three-master Atlantic. Five other Rolex racers also beat Barr’s mark.

“The feeling on board was electric but also emotional,” said Miller after the finish. “Even though we have crossed the Atlantic faster on board this great boat, this has definitely been the toughest test yet for Mari-Cha IV and her crew. It has been a difficult, hard-fought crossing all the way, but now — I am pleased to say — a most satisfying one.”

Barr, skippering Wilson Marshall’s Atlantic in a race for the Kaiser’s Cup in 1905, finished in 12 days, 4 hours, 1 minute, 19 seconds — a race record that stood for a century. Steve Fossett’s 125-foot catamaran PlayStation (now Cheyenne), Mari-Cha and others have beaten Barr’s time before in solo trans-Atlantic record runs, but not in a race. PlayStation holds the overall record for the passage of 4 days, 17 hours, 28 minutes, 6 seconds; Mari-Cha holds the monohull record of 6 days, 17 hours, 52 minutes, 39 seconds.

Twenty yachts — all larger than 70 feet — started off Ambrose Light May 22 in a race organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the New York-to-England race record set by the legendary Barr. The race was postponed a day due to a depression off Cape Cod, Mass., that produced headwinds gusting up to 50 knots. Still, the race took its toll on crewmembers.

Mal Parker was reefing a headsail on Peter Harrison’s Sojana when his left arm was pulled into a winch, breaking it in two places. Sojana made for the island of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon south of Newfoundland, where Parker was dropped off and then flown to Montreal for surgery. Sojana rejoined the race. On Maximus, co-owner Bill Buckley fell and dislocated his shoulder. The crew had to sail downwind for a few hours while medics relocated the limb.

For more on the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, visit www.regattanews.com.