NEWPORT — David and Peter Askew’s Wizard, with Charlie Enright of Barrington as sailing master, continues to set a blazing pace and leads 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 that delivered strong southerly winds between 25 and 40 knots. Wizard covered 492 nautical miles in a 24-hour stretch. As of 10 a.m. on Monday, Wizard had 1,196 nautical miles to go to reach Cowes, Isle of Wight, England.
“We’ve had an awesome past few days,” said Wizard 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.”
In the stormy stuff Wizard was sailing with a reefed mainsail, J4 and storm jib staysail. Now the vessel is back to full mainsail, the J0 headsail and storm jib staysail. Wizard led David Witt and the supermaxi SHK Scallywag by 102 nautical miles in the race for line honors.
“The next challenge is the ridge of high pressure between us and the Lizard,” Oxley said. “There’s a double-stacked high, with one center off the Azores and the other further north. We’re aiming for a spot where we think we can get between the two. The breeze is going to get light but, fingers crossed, we’ll get through to the other side. We’re still looking at finishing the morning of July 6 in Cowes.”
While the leaders sail into lighter winds, the second half of the fleet is about to sail into stormy weather. A low pressure forming to the east of Nova Scotia will engulf them in the coming days with gale force winds of 30 to 40 knots, with gusts up to 50 knots.
The race started last Tuesday and the first week of sailing was tough as the fleet raced upwind in 20 to 25 knots of wind. But Sunday was a glorious day to race, as Hank Halstead of Newport reported.
“Greetings on a magnificent offshore night,” wrote Halstead, the navigator aboard Mark Stevens’ Kiva. “No moon but a full Milky Way of stars everywhere except to the west, where low pressure looms. What fun! The southerly filled in (Sunday) for a glorious ‘bluebird day’ of power reaching.”