Cookson 50 dominates RORC Transatlantic
Nothing was going to stop them. When Swiss sailor Franco Niggeler’s crew won the 2018 RORC Transatlantic Race in December, they did so despite calling into Cape Verde to deal with an electrical problem, and later having to put out a fire on board.
Their win in the Cookson 50 also cemented this design’s incredible reputation offshore. The Farr design may be over 12 years old, but the Cookson 50 continues to win in blue riband events such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and Rolex Fastnet Race. Kuka3 dominated this edition of the RORC Transatlantic on handicap.
The Swiss team did have one not-so-secret weapon: for this race Kuka3 was skippered by Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermúdez de Castro. Chuny Bermúdez is one of the best ocean racers in the world. He has competed in seven Whitbread/ Volvo races and is held in particular esteem for his ability to make Volvo 65s go fast.
Bermúdez enjoys sailing the canting keeled Cookson 50; he told us in Lanzarote before the start that it’s because you can sail them very similarly to the VO65.
“To me, it’s really similar to sailing a Volvo boat, it has a lot of the same systems.”
For this race Kuka3 has had two years of further optimisation with a reduced sail wardrobe, designed to be simple to handle with a small crew. And there were a few more Volvo style additions which included robust custom built frames around the twin wheels, each with a dedicated MOB alert mounted to it.
Owner Franco Niggeler says: “Another big improvement against standard Cookson 50s is that our canting keel is electrical driven and not directly by the motor.”
Niggeler previously owned the custom design Kuka Light, which mainly raced in the Mediterranean. Bermúdez said he had emphasised safety above all, because few of the crew had transatlantic experience before the race. “For me safety is about performance, because if everybody feels more safe then
you can really push to the limits.
“I was really impressed with the guys, especially as some of them are a bit new to offshore racing,” he reported after the finish.
“Five days before the finish we also had a fire on board which we dealt with very well. Everybody went straight up on deck and we used the extinguisher. However, we were without communication for days and it was a really big test for us.” First home of the monohulls was Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s supermaxi My Song, which set a new monohull race record of 10d 5h. The biggest yacht in the race by some 60ft, the Baltic 130
My Song did not set out to challenge the record, previously set by Finot-conq 100 Nomad IV – instead the owner wanted to deliver his yacht to the Caribbean for a season of cruising. Navigator Nacho Postigo’s original brief was to pick a route that wouldn’t result in any breakages. But perfect conditions put My Song on track for the record, and the 22-strong crew pushed hard enough to shave just over an hour off the course time.
“The conditions were the best I’ve ever had across the Atlantic,” commented Postigo, “Every night was just brilliant, with plenty of stars, the wind always between 16-22 knots – perfect.”
The closest contest was between the two
70ft trimarans, Powerplay (formerly Concise, now owned by Peter Cunningham) and Maserati. The latter’s skipper, Giovanni Soldini, has been working on converting his Multi 70 to foiling mode for over a year now, but on the delivery to Lanzarote the trimaran hit debris in the water which broke away one foiling rudder, leaving Maserati with an asymmetric foil set-up.
Despite the setback, Maserati was the first to finish, crossing the line after just six days and 18 hours of racing. Concise, with skipper Ned Collier Wakefield and crew including Paul Larsen and Jonny Malbon, finished some 50 minutes later.
With just 11 entries this year (down from 25 last year) in the Transatlantic Race, this was a small event, but RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen said he was not particularly concerned about the lower entry numbers, pointing out that it clashed this year with the solo Route du Rhum Race, which attracted a large number of multis and Class 40s. He added that, by contrast, the club’s Caribbean 600 in February already boasts a healthy entry of nearly 40 boats.
Race winning yacht Kuka3 and owner Franco Niggeler
The largest yacht in the 2018 RORC Transatlantic, the Baltic 130 My Song, set a new course record
Off to a flying start: the Multi 70 Maserati
Approach to the finish in Grenada by Trevor Middleton’s Sun Fast 3600 Black Sheep