Now for something completely different!

The Bridge

Ever wondered who would win in a transatlantic race between a cruise liner and one of the new generation foiling Ultim trimarans? No? Me neither to be honest, but next year we will all get the chance to find out anyway.

In June 2017 the recently announced ‘The Bridge’ race will pit the 1,132-foot (345-metre) Queen Mary 2 against the world’s four fastest 100-foot carbon multihulls in a boat for boat transatlantic sprint from France to the USA

This refreshingly unusual concept is the brainchild of French offshore racer Damien Grimont – a Class 40 sailor and past Mini Transat winner – who somehow convinced France’s Minister of Defence to include The Bridge in the government’s commemoration of the Centenary of the First World War.

During 1917 around 14,000 American troops were deployed in France to bolster the British, French, Russian and Italian allied forces. Many of the US soldiers arrived by sea on commandeered transatlantic cruise liners.

 

On June 25 – exactly 100 hundred years to the day since the first US troop landing – The Bridge race will start from the bridge at Saint-Nazaire, France close to where the QM2 was constructed, finishing 3468 miles (5581 kilometres) across the Atlantic at the Verrazano Bridge just outside New York.

queen-mary-2The QM2 is the Cunard Line’s flagship vessel and at the time of her launch in 2003 was the longest passenger ship ever built – she is currently the seventh longest – and at 148,528 gross tonnage was also the largest – now twelfth largest.

The four top French skippers who have signed up to take on the 157,000 horsepower steel leviathan are: Thomas Coville on Sodebo, François Gabart on MACIF, Yves Le Blevec on Actual and Yann Guichard on Spindrift 2.

Despite the cutting edge designs and high-tech construction of their trimarans, the French foursome may have their work cut beating the QM2 ship across the pond. It’s a route the Cunard ship knows well – she completed her 200th transatlantic run back in 2013 and she has not slowed her pace since then.

spindrift1111Her maximum speed is a click over 30 knots (35 mph/56 kmh) and she cruises at 26 knots (30 mph/48 kmh). Most importantly she doesn’t care a sailor’s cuss for weather roadblocks like the light winds of the gigantic St Helena high pressure system that can stop a sailboat dead in the water for days on end.

Life on board the vessels taking part will likely to be quite different too.

 

While the probably wet and cold Ultim skippers scrape by on an unappetizing diet freeze dried concoctions and take fitful cat naps at their cramped navigation stations, guests on board the QM2 can dose in five-star luxury relaxing in their sumptuous cabins, take a stroll on the continuous wraparound promenade walkway on deck seven, before they enjoy mouthwatering cuisine in one of the ship’s innumerable fine dining restaurants.

Who will emerge the winner remains to be seen but in a world where regatta formats and ocean record attempts have become predictable and uninspiring, The Bridge concept is a welcome breath of fresh air.

And, just in case the organisers are handing out media invitations – I would like a cabin on the sunny side, overlooking ocean, close to one of the heated pools.

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