Here's What It's Like To Race A 40-Foot Yacht Around New York City [PICTURES]

atlantic cup sailing nyc harbor

Last week, we were invited to take part in the Atlantic Cup Pro-Am, a brief race around New York City that’s part of a larger sailing race up the East Coast.

We were placed on the Gryphon Solo II, a Class 40 yacht with three sails and two sailors, Joe Harris and Tristan Mouligne.

Both men have day jobs (in real estate and wealth management, respectively), and sailing in this race means using up vacation time. On the water and out of the office, neither seemed to regret the decision.

Also on the boat with us for the Pro-Am were Doug, Natalie, and Mark from Green Mountain Energy, the renewable energy power provider that sponsored the Atlantic Cup and the Gryphon II.

The partnership made perfect sense for them, they said: Not only is sailing the original wind-powered sport, the entire race is designed to be carbon-neutral.

Our role in the race was to move from one side of the boat to the other to keep the weight properly distributed, and to not fall into the water while Joe and Tristan piloted us around New York’s harbor in a battle against six other teams.

The boats were anchored in the North Cove Marina, part of Manhattan's Battery Park City. Here's the Gryphon II.

The team is sponsored by renewable power provider Green Mountain Energy.

The link between sailing and wind power is obvious.

As the writing on the sail notes, the Gryphon II, like many Class 40 boats, was built in France.

We left the marina using the Gryphon II's engine, and headed out into the harbor.

Before the race begins, let's take a look at the boat's cabin.

Here's the navigation and weather equipment the team uses to determine their routes when they're on the open water.

In the Atlantic Cup, they spend about 30 hours at a time away from land, so there's plenty to eat and drink on board.

But it's no luxury hotel, Harris and Mouligne sleep in small bunks. There's no bathroom either: When they need to go, they hang off the back of the boat.

Back on deck, Harris, one of the team's two sailors and the owner of the boat, hoists the main sail.

For the in-port race, there's no need for a computer. Harris and Mouligne discuss the course using a map and what they see.

They do have instruments to give them the exact speed and direction of both the wind and the boat.

We were one of seven boats competing in the Pro-Am. That's Jersey City between two our or opponents.

As we approached the starting line, there was a bit of time to relax and joke around.

But the sailors kept their eyes on the time, to make sure they were ready for the start.

Once the race started, Harris was in charge of steering.

And Mouligne moved around the boat, using the many ropes to adjust the sails.

The main sail was always in use, and Mouligne switched between the two sails in front: There's the jib, for going with the wind, and the code 0, designed for heading against it.

The team tacked frequently, turning the boat to head in the right direction and capture as much wind as possible.

That means one side of the boat is always higher than the other.

But the more level the boat is, the faster it goes.

Our job was to be always sitting on the high side of the boat — which changed every time we tacked.

Even in an area as big as New York's harbor, you end up pretty close to the other racers.

As sailing novices, we were told not to hang on to anything that might move. I found this sturdy metal rod instead, and caught a nice view of the Statue of Liberty.

For most of the race, we were in the middle of the pack.

The race sent us on a zig-zag pattern around buoys in the water. Harris cut the turns as tightly as possible.

After about two hours of racing, we crossed the finish line in fourth place, out of seven.

Harris and Mouligne were quite happy: Winning an Atlantic Cup pro-am doesn't earn you any points, and is considered bad luck for the next leg.

Once the sails were taken down and the engine was back in the water, we hoisted the battle flags — one for each sponsor of the race.

The fenders were put back on the sides of the boat, to keep it from being knocked against the dock.

Ropes were cleaned up.

And we docked back in the marina, after a great few hours on the water.

Want to see more of the city from the water?

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