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.
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.
We were one of seven boats competing in the Pro-Am. That's Jersey City between two our or opponents.
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.
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.
The race sent us on a zig-zag pattern around buoys in the water. Harris cut the turns as tightly as possible.
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.
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