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Mariella and the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge

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Having been deeply involved with the Antigua
Classic Yacht Regatta this past April, it was with keen interest I followed
this year’s Rolex Transatlantic Challenge. Three entrants from the Regatta
were to participate in the Classic Division. Norwind, Sumurun and
locally owed vessel, Mariella were to
race the beauties to Cowes.

is a beautiful yawl with
extreme lines and a lot of grace. The prestigious William Fife III shipyard in
Scotland built
her in 1938 and that alone puts her in a extraordinary class but there is yet
another unique chapter to her history. Mariella
is the only Fife yawl that was designed by
someone outside the shipyard. American Alfred Milne designed her and somehow
the owner went to Fife and they accepted the
design! In 1993, this Classic passed hands to Carlo Falcone and it has been his
desire to keep her racing. I asked about participating in the challenge this
year and Falcone told me he, “likes to work with a program and thought
that the Transatlantic Challenge would be a good way to get to the Med for the
summer.” He also has, “a big, healthy competition going with
”, a Fife
owner by A. Robert Towbin and if Sumurun
was going, so was Mariella.

They all started the race on May 22, 2005 off the Ambrose Light in New York. On board was
the smallest crew of the race: Captain Carlo and Peter Simmonds from Antigua,
Marilla Tattersall from Tortola along with Merelita Revel, Sophie Luther,
Tobias Brand and Daniel Thomas from the UK. Their expectations were high
and they were ready for adventure. As you are about to read, adventure is
exactly what they got! By the end, this team logged over 8,000 miles (Antigua
to St. Thomas to New York to Cowes and then to Italy), suffered a broken mizzen
mast, a broken dodger, ripped sails, generator failure, injuries and through it
all proved that the “Old Ladies” could still do it!

The following excerpt is from “The Journal
of Mariella” written daily by Sophie Luther. Her amazing and descriptive
writing made it possible for everyone to share the experience throughout the
crossing. To me, the entries for Day 11 and 12 proved two of the more exciting
and gave a taste of the challenges that faced the team.

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Day Eleven “It’s very wet, very windy and pretty hard core out here. This will
have to be a short one as the boat is pitching all over the shop and the hatch
above my head is doing its best impression of Niagara Falls. So you may have guessed the
storm is upon us…”

Day Twelve: “So that’s where I got up to,
then the storm decided to go up a notch. Here’s the rest…

Team Mariella was dealing very well with what Neptune
was handing out and our Old Lady was holding up as best she could. We won’t
lie, we were pushing her but that’s what we are here to do, that’s why we
signed up for this race. The breeze started to hit the 30s and it was
definitely time to get the reef in, which is a bit of a struggle on
involving all of us to force it
down. After what seemed to be a very quick and relatively easy reef, Spiderman
Pete fell off the doghouse and hit the deck with a resounding thud. … he
was OK apart from a severely bruised hip and bum, which meant we had to force
him to stay in his bunk for the rest of the day and night…!! So one down,
we carried on…

About 22.30 I ventured out with the two cups of tea … returned in
one piece to the dodger and started to share a cuppa with Toby, when disaster
struck. The Yankee One which had been strapped down to the windward rail had
worked its way free and a freak wave hit the bow, broke down the deck and
carried the sail, at full pace along the deck, past the main sheet and crushed
the dodger, Toby, myself and everything in its path.

When it all eventually came to a stop, Toby had been thrown onto the
leeward rail barely staying on the boat, I had been pinned between it and the
steering pinnacle, with one leg stuck under the wheel stopping it moving. All
three of us were immersed over the head in Atlantic foamy water and as I looked
up at Robin, his automatic lifejacket exploded to add comedy value to the
situation! Once the water drained away and we realized we were all still there,
we tried to extricate ourselves from the mass of limbs, sails and twisted
metal, all to the light of the strobe Dan buoy which had come loose through all
of this and was dragging behind the yacht at 8 knots. Not really what we
needed. Then the terrible truth occurred to us all; we had lost the dodger (and
the tea!). No, not overboard, but it was pretty obvious it wouldn’t be
repairable on the race, even in the dark. Well, that was a blow that hit home,
I can tell you. It was definitely our favourite piece of equipment. Toby
managed to drag me out of the mess and then we went to work strapping down,
putting away and float testing the debris all the while. Robin driving like a
man possessed but now with breasts!”

Twelve and a half days and many adventures later, the team arrived in Cowes: the three Classics reaching Lizard
Point within a 20-hour time period. Sumuran took first place, Norwind
second and team Mariella took third
with a corrected time of 23:13:32:52. Upon arrival and with a smile on his
face, Carlo thanked his crew, his sponsors (ABI Financial and Bluewave Solutions),
family and friends. He announced that the Rolex watch Mariella won for third in their division would be donated to the
Antigua & Barbuda Search and Rescue fund to be auctioned off and with
tongue in cheek, he vowed his revenge during the Mediterranean season!
will be racing in a quick
succession of big races in Sardinia, Monoco, Cannes
and St. Tropez with a return to Antigua
expected in November.

I asked Falcone what the highlight of the race had been for him and
after a moment’s pause he said assuredly, “the crew… the crew
was very good. It was a very tough race and very stressful. We would go from
having no wind, to huge waves…the race was dictated by the wind.” I
immediately asked if he would do it again and with a chuckle, Falcone said,
“maybe in five years!”

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