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Local sailboat crew tested in 2015 Transatlantic Race

08/13/2015 7:00 AM |

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In the vast openness of the North Atlantic Ocean, a wilderness mostly untouched by humans, the 60-foot yacht Prospector sailed into darkness. Navigating the boat through waves reaching heights of 40 to 60 feet, a task already daunting in daylight, became even more perilous.

“You couldn’t see the waves,” said Paul McDowell, a watch captain aboard Prospector. “It was just like driving a car down a mine shaft. The boat would pick up and surf down these waves at super high speed.”

For nearly two weeks beginning in July, the 15-person crew, based mostly from the Shelter Island Yacht Club, sailed from Newport, R.I., to England in a 3,300-mile journey that took them to parts of the planet few ever see. It was a trip that bonded them and tested their skill at sea in ways none of them had ever experienced.

Sailing in the 2015 Transatlantic Race, a historic competition dating back more than a century, the Prospector crew successfully reached its destination late in the night on July 13. As the results became official, the crew learned they had placed third in their class out of 10 boats, a momentous accomplishment for a group making its first cross-ocean voyage.

“I think it was the experience of a lifetime,” said Larry Landry, the boat’s navigator. “Nobody laughed harder going across the Atlantic than we did.”

The story of how 14 men and one woman, ranging in age from 24 to 67, came together to sail across the ocean begins in the spring of 2013. Mr. Landry, a Shelter Island resident who has owned sailboats since 1982, received a call from Jeff Hughes, a mostly recreational sailor, suggesting they sign up for the Transatlantic Race, which is held every four years.

At first, Mr. Landry, 59, balked at the idea.

“I thought it was the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of,” he said.

But the idea quickly spread to other members of the Shelter Island Yacht Club, including Mr. McDowell, a 55-year-old who splits his time between Shelter Island and New York City. A year later, a group of six men formed the Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners, with Mr. Landry and Mr. McDowell as the managing partners. They were joined by Mr. Hughes, Brendan Brownyard, Jeff Pribor and David Siwicki.

Last August, the group purchased the Carroll Marine Farr 60 that became Prospector, beginning a refurbishing process to prepare the boat for competition that lasted until the moment it set sail from Rhode Island on July 1.

In the months leading up to the Transatlantic Race, the crew raced Prospector in multiple events including the Caribbean 600, learning how to handle the boat and testing the crew.

“All the training in the world, including reasonably tough ocean races, were nothing compared to the Transatlantic Race,” Mr. McDowell said.

Photo Caption: Tery Glackin, the captain aboard Prospector, helped lead a 15-person crew across the Atlantic Ocean last month in the Transatlantic Race. (Credit: Matt Landry)

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