Ratcheting up the program

Initiatives at last year's Class40 Worlds - Atlantic Cup
Emma Creighton
American skipper Emma Creighton prepares for the 2012 Atlantic Cup with co-Skipper Jorge Madden (ESP) aboard a Class 40.

Chalk it up it to a tough economy or the difficulty of making the grade, but the hard fact remains that only five of the 79 skippers who participated in the 2011 La Charente-Maritime/Bahia Transat 6.50 (AKA, the Mini Transat) advanced from their Class Mini yachts to the faster Class 40 race boats for the 2012 season. American Emma Creighton (27)—the third American female skipper to have completed the Mini Transat—is thrilled to be amongst the fortunate few. 'I can’t wait!' reported an ecstatic Creighton. 'The chance to step onto a bigger boat with a great teammate is huge.'

This May, Creighton and co-skipper Jorge Madden (28; ESP) will race the Class 40, Initiatives (GBR 30), in the 2012 Atlantic Cup (May 11 to 27). The three-stage race includes a 645-nautical-mile distance leg from Charleston, South Carolina to New York City, NY, where the fleet will also participate in a fun-spirited 'Pro-Am' race. Next up is the 260-nautical-mile sprint from the Big Apple to Newport, Rhode Island. The event’s grand finale is a weekend (May 26 and 27) of fully crewed, around-the-buoy racing, which will be contested off of Newport.

'This year’s race will be the first time that the European Class 40s will be racing in the States with the U.S. fleet,' said Creighton. 'So this is going to be a super exciting and competitive event.' Creighton and Madden may be long on enthusiasm, but they freely admit that their lack of Class-40 experience is a weakness. While both skippers are fresh off big 2011 seasons that included the singlehanded, 4,200-nautical-mile Mini Transat, this will be their first Class 40 event, and their first partnership. Interestingly, Creighton and Madden are also the youngest team entered the Atlantic Cup, and Creighton is the only American female skipper—and one of only two women—competing.

Fortunately for Creighton and Madden, the two will have time to get acquainted with Initiatives when they sail her from Progreso, on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, to Charleston, South Carolina, a trip that Creighton estimates will take a week to ten days. Not only will the co-skippers use this delivery to shakedown their sails and systems, but Creighton also plans to use it to fine-tune her own fitness.

Emma at the finish of the 2011 Mini Transat - Atlantic Cup
Emma Creighton
For the past five months, she has been logging hard days in the gym and with her physical therapist, working to re-gain strength and hard-won range of motion following a November 2011 shoulder surgery. 'I’m fully recovered, but I’m not as strong as I was before the surgery,' said Creighton of her repaired right wing.

'I’ve still got some strength training to do, but I expect to accomplish that on the delivery.' Once in Charleston, the co-skippers will have three to four weeks to make their final preparations before the May 11 start of the Charleston—New York leg.

Given the Class 40’s far heavier sail inventory and bigger equipment, both Creighton and Madden can expect some athletic days aboard Initiatives, hoisting sails and dealing with serious loads on the running rigging. Fortunately, Class 40s are essentially scaled-up Classe Minis—boats that Creighton and Madden know well. Moreover, Creighton spent three weeks this winter helping Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives’ owner) to prepare the boat for the now-ongoing La Solidaire du Chocolat (Nantes, France to Progreso, Mexico). This involved re-stepping the rig, digging into all of its systems and conducting a 90-degree test—an invaluable experience for reducing her learning curve and increasing her confidence.

'That was a great opportunity to learn the boat under Tanguy’s tutelage and to do some sailing together,' said Creighton. 'He’s wonderful about mentoring younger sailors—I’m really fortunate to be able to race his boat in exchange for some delivery work.'
As for conditions, the North Atlantic in May isn’t exactly the Southern Ocean, but it’s also far cry from the Horse Latitudes. 'It’s quite likely there will be a big-wind scenario, especially for the first leg,' said Race Director Hugh Piggin. 'If it’s from the north, it could make getting around Cape Hatteras hazardous with the Gulf Stream in the mix.' While admitting that the weather could be tricky, Creighton was non-pulsed by the prospect of lumpy water and instead focused on the positives. 'I’m not nervous at all—just excited!' she said. 'I already have a pretty good feel for how weather systems work, but I’m really looking forward to having access to weather-routing information, and to becoming better at using routing software.'

Perhaps this can-do attitude is precisely why Creighton and Madden earned a coveted Class 40 opportunity in what can only be termed a 'challenging' environment.

All told, the 2012 Atlantic Cup encompasses 905 nautical miles of offshore racing, a great weekend of buoy chasing and months of planning, preparation and training. Please visit Creighton’s website or Facebook page (search: Emma's Sailing Exploits) for more information on her sailing campaigns, and stay tuned for more news from this talented American sailor.

Interview requests and sponsorship inquiries are welcome. Please contact: Emma Creighton, co-Skipper, GBR 30 Tel: U.S. Mobile: 508-736-7616 E-mail: emmatcreighton@gmail.com
http://emmacreighton.net/