Kristina and I were having lunch at Liberty Landing Marina when we spotted the first mast approaching at an impressive speed despite the calm wind. I grabbed the boat keys and headed for SeaRider. Jean Marc Normant, the technical manager for MOD 70 KRYS Ocean Race had hired me to assist his newly designed 70-foot trimarans make a smooth entrance into the tight opening of North Cove Marina at the southern end of Manhattan.
It was borderline intimidating as these boats quietly flew past Ellis Island under full sail swarmed by media helicopters. I put the throttle down and went to pick up Jean Marc at North Cove, who would orchestrate the docking.
The boats had just raced from Newport, Rhode Island, to New York with Steve Ravussin’s ‘Race for Water’ in the lead. Now they were staying a few days in New York before the official start of their inaugural transatlantic KRYS Ocean Race, which would take them to the finish line in Brest, France.
Approaching North Cove, I noticed nice custom fenders with KRYS logos wrapped around the marina’s bulkheads. The entrance was a bit narrow for the trimarans and the extra safety measures had been ordered a day earlier.
Jean Marc was at the waters edge working his handheld VHF in French. “Ça va – mind if I take the wheel” he said to me as he walked down the floating dock towards SeaRider.
Sensing his confidence, I agreed, and immediately recognized his excellent boat handling skills.
The organizer had flown in a few zodiacs outfitted with strong outboards to act as tug boats. Their sponsons were wrapped in cloth to prevent scratching the hulls of the MOD70 fleet. The two-man zodiac crews reminded me of cowboys corralling wild horses. They sped out onto the Hudson and strategically positioned themselves below the trampoline on both sides of the center hull, forward and aft in order to best maneuver the trimaran.
Having missed slack tide by more than two hours, they were facing a strong ebb current perpendicular to the 76-foot opening at North Cove, and with a beam of 55 feet they had only 10 feet of clearance on each side if they hit the entrance dead-center.
The zodiacs powered up and pushed the first MOD70 towards the gap at about 15 knots. There was no backing out at this speed. Fully committed, they were shooting for the entrance as the crowd of a few hundred people went silent in fear. Some boat owners were standing by aboard their vessels with fenders in hand. Jean Marc and I were stationed just inside the marina and were ready to assist whatever the outcome would be.
The boat cleared the gap with only three feet to the northern bulkhead. An extremely tense moment – but then the crowd erupted in cheers.
All the while, Jean Marc kept his cool. “One down, four to go” he said, turning his attention back to conducting his symphony telling the next boat to come in a bit slower.
All five boats made it safely to their docks. As Jean Marc disembarked, he thanked me and said he’d see me in a few days for their departure.