Maine native Micah Davis has sailed into Portland Harbor many times, but he knew that Monday would be special.

This time he was racing toward home as a competitor in the Atlantic Cup, which made its first appearance in Portland this week.

“As soon as I get around Cape Cod, I’m going to be all smiles, and it’s pretty exciting for me to be finishing a sailing race in my home port,” Davis said.

Davis, a native of Harpswell and 1989 graduate of Brunswick High School, and teammate Rob Windsor make up one of eight two-person teams competing in the Atlantic Cup, the longest offshore sailing race in the western Atlantic. It is America’s premier short-handed (one- or two-person) ocean race for Class 40 boats – sleek, monohull boats that cannot exceed 40 feet in length.

“This is a big deal for this particular type of boat and this style of racing,” said Julianna Barbieri, the race director. “For what it is and for what it’s doing for offshore racing, (the Atlantic Cup competition) is very unique.”

The race challenges sailors over three separate legs: two lengthy offshore (open ocean) competitions that test sailors’ physical and mental stamina, and a series of five inshore (near land) races around buoy-marked courses in Casco Bay, scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Up to four crew members will be added to the boats for the inshore series.

The four previous Atlantic Cups, from 2011 to 2014, concluded in Newport, Rhode Island.

“After the 2014 race we really wanted to extend the course,” Barbieri said. “The feedback we were getting was that the New York to Newport leg was not the most challenging.”

Barbieri said that when she and race organizers approached city officials in Portland about bringing the Atlantic Cup to Maine, “every one was really supportive. They all knew what the race was about, which was great.”

Davis co-owns his boat, the Amhas II, with Maine Yacht Center general manager Brian Harris. He and Windsor sailed to a fourth-place finish in the 648-nautical mile, roughly three-day first leg of the race from Charleston, South Carolina, to Brooklyn, New York.

On Saturday afternoon, the teams left Brooklyn and headed to Portland, a distance of 350 nautical miles. Racers are expected to arrive Monday.

“I really don’t know when we’ll get in,” Davis said last week before the sailors left Brooklyn. “We need to see how the weather kind of unfolds. You can easily do 200 miles in a day. If the breeze shuts off once you get up and around the end of Cape Cod and when you’re getting closer to Maine, sometimes you have to take a little longer.”

Each boat’s progress is tracked at the race’s website, atlanticcup.org.

The boats were sprinting in the 25-knot range (almost 29 mph) on the opening leg of the race. The Spanish boat Tales II, sailed by Gonzalo Botin and Pablo Santurde, won the first leg in 72 hours, 48 minutes, 3 seconds, crushing the previous Charleston-to-NYC Atlantic Cup record of 78:55:13.

Also well under the previous record were the French boat Earendil, sailed by Catherine Pourre and Antoine Carpentiere (74:21:43); the U.S. boat Oakcliff, sailed by Liz Shaw of Nova Scotia, Canada, and Libby Greenhalgh of England (74:52:05); and the Amhas II (76:54:34).

A ninth boat, Privateer, retired from the first leg of the Atlantic Cup with mechanical issues. Its crew opted not to attempt the Brooklyn-to-Portland leg.

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The boats are designed to be fast in open ocean conditions, Davis said, but not for buoy racing.

“Which is one of the reasons why the inshore series will be so challenging,” he said.

Davis said he and Windsor have an “eclectic” crew of sailors with significant local knowledge ready to come aboard for the inshore races in Casco Bay on Friday and Saturday.

Spectators will be able to view the five races for free from Fort Allen Park while enjoying a festival-style Race Village with live music, race commentary, a beer garden, food trucks, local merchants and a kids’ activity zone. The races start at noon both days.

Hosting a major sailing event is appealing to Portland, said Bill Needelman, the city’s waterfront coordinator.

“It’s a high-profile event within the sailing world so it brings attention to Portland as a destination for sailors, and there’s the direct economic activity that will come from the vessels, the crews and events around the race,” Needelman said. “This is really the first major event that has used Portland Harbor as a venue.”

The boats will be berthed at the Maine Wharf where El Galeon, a reproduction of a 16th-century Spanish merchant ship, is also docked.

The public will not be allowed to board the competition sailboats, but can go to the wharf for an up-close look.

“The teams are very open to talking to people about the boats and sailing in general,” Barbieri said.

Davis, who lives in Mill Valley, California, and returns to Maine often to visit family, said the Class 40s range in price from $250,000 for a “fully kitted out” used boat to $1 million for a brand-new boat.

The Atlantic Cup’s cash prize totals $20,000.

“You don’t go sail in the U.S. for money,” Davis said. “You do it because you love the ocean and you love to compete.”


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