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Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race - 16 August 2006 - Afternoon Web Update

16 August, 2006 3:35:00 PM BST | Racetime 08:21:35:00

So with the winning boats already moored up back in Cowes, the race goes on for the 15 remaining yachts in the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race with some fascinating, if somewhat frustrating, tussles emerging in the fleet. Leading just off the Norfolk coastline is Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy's Swan 56, Noonmark VI who is battling light headwinds with just 240 miles left to run but is clear ahead of the chasing duo, Unlimited Sailing/John Merricks of Nigel King and Norddeutsche Vermogen of Volker Linzer who are almost neck and neck. The next 24 hours will be fascinating for these two as they try to make the best of the southerly Force 1-2 breezes that have flopped over the racecourse.

One of the more remarkable stories of the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland race has been the young, RYA backed crew of the Farr 45 Unlimited Sailing/John Merricks who have laid down a serious marker of intent for future offshore RORC races. The average age onboard is just 23 and for certain they are doing the memory proud of the late, great John Merricks who won a silver medal with Ian Walker in the 470 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

For these young men and women it's their chance to prove themselves on the big stage and they continue to impress. Today's report from 19 year old Jeremy Fowke, despite suffering in the frustrating light winds, shows the spirit onboard the yacht and one can't help but be enthused by their passion: "The wind was up and down all night, finally dying off this morning and shifting south, south east. We're slowly moving east at about two knots hoping to be the first to catch the wind as it fills back in. We're still trying to keep the boat moving, although it is a challenge as she seems to want to park up and rest. The crew have been amusing themselves with a biscuit eating contest and if the breeze doesn't kick in, there are plans for a fashion show later today to model the latest Henri Lloyd offshore kit. We're all keeping our fingers crossed that the conditions change, we don't lose too many places and we can head for the finish line."

Mostly Harmless
It's a similar story down the fleet with a big pack of boats just past the rounding point of Muckle Flugga on the Shetland Isles. Mostly Harmless, Puma Logic and needasponspor.co.uk are leading a trailing group of Jaguar Logic, Sidney and Jeu d'Esprit who are all on or past the seemingly mystical Muckle Flugga whilst Predator of Wight and Talisman are still making their way northwards. Save a thought too for Kieran Jameson's gutsy crew on the Sigma 38, Changeling, who are currently in last place on the water with over 800 miles left to run. Speaking to the crew, however, you would never believe that they were last and seem to be having the time of their lives!

As the race comes to its conclusion the RORC will continue to bring daily updates and position reports from the boats highlighting the highs and lows of this premier coastal yacht race. All yachts competing in the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race have been fitted with a tracking device developed by the RORC in conjunction with OC Technology. Yacht positions will be updated hourly and can be followed on the Royal Ocean Racing Club's dedicated micro site accessed via http://www.rorc.org

Quotes from the boats-

Claire Kennard from Global Yacht Racing reports on the Incisor Crew's Jubilation at starting the downwind stretch.

The crew are all in great spirits despite enduring continuous wet conditions onboard Incisor. The crew have nicknamed their yacht "the Submarine" because her long flat decks and sleek lines and stripped out interiors have meant a very wet week on their upwind slog. "Its been blowing dogs off chains out here at some points but the guys are all doing a fantastic job despite being exhausted and continually wet. We've had minor dramas needing sail repairs, but the main problem has been a total failure of all our electronic navigation tools - I think I am cursed with technology as none of this fancy kit ever seems to work for me," joked skipper Andy. Luckily Andy and fellow Navi-guesser Eric Holden have plenty of experience in meteorology and navigating between them and have been using a tea-towel with a map of the British Isles printed on it. (Only kidding!)

The crew were singing Musical hits from My Fair Lady lead by Bob (a legend in his own lunchtime - every boat should have a Bob) when I spoke to them as they rounded Muckle Flugga and they were drying their kit on deck. They are currently hoping to use the strong northerly wind they are still experiencing to push themselves as hard as possible whilst they still can and make some gains on the yachts in front of them who are now experiencing variable and easing winds backing into the South. Their Wayfarer meals have been a godsend as their water-maker has been typically temperamental and the pre-prepared rations do not need water to re-hydrate them since they are already fully cooked and vacuum packed. They can be eaten cold if necessary and definitely taste better than the freeze dried stuff.

Magnum Race Report - Tuesday 15th August
Well we finally made it to the most Northerly point of the race - Muckle Flugga. We passed the lighthouse about 0845 this morning. The final 50 mile approach was in 12-18 knot winds, finally, just off the beam which gave us a fast approach. It was very overcast and with occasional rain. When dawn came about 4 am we were sailing up the west coast of the island chain but could not see them. They were shrouded in cloud. In fact the cloud seemed to touch the sea and so we only had a glimpse of the lighthouse and the rocky cliffs. But no time to admire the view, the seas were big and rolling here and we were hoisting the kite so it was all hands on deck during manoeuvres. It can be said with great relief that we ARE ON OUR WAY SOUTH. A long way to go though 600 odd miles but the weather for today and tomorrow looks to be holding good with reasonable winds but after that things look a little light. We'll see.

Artemis is home and finished so the clock is ticking. This is where the differential in handicaps places all boats on the hypothetical same level playing field. We are out here to try and win class and to score highly in the overall rankings for this prestigious race. So the pressure remains firmly on. Our main competitors in class are 75/80 miles astern. So a good cushion but can easily be lost with the wrong tactics over the next few days. After some success in drying out the boat 24 hours ago, it is now worse than ever after all the rain and seas we kept taking over the bows last night. So priority number one is to dry ourselves out as soon as the weather bucks up and the sun comes out. I hear it's not a lot different for you all down south.

Kingspan - Chieftain: Tom Whitburn
An elated but exhausted crew on Kingspan Chieftain went through the finish line at Cowes just after 8 pm on Tuesday night, whilst the race is still on, it is an improbable probability that any of the rest of the fleet can beat Kingspan Chieftain's corrected time for the gruelling 1780 mile Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland title. "The boat is just fantastic to sail. I have never experienced anything like it, on the run down the east coast, we had an amazing amount of sail area up for the conditions but the Cookson 50 was so stable and every time we buried the bow into a wave she popped right back up. It was just the most awesome sailing but I must admit that the stony silence on deck had an element of fear factor in it." explained British crewman Tom Whitburn. "Kingspan Chieftain is a superb boat for offshore racing but a lot of credit must go to the hard work of the crew, they are all good lads, cracking guys, myself I am the oldest man on the boat but besides Jochem Visser, the navigator, all theses lads are in there twenties and I am really happy for them as much as myself that they have done so well, I would have to give special thanks to Mark Tighe, the boat captain, he has done a great job in preparation as well a sailing her."

Unlimited Sailing / John Merricks: Light winds bring Farr 45 to a halt
After a day of intense sailing at about 20 knots, Farr 45 Unlimited Sailing / John Merricks has come to a standstill in the North Sea, 340 miles from the finish. Following eight days of strong winds the breeze has now died off leaving the young crew, all members of the Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme, frustrated. "This is a massive change from the conditions we have experience since this race began. Twenty four hours ago we were screaming along having a brilliant sail and now we're sitting on deck just trying to get the boat to move forward." Jeremy Fowke from Weymouth revealed. The 19 year-old continued, "The wind was up and down all night, finally dying off this morning and shifting south, south east. We're slowly moving east at about two knots hoping to be the first to catch the wind as it fills back in. We're still trying to keep the boat moving, although it is a challenge as she seems to want to park up and rest. The crew have been amusing themselves with a biscuit eating contest and if the breeze doesn't kick in, there are plans for a fashion show later today to model the latest Henri Lloyd offshore kit. We're all keeping our fingers crossed that the conditions change, we don't lose too many places and we can head for the finish line."

News from the Sailing Logic Boats -Allie Smith
Well, apologies for the lack of stories coming from the yachts. To be honest they were just so hacked off at the lack of wind and then the little there was, they were having to beat into it, that there was nothing of great interest coming off the yachts apart from grumpy, tired, wet and cold sailors!

Puma called in late last night to say that they had gone around Muckle Flugga to a huge cheer from everyone onboard but slightly disappointed that they were unable to see the infamous mark of the course due to severe lack of visibility. As it was during daylight hours, they weren't even treated to the loom of the lighthouse. Jaguar has called this morning to day that they have rounded it in a similar state - low mist, drizzle and not a rock in sight.

Puma have had more calamities on board - one third of Puma's food on board is de-hydrated rations, and unfortunately with all the bouncing about beating towards the top, the de-hydrated has become hydrated and therefore has gone to feed the fish and sacrificed to the wind gods, instead of the crew. The food was double bagged and stowed safely but that dreaded bilge water manages to get everywhere. They should have enough food onboard to compensate however, as the first few days very little was eaten due to seasickness etc but at least with less food the loo roll rations may last a little longer! There is talk of a loo roll thief onboard, that instead of taking their own personal stash to the heads when needed, pinches other crew members instead"..more on this later.

Both Jaguar and Puma have put up their spinnakers at last and rested the genoas, which are now being looked at for any sign of damage and wear and tear, ready for the next sail change. Jaguar have reported a winch handle overboard ... apparently a crew member got so excited that the kite was up and inadvertently knocked it off the winch whilst getting ready to trim - more sacrifices to the wind gods.

All the families are following the race with avid interest. Mark Taylor on Puma Logic got a message from home yesterday. It said: "Dear Mark, Please can you arrive back by the 23rd as Auntie Margaret and Uncle Dennis are coming to stay. Auntie Sheila is very worried about the lack of loo rolls, hope you are ok. Love from Mum and Auntie Sheila".

Richard Donkin - Onboard Puma Logic
Muckle Flugga at the northernmost tip of the British Isles is one of those places you learn about in school then push to the back of your mind for the occasional recollection in a pub quiz. For the past few days among the crew of Puma Logic it has been the very centre of our universe. It's the turning point, the corner, the pinnacle of our northerly beat through almost unrelenting winds at a time of year we ought to be sunbathing. Instead most of our sun cream is still packed away in the darkest reaches of the hold where sloshing bilge water penetrates all but the most tightly sealed container. In all the buffeting we have taken, sea water has penetrated the food bags, destroying some of our meals and forcing a stock take this afternoon. We have enough but the menu will need adjusting. The watches have been adjusted too, playing to strengths and weaknesses. Just now, with two crew nursing injuries - although nothing broken - we are talking about more of the latter. In the circumstances morale remains remarkably high. But the way to get through these endurance events is to take your sleep when you can, eat when you can and always save one hand for the boat. Just now, chasing second place in our class, we are pushing the boat hard. Philippe Falle, our skipper, is quite the Captain Bligh at times, demanding ever faster sail changes and boat speeds. We trim the sails constantly through the night. Downtime? There is no downtime. It's like that old song, "three wheels on my wagon, and I'm still rollin' along - except the Cherokees are in front and behind. How long this can be sustained is anybody's guess. The yacht itself has held together well since our steering breakage a week ago, achieving impressive speeds But can the crew hold together? People are not machines, even when asked to work like one. We are still feeling the loss of our first mate, Sara Stanton, to salmonella " the good news is that she is out of hospital and recovering at home. I wish I was recovering at home too and would gladly swap beds. In the same way I know she would rather be here. Isn't life cruel? The one who would rather be sailing, and whose skills we miss so much, cannot be with us. While the one who would rather be fishing - that's me - whose skills would hardly be missed at all, is feeling really quite well. I'm cast as the fly in the ointment on this boat, Philippe's very own Fletcher Christian. All the pumped-up motivational stuff leaves me cold and probably makes some believe I couldn't care less how we finish this race. But I do care. Before we started we spent time working on a list of team values " a set of principles that would govern our behaviour on the boat. Among them are words such as "respect for the sea", "positivity", "sensitivity" and "enjoyment". There's also "harmony". At times I will admit that I have struggled to embrace every one of these values and I doubt if I'm alone in that. But I think that all of us keep the first one at heart. As far as we finish safely and as friends, I'll be happy. Wherever you may be reading these lines it might be tempting to believe they have been knocked off in a few idle moments. In fact, between sentences I'm passing up buckets of dirty bilge water on deck. My bunk is occupied by an injured crew mate and it is time to make lunch. A word here about bunks and lunch: we "hot bunk" on board, taking whatever is available; but most of us seem to have our favourite spot. Mine is a kind of "nest" on the high side using a spare mattress shaped against the sail cloth. Get the nest right and sleep is assured. Lunch today is fresh-baked bread and soup. There is the Immaculate Conception and there is fresh-baked bed in 20 knots of wind. We have made the bread so that, at least, is something in which we can believe. So on to Muckle Flugga it has another, unrepeatable nickname her on board Puma. Just above on the chart, in big purple letters, it says: Area To Be Avoided. Can't anyone read?

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