Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race - Race Day One
7 August, 2006 3:46:00 PM BST
Cowes is abuzz with crews preparing for this evening's start of the RORC-run Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race that gets underway from the Royal Yacht Squadron at 6.00pm. For the twenty-eight boats competing in this gruelling event over a racecourse distance of approximately 1,789 miles it's all eyes on the weather and their charts as they plot their best escape westwards along England's south coast and into the Celtic Sea. A weather briefing this morning from renowned meteorologist Mike Broughton suggested that the fleet will experience north easterly gradient breezes that will increase to around 25 knots by the end of the week as two low pressure systems filter in from the Atlantic and that the wind will stay mainly in the north meaning a long beat up the west coast of Ireland.
For one team, the Ker 11.3 'MoonraKer of Cowes', just getting to the start will be a major achievement as at midday on Monday she was still out of the water far down the Medina River with her crew of Royal Engineers battling against the clock to get the boat race ready! Skipper Richard Williams was offering a stiff upper military lip however to the situation saying, 'We're hoping that a bit of brawn will sort the situation out. It will be a bit of a rush to the start but we're very confident that everything will get done and that we'll have a great ride around Britain & Ireland.'
The front-runners meanwhile are undergoing last minute checks whilst relaxing ahead of the start and it looks like being a fascinating tussle between the big guns as the race unfolds. The 2002 built Open 60 'Artemis Ocean Racing' of Jonny Malbon is the highest rated boat competing and will be certainly looking to lead the fleet out of the Solent, around the back of the Isle of Wight and into the Channel whilst Jean-Philippe Chomette's Nacira 60 'Solune' will be pushing hard and hoping to capitalise on any mistakes. These two will be closely monitored by the Volvo 60 of Robert Lutener and Martin Elwood 'Cutting Edge on Venom' and the Lutra 56 of Piet Vroon 'Formidable 3' but one of the surprise packages could come in the form of Ger O'Rourke's Cookson 50 'Kingspan-Chieftain.'
Another boat to look out for is Harry Heijst's beautiful Sparkman & Stephens 41 ft one-off 'Winsome' that is fresh from a very dominant performance in last week's Skandia Cowes Week. Harry is also a Director of race sponsor Sevenstar who specialise in global yacht transportation and will be a hot contender for the overall corrected time victory. So with all to play for, the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race could prove to be one of the most interesting to date and there's certainly a very good feeling on the dockside ahead of tonight's start that we could be in for a classic.
One sad note to report is that, owing to a family bereavement Brian Thompson will not be taking part in this year's event. An official press release stated the following: 'Brian Thompson, who has logged more multihull and swing keel sailing miles than any other Briton and holds 25 world records, had been set to skipper Artemis Ocean Racing, an all-carbon fibre Open 60. Then, last Thursday, his wife's mother, Sylvia Le Pen, died and Brian decided to stay at home to support his grieving wife, Nathalie, and family. Now Jonny Malbon will skipper Artemis Ocean Racing, having previously been selected as boat captain after several successes in that role, most notably for Ellen MacArthur on Kingfisher during her Route du Rhum victory in 2002. Jonny will lead a highly-experienced team of Nick ''Nobi'' Black, Will Oxley, Jonathan McKee and Mark Thomas.'
As the afternoon wore on, the supermarkets of Cowes were rapidly being drained of supplies as crews dashed around to collect essential last minute items with chocolates, nuts and fresh fruit being among the most popular purchases. However for the crew of Clem Jones' Jeu d'Esprit it will be a rather different sailing experience as they have unofficially renamed their boat 'Gourmet Sailing Jeu d'Esprit' on account of the quite exquisite supplies they have on board. This afternoon the crew were tucking into pork off the bone ahead of tonight's Moroccan lamb curry and were to be found on the dockside busily chopping onions ahead of the start. 'It was a love of cruising that first got us into eating well onboard,' says crew member Hans van Well, 'and we saw no reason to change our eating habits just because we decided to go racing!' The gourmet supplies will see the Jeu d'Esprit crew well provisioned for up to eighteen days with the onboard fridges stuffed to capacity alongside two boxes of oranges, a further two boxes of apples and a very large bag of onions stowed deep in the bowels of this immaculate J/160. 'We have made one concession to racing,' says skipper Jones, 'we're leaving the bimini ashore!'
Over the coming two weeks 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 www.rorc.org