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Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race 17 August 2006 - Afternoon Web Update

17 August, 2006 3:30:00 PM BST | Racetime 09:21:30:00

Just the small matter of 65 miles is left for the crew of Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy's Swan 56, Noonmark VI to complete the 1800 mile Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race but the light southerly winds are proving tricky to navigate and predict in the English Channel. It's much the same story for the rest of the fleet all filing down the eastern seaboard with many of the boats making only very slow progress at speeds between 3-7 knots. For the most northerly boats the wind has almost completely shut off with the Predator of Wight's Sam Connelly telephoning race control this afternoon saying:

We are sitting in a hole with absolutely no wind at all and all eyes are out of the boat trying to desperately seek the next wind band. Onboard weve got enough provisions for another five days where after it's going to have to be mackerel caught off the back with my fishing rod and feathers!

Onboard the Ker 11.3 Minnie the Moocher the crew have been amazed at the amount of oil rigs theyve seen as they head down the cost with one member reporting that, Last night the oilfields off Aberdeen were a remarkable sight, the oil rigs are spaced so regularly they could be mistaken for a marine highway lighting system! Meanwhile there have been numerous whale, porpoise, turtle and dolphin sightings from across the fleet with many first-timers astounded at the natural beauty that is literally on their doorstep in the British Isles.

The predicted finishing time for Noonmark VI is around 2300 hrs this evening (Thursday) whilst the next boat, Unlimited Sailing/John Merricks, should be back in Cowes sometime late on Friday with the German entry Norddeutsche Vermogen back in shortly behind. For the rest of the crews it's time to try and dry their boats out, catch up on some sleep and prepare for the possibility of another five days at sea.

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 www.rorc.org

Quotes from the boats:

Unlimited Sailing / John Merricks: Thames today, Cowes tomorrow With less than 200 miles to the finish of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, Farr 45 Unlimited Sailing / John Merricks is fighting hard against the tide in the Thames Estuary and hoping for a Friday finish in Cowes, Isle of Wight. Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme Sailor Johnny Marshall has been one of three designated helmsmen on the trip and revealed what the team have been up to over the last 24 hours. We had a challenging day yesterday with hardly any wind. After covering so much ground on Tuesday crew morale dropped when we suddenly came to a standstill. After feeling like home was getting close we suddenly added a day to our race and there was little we could do about it. The Lymington based 21 year-old continued, Last night was actually quite exciting, not only did the wind begin to build but we also sailed past loads of oil rigs. They were just massive and quite an amazing sight in the dark. Finally we are back on course, tight reaching with about ten knots of breeze and flat water. Were just inside the Thames Estuary battling the tide. Were working our way along the shore, trying to avoid hitting the bottom as we stay out of the tide, which should change in the next couple of hours and help us get down to Dover and around the corner. Tonight will be our last night on the boat which, after spending ten days on her, is a strange sensation. It will be brilliant to get home and finally take stock of what we, as a young team, have accomplished.

Unlimited Sailing / John Merricks is expected to cross the finish line in Cowes, Isle of Wight sometime tomorrow, Friday 18 August.

Talisman - Shetland Shenanigans - Alistair Heggie It would have been disappointing not to have had the opportunity to fully test the waterproofing fixes to the mast boot and the rail. Suffice to say the conditions have not let us down. With the Flannan Isles retreating over the horizon, the wind continued to blow predictably from the north. As night fell we gathered our selves for a night of heavy seas, beating into the forecast force 5-7 and the tricky task of spotting fishing boats in the swell. The night distinguished it's self from the long beat from the Scilly's to the Flannan Isles by the addition of low cloud blanketing all ambient light and driving rain stinging our eyes and faces, stopping us from looking into the waves we couldn't see. Talisman stood up to the test magnificently. Bristling along at 7 knots with the storm jib and 2 reefs in the main, she pitched and rolled as we climbed up the towering waves fronts and dramatically fell down the backs. The on-watch were treated to regular dousings in the cockpit while the off-watch were troubled by the relentless slamming on the hull and reverberation in the rig. By dawn the worst was behind us as we cruised along in a force 5 and set about repairing the crew with bacon butties, caffeine and some well deserved sleep. We were surprised by the amount of shipping in the area, especially fishing boats until a second glance at the chart confirmed we were sailing over Turbot Bank - not the best kept secret fishing location. The weather is not without a sense of humour. We are now sitting tantalisingly 50 miles short of Muckle Flugga (Northern most point of the Shetlands) in very light winds. By the time you read this we will be heading south at long last having quaffed our celebratory glass of bubbly and a welcome change of underwear for the crew. Once again The Dream Machine was given the opportunity to demonstrate it's prowess. Just a reminder of the website for all of you that ever intend on sleeping aboard a yacht again: www.oceansleepwear.co.uk.

Talisman - Upbeat A fantastic day aboard jolly Talisman. Lighter winds have allowed us to focus on boat repairs after an exhilarating night punching into breaking heavy swell generated by a Northerly (what else!) force 5-6. We have pumped the bilges, dried the boat and set about making this sieve waterproof and we spent a happy time with a tube of silicon working around the rail and the mast boot. Down below Captain Curly (skipper) worked wonders breathing life back into the instruments, Navtex and saloon lighting. Chris applied his creative genius to repairing Andrew's glasses allowing him to see beyond the cockpit. Jeremy has generously allowed a couple of to use his fancy waterproof sleeping bag now renamed "The Dream Machine". Feedback has been extremely positive. One crew member reported "it's the best sleeping experience I've ever had on a yacht ever!" This report may have something to do with dreams featuring Kylie. Demand for The Dream Machine has never been higher. We are on our way to the Hebrides. The wind continues to blow from the North. Thoughts of downwind wind sailing are a distant memory. More dolphins came to play today. The sun's report card is looking poor but it made a welcome 30 minute appearance this afternoon. The crew are in a chipper mood now that the boat is sorted and we appear to be making some headway. We are looking forward to a nice bottle of claret, roast beef with all the trimmings but we'll have to settle for tinned Irish stew tonight.

Jaguar Logic - Skipper Pete Summers (aka Pedro) We have finally got back into the land of the living as far as the computer is concerned. We managed to get all the software up and running a couple of days ago but then had continual problems of not being able to send messages or would lose them after the crew had spent hours typing then out. You would have thought though with a couple of computer whizzes on board it would not have taken quite so long. All is going well and we are all very relieved to finally be around Muckle Flugga. Tensions had been running high for the last few days as we never seemed to be getting any closer and every time we thought the wind had freed it would either drop or swing back and head us again meaning yet more beating. The actual rounding was a bit of an anti-climax with thick mist obscuring the rock so all you could see was a very eerie loom of the light, likened to something out of a hammer horror movie. But now we are around and that is all behind us now, helped a little by a small glass of champagne. We are on the true homeward leg. Spirits are high again and the frantic trimming continues. At the moment we are sat in the middle of a depression centred over the Shetlands so the wind is very light and from every direction. We have taken this rare opportunity with the boat being upright to try and catch up on some of the boat husbandry and cleaning which had been reduced to merely sponging out about 5 gallons of water from the bilges at every watch change while at a 30* heal, and sort out that evenings meal before it got too wet. Jon and I are also going to take this opportunity to make some fresh bread to go with our packet soup for lunch! The mistake was made of assuming because we had beat to windward all the way up here it would be a bit of a downhill sleigh ride on the way back and we would have the opportunity to dry some of our kit out. But oh no, it is still thick mist outside and everything is even more damp than before including our bunks which just seem to be getting worse. And guess what we are still going to windward. We did get a token bit if spinnaker flying for about 6 hours this morning after rounding in the mist and about 4 knots of wind. Must dash have meals to cook and bilges to sponge

Norddeutsche Vermoegen Hamburg We are on the tack again... seems to be not sailing around Britain, but tacking round Britain. After rounding Shetlands we had a short period of spinnaker sailing, even quite fast with up to 19.4 knots, then we had a little accident: our spinnaker boom broke as well as the 1.6 spinnaker itself. With no second spi boom we had to change to our last reacher, with top speeds up to 17.2 knots... until the wind left us and we had to fight against calm winds... The starboard watch made a construction so we could use the Gennacker for a while, but as already told we are now on the tack again. We had a lot of time for little reconstructions or cleaning or even for some gourmet-bread-baking sessions.

Jeu dEsprit - Fiona Well we've made it to Muckle Flugga after 7 solid days of beating into the wind (apart from a slight lull around Rhona when there was force 6 forecast to the north, east and west of us and we didn't even have 6 knots of breeze). Muckle Flugga is very pretty, but after several hours of drifting up to it on the tide we managed to get the boat moving with a kite up and then it's turned - you guessed it - south... So it looks like we'll be beating all the way home again. Hey ho. Probably just as well we've got all that food on board otherwise it would be a great diet but not so good for morale. Champagne lunch planned for today in honour of Muckle Flugga - we might eventually have to start getting inventive with pasta or rice and the spice cupboard but for now we're enjoying the proper food while it lasts and praying for anything other than southerly winds... Crew now considerably more smelly - all that banging and crashing into the wind has started taking some toll on the boat but we've come off very lightly compared to many. We're also blessed with a surfeit of engineers and fixit types on board, so things like water getting into the generator filter, 3 cracked spokes on the wheel or the forepeak bilge pump stopping are just taken as a challenge to sort out. The really worrying one for most of us was the gas leak that meant we finished our first of 2 gas bottles after only 5 days - this is where some sort of rehydrateable pretend food that could be edible with hot water from the tap might have been a good idea... However, we're now being very careful because we don't know how long we need the 2nd bottle of gas to last so it's the electric kettle for hot drinks and muesli every other day for breakfast - but only milk is currently rationed (due to the unexpected extra muesli consumption!) We're stuck with what's left of the biscuits and Green & Black's chocolate so when those are gone they're gone, but the Thai green curry is back for dinner by popular demand and it's calm enough to have showers without risking acquiring any more bruises than we already have, my back is better AND we're now homeward-bound, so things could be a lot worse. We've not heard much from any other race boats recently but it was nice to hear coastguards with scottish accents after so long of the irish lot, lovely as they were. Better go - we've got bockwurst and potato salad for lunch and we need to wake the other watch... Fiona on Jeu d'Esprit at 60 degrees 56.2 North and 0 degrees 45.15 West at 12:45

Minnie the Moocher After 16 hours with the spinnaker, we were back to reaching and now we are on the wind again. Maybe this is not a memorable windward/leeward race, more of a windward race. As with the other boats ahead of us we are struggling with light breezes. It has allowed us to get all the gear on deck and dry it out so we should have pleasant living conditions in the short term. We had a pod of pilot whales about 50 metres from the boat this morning. Truly stunning. Now I know why people take whale watching holidays. Last night the oilfields off Aberdeen were also a remarkable sight, the oil rigs are spaced so regularly they could be mistaken for a marine highway lighting system. Our best foot is forward at the moment but Noonmark is going surprisingly well for a heavy boat in very light airs. We have a real job on our hands whittling down their lead.

Talisman Sea Shanty - Jeremy Rockett (somewhere off the Hebrides)

This is the crew of the Talisman
Seven brave souls, to a man
Of shapes and sizes, we have a range
But personalities, much more strange

First the Ancient Mariner, a sleepy knave
Sleeping all day in Gollom's cave
Of his sleeping you may scoff
But when he's awake, we can't turn him off

Then there's Al, all ginger and white
Rushing in where others take fright
"What's the worst" we hear him say
"That can happen to ginger Al today?"

Next there's Andrew, a tough little Scouse
He's just lost everything, even his house
But he's hardy and we know he'll thrive
With his anthem - "I will survive"

Then the Wippet, all sinews and lean
Less meat on a man is rarely seen
Quoting Shakespeare and cosines and other such tosh
Better eat up quick or he'll finish your nosh

Next there's Buttie, a domestic sort
Washing and scrubbing, both starboard and port
Shaving and polishing and squeaky clean
Unlike the rest of us - we know where he's been

Then there's the skipper, a seaman quite sound
We have every trust he'll get us around
Even though we regularly say
"Skipper, what you gonna break today?"

About the narrator, a wordy lad
And as a poet, not too bad
Sleeping cosy in his waterproof bag
No wonder he gets the "Mr kit" tag

So there we have the Talisman seven
Having beaten thro' hell, looking for downwind heaven
Our determination to get round is clear
We'll see you in the Anchor for a well-deserved beer

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