Cat and Mouse to St Kilda
At 07:00 this morning, Groupama were bound for St. Kilda with Telefónica Azul closing the gap behind them. Groupama are still out in front on Day Four of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, but overnight the wind speed dropped from 15 knots to just a zephyr of wind. Groupama are now barely moving forward but Telefónica Azul is a weapon in light airs and they are clawing back the miles. Although conditions on board are now calm, concentration levels need to be maintained. After the physical exertion of the last three days, it is now mental strength that becomes paramount, keeping alert when every part of your being is willing you to sleep is just as grueling.
Jonny Malbon's IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, has been getting the tactics spot on and they are currently leading the fleet overall on handicap. Behind them the Lithuanian crew on Volvo 60, Ambersail are on a final approach to Muckle Flugga, but the lighter wind may not suit the boat. There is a fascinating battle between Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens and the British Keelboat Academy's TP52, John Merricks II. The young crew from the academy took a bold move to the east yesterday, in search of more wind and they found it, but the price they have had to pay is to sail more miles. John Merricks II may well round Muckle Flugga before their Dutch rivals and the high performance, lighter TP52, could well slip away in the lighter breeze ahead.
Chaz Ivill's Grand Soleil 54, John B is now second in IRC Zero and third overall. Chaz and his crew are all Corinthian sailors, many of who have competed in numerous Rolex Fastnet races but this is Ivill's first Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race: "There are three heads on board and plenty of accommodation and we are living off proper food, including Timmy Mill's world famous, pork in cider, so I would say we are racing in comfort compared to other boats. The heavy weather has really suited us so far and we are keen to do well, but completing this race and sailing around my own country will be reward in itself."
In IRC One, Steven Anderson's First 40.7, Encore, still leads the class, but the Army Sailing Association's A 40, British Soldier, skippered by Tim Hill has been stalking them for a while now and the lighter airs may see a change in leadership during the day.
Probably the best performance since the last update was from Adrian Lower's East Coast Swan 44, Selene. Yesterday afternoon, a hitch to the east put them into more wind and that has powered them ahead of Harry Heijst's S&S 41, Winsome who are now some 50 miles astern.
Luca Zoccoli's Ostar 35, In Direzione Ostinata e Contraria have retired from the race and are heading for Edinburgh, both the skipper and crew are well.