By sunset tonight all of the competitors racing in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race will have rounded Muckle Flugga. For many of them it has been a long hard slog up the North Sea.
The leaders are literally at the other end of the course. At 1200 BST, Volvo Open 70, Groupama is just 65 miles from the Scilly Isles. They have chosen a course north of the rhumb line, presumably to take advantage of any new breeze that may emanate from the Bristol Channel. Teléfonica has gybed south and it is anticipated that Groupama will cover them. Groupama have 290 miles to go to the finish of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race; Teléfonica are 20 miles behind. Both are expected to finish in Cowes by Sunday afternoon. Obviously this estimated time of arrival will be dependent on the wind strength.
The overall lead under IRC has changed yet again, Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens is back in the lead. The Dutch yacht is blasting down the west coast of Ireland trying to hang on to the coat-tails of the British Keelboat Academy's TP52, John Merricks II. Before the start of this epic race, the young team were desperately short of funds and up until the last minute, they did not know if they could afford to enter. None of the crew is paid to race, but maintaining and provisioning a TP52 is an expensive business; feeding 18 people for over a week is a huge amount of food. Before the start, they got a helping hand: "This is a tough race and when we heard that the young talented sailors on John Merricks II needed a hand, we were delighted to help," commented ICAP Leopard's Boat Captain, Chris Sherlock. "Racing a TP52 1800 miles takes some doing, but they won't be going hungry. John Merricks are really tight on budget, so with the compliments of ICAP Leopard, they have enough freeze-dried meals to get them around the gruelling course. Best of luck to them."
Doug Innes' First 40.7, Cheeki Rafiki rounded Muckle Flugga in the early hours of the morning. Crewman Ken Allison sums up what it was like to be so far north: "The coldest night so far, up the northwest coast of Shetland, round to Muggle Flugga (isn't that a name you want to spell badly). The phones and internet all sprang into life as we got close to Shetland and civilisation. This gave our first glimpse at how the race has been going for three days. It's great to receive emails and texts from friends and loved ones, wishing us well and offering advice. Plan A seems to be: try to break things less often, trim things more often and keep pushing south. That works for me."
High pressure is working its way across the racecourse from the southwest, giving the fleet far more pleasant conditions. However, for the competitors approaching the west coast of Ireland, there is still a decent moderate breeze from the northwest, pushing them on to finish this challenging race.