Top Gun on final approach
At 0800 BST, Volvo Open 70, Groupama, skippered by Jules Verne record holder, Franck Cammas, was just 40 miles from the finish of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.
Speeding towards a victorious celebration in Cowes, Groupama are expected to take the gun and the course record in just a few hours. During the night Groupama extended their lead over Teléfonica Azul and look almost certain to win this epic race.
By satellite phone, Iker Martínez, Skipper of Teléfonica Azul, commented that they are unlikely to catch their rivals but he was still up beat.
"We're near the end and we are suffering, watching Groupama eludes us and there is not much we can do. But we are pleased that we have been able to draw many conclusions that are very important for the future. We have paid a little for not having prepared specifically for this race. These last few months, we have dedicated all our efforts into the future and we are sure we will be rewarded. We have learnt through this experience to have well defined goals and fight for them."
In the race for a handicap victory, Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, is halfway down the west coast of Ireland. They are power-reaching, in a stiff northwesterly breeze of over 20 knots and looking likely to take the overall prize. At 0700 BST, Lithuanian Volvo 60, Ambersail, was rounding the southwest tip of Ireland and will be square running across the Irish Sea. The conventional pole configuration will suit this point of sail. They are lying second overall and are the biggest threat to Tonnerre de Breskens. The British Keelboat Academy's TP52, John Merricks II have had a good night, streaking down the track at speeds of over 15 knots and have moved up the overall rankings to third place. They will be hoping for lighter weather, which will suit them more that their rivals.
Steven Anderson's First 40.7, Encore and the Army Sailing Association's A 40, British Soldier are locked into battle heading for St.Kilda. British Soldier is just half a mile ahead on the water and expected to extend, as they reach around St. Kilda. However, Encore still holds the upper hand for the class, after time correction.
Last night, Keith Gibbs C&C 115, Change of Course was the last boat to round Muckle Flugga in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and it was quite an experience. The pit was open and the beast was awake, as strong headwinds, driving rain and a vicious short sea conspired to make it a tempestuous rounding. It would have been a bumpy and very uncomfortable few hours. However this morning, Keith Gibbs and his crew will be enjoying sailing the boat off the breeze, in a much smoother and upright position. The fastest ocean going mono-hull in the world*, Volvo Open, Groupama, should finish the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, later today. Change of Course still has a thousand miles to go.
* Groupama raced as Ericsson 4 in the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race and set a 24-hour record run for a monohulls of 602 miles.