Dogfight for Muckle Flugga
Groupama have taken pole position in the race to be the first boat to finish in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and overtaken Telefonica Azul as they approach Muckle Flugga, the most northern point of Great Britain. Yesterday afternoon the wind softened and headed the two Volvo 70’s and Groupama took a hitch to the West which initially seemed like wasted miles but has proved decisive over the last 8 hours with more breeze to the West. Yann Riou on board Groupama explains:
"Yesterday we decided to go further inshore and we went onto starboard tack for about an hour and it looks like it was a good move and Team Groupama are delighted to hear that we are now ahead of our rivals. It was a tough night and it has been a hard race. Especially as we have had many sail changes, so we have had very little sleep but the crew are all in good spirits.
We are now just 25 miles from Muckle Flugga and about ten miles off the Scottish coast, we are looking forward to getting around the most northern point on the course and heading back down and we are delighted to be in the lead."
The two carbon fibre speed machines are now locked into a duel to reach the most northern part of the course with the boats 15 miles apart as they converge on Muckle Flugga, north of Unst in the Shetland Islands, which is further north of the equator than Cape Horn is south. The wind speed is still 20 knots, gusting up to 25 but the wind direction is now a chilly northwesterly, too shy for a spinnaker. However, the Volvo Open 70s are romping through the waves, at speeds of up to 15 knots.
There is also a new overall leader under IRC, Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46,Tonnerre de Breskens, taking the lead on corrected time shortly before midnight. Tonnerre de Breskens was designed for this sort of race and will have enjoyed the new change of wind direction, far more than the TP52, John Merricks II, which is now in second place overall under IRC.
At 1900 yesterday when leading Class IRC One, Visit Malta Puma made a decision to turn round and head to Great Yarmouth to effect repairs to their engine. On arrival, the yacht was tied to a buoy and the alternator was successfully repaired. With tenacity, Visit Malta Puma rejoined the race, over 100 miles behind the entire fleet. The new class leader in IRC One is Steven Anderson's First 40.7, Encore.
Adrian Lower's Swan 44, Selene, has also shot up the rankings to lead in IRC Two but only just. They are having a battle royal with Harry Heijst's S&S 41, Winsome. At about 1800 yesterday, the northwesterly head winds kicked in and Dutch entry, Winsome was first to capitalize, holding the lead through the night. Battling with them side by side was Selene. By the early hours of this morning, British yacht, Selene had just got the better of Winsome.
After the second night at sea, the competitors in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race will be getting use to life on board. But spare a thought for the crew on Visit Malta Puma, who were leading their class and now find themselves 100 miles behind. There are no showers on board and even the toilet roll has been rationed. Fresh food is now a thing of the past, as they go on to boil-in-the-bag rations.
Fair Do's VII (GBR 4601L) and Relentless on Incisor (GBR 8248) have retired from the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Both retirements are due to equipment failure and there are no reports of any injuries to crew on board either yacht.
Fair Do's VII has developed a steering problem, Relentless on Incisor sustained damage to the rig and boom.