Round the ragged rock
Almost exactly two days into the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, Franck Cammas' Volvo Open 70, Groupama, was the first yacht to round Muckle Flugga at 1400 BST. They are now heading southwest at a speed of over 17 knots with their 19-mile lead rapidly increasing over their rivals Telefonica Azul, who are still beating up to Muckle Flugga.
Jonny Malbon's IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, has 77 miles to go to reach the top of the course and will round the remote island alone, as they have been for much of this race. On board is Olympic 49er medallist, Simon Hiscocks who is very much at home racing a 49er or an extreme 40, but offshore racing is a very new concept to him. (See Simon's video blog here)
Artemis Ocean Racing is going well and 48 hours into the race they are second overall under IRC behind Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens. Early leaders on handicap, the British Keelboat Academy's TP52, John Merricks II, are now third overall but sailing further offshore and look to be getting into more breeze.
Meanwhile the young crew on Tony Lawson's Class 40, Concise are feeling the effects of this brutal race. "We are cold, wet and busting a gut to keep up with the bigger boats in front of us." Said Tom Gall, skipper of Concise. "The boat has been like a submarine since we left Cowes and we are living off tea and porridge. Tom Dawson comes from Newcastle, and when we passed his home town, he told us how good the fish and chips are. I must say I was licking my lips when I told him to belt-up. This is a tough, tough race but when I look at the crew around me, I just well up with pride for what we are doing."
In IRC Two, Adrian Lower's Swan 44, Selene, is top of the class and has opened up a nine-mile lead on Harry Heijst's S&S 41, Winsome. This may be down to their secret weapon, Tabasco: "We have more bottles of the pepper sauce on board than we have crew," admitted Adrian. "It helps spice up the bland food and warms up the lads as we go north. We are taking part in this race, partly for the challenge of sailing round our Island non-stop, but also to show that an old boat can be competitive."
Driving rain is sweeping across the racecourse but the good news is that the severe weather predicted for Thursday may well be further south than expected. Lighter conditions may well prevail tonight, but one thing that is certain about the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race; nothing can be taken for granted.