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2010 Race Updates

Lonely Out in Space

Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens. Photo: RORC/Rick TomlinsonAfternoon Race Update - Thursday, 26 August

At 14:00 BST the vast majority of the fleet were in the remotest corner of the North Sea, hundreds of miles from any city and well offshore. The barren coastline of northeast Scotland was the nearest landfall. In essence, they were very much out on their own.

Race leader Groupama had managed to struggle past the light winds around the Isle of Lewis and into fresher north easterly breeze. Getting to the breeze first means that they have opened up an 18 mile lead on rivals Telefónica Azul.

Looking at weather further up the track, the wind speed is due to increase in strength, to as much as 25 knots. Soon enough, the two Volvo Open 70s in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race will be launched like guided missiles, speeding down the west coast of Ireland

Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens has regained the overall lead under IRC from Jonny Malbon's IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, which led on handicap overnight. At 14:00 BST, Tonnerre was 27 miles south of Muckle Flugga and is due to round the most northern part of the course at 17:00. The easterly move by the TP52 John Merricks II has failed to pay dividends and they have dropped to sixth overall. This is another boat that revels in downwind surfing conditions and could easily make up the lost time to move up the leaderboard.

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Cat and Mouse to St Kilda

IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, during the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethMorning Race Update - Thursday 26 August

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.

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The Shetland Islands in their wake

Volvo Open 70 Groupama rounds the Shetland IslandsIt was today at 1300 hours UTC, that Groupama 70 rounded the North of the Shetland Islands with a good lead over her direct rival, Telefonica. Jean-Luc Nélias, Groupama Team's navigator, gives us the low-down on the first 48 hours of racing around the British Isles as well as the next stage of the course.

"We were counting on the Sevenstar as a means to compare the performances of Groupama 70 with those of another VOR 70. Unfortunately we've hardly done any contact sailing since we left Cowes. It's still a very interesting experience nonetheless, because we've got a lot to learn about our own boat as regards the manoeuvring, the organisation of watches, the sail selection and finally the handling of information between the skipper, the navigator and the watch leaders. We're learning a massive amount about ourselves. With a bit of luck, we'll be more in contact with each other in the second part of the race."

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Round the ragged rock

Class 40 Concise in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: RORC/ Rick Tomlinson.Afternoon Race Report - Wednesday, 24th August

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.

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Dogfight for Muckle Flugga

Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens leads on handicap on Day Two of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethMorning Race Report - Wednesday 25th August

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.

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