As Tough As It Gets
In the 2010 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, Damian Foxall was watch leader on Volvo 70, Groupama. Taking Line Honours and setting a race record of 5 days, 21 hours, 26 minutes and 55 seconds, the Volvo 70 went on to win the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race with Foxall achieving cult status in his native Ireland.
For the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland, Foxall is back, as watch leader on MOD 70, Musandam-Oman Sail, skippered by Sidney Gavignet with three crew from the elite squad of sailors from the Sultanate of Oman.
"This race is an absolute classic," commented Damian Foxall. "Like the round the world races, the Route du Rhum, this is one of them. When Groupama was getting ready for the last Volvo Ocean Race, this was one of the best things we did; a real test. We always talk about the first leg winner of the Volvo but maybe it's now the Round Britain and Ireland Race, maybe this is the one to look at?
In all the racing I have done, this is as tough as it gets because this is much more intense than other races and I take my hat off to the Irishmen, Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive [racing on First 36.7, Lula Belle]; taking the race on Two Handed in a little boat is hard core."
While the MOD 70, Musandam-Oman Sail, has all the potential to set a new multihull record for the race, the course record itself (2011 - Banque Populaire 3 days, 3 hours, 49 minutes, 14 seconds) will be hard to beat although not out of the question, as Damian Foxall explains:
"Looking at the weather scenario, as of Wednesday 6th August, Sidney (Gavignet) reckons we are looking at completing the course in under 4 days. The course record is hard to beat, but they would have gone when the conditions were ideal, Musandam-Oman Sail doesn't have that option. So first of all we would need a coincidence that would provide the possibility of that goal and, secondly we are a smaller boat, so as I say, it is a difficult ask. Having said that, our goal is not just to take line honours but to set a decent race record.
To get the perfect conditions on a 360 degree course, you need significant wind shifts as you go around the course and these need to be at the correct time. If we get headed any amount of upwind work can really affect the performance of our boat. Sea state is another big factor, Musandam-Oman Sail is easily capable of sitting at 30 knots in significantly less true wind but as the wind gets up, so does the waves and we have to back off to protect the boat but we will definitely be racing against the clock.
One of the crucial points of the course will be where I come from, and we would love a favourable wind shift as we reach the Ring of Kerry. I have experienced a lot of high and lows off the coast of Kerry! I remember a fantastic leg from Galway to the Solent in Green Dragon and many of the transatlantic races I have been a part of come past Kerry.
I will be looking forward to going past God's country!"
Damian Foxall was speaking to RORC Race Reporter, Louay Habib