Tough at the Top
At 1400 BST, the forecast strong westerly winds had arrived at the north of the course for the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, providing challenging conditions for the yachts in the region. Three competitors have retired in the last 24 hours and Jankees Lampe's Open 40, La Promesse has suspended racing and is heading for Stornoway to affect mainsail repairs, before restarting the race.
Tonight or early tomorrow, the leading yachts racing under IRC in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race are expected to cross the finish line when another world record is set to be broken and line honours for the IRC fleet will be decided.
Jens Kellinghusen's German Ker 51, Varuna leads the IRC fleet by an estimated nine hours on corrected time. At 1400 BST, Varuna was just off the Scilly Isles, and gybed onto port for the 240 mile downwind leg to the finish. Ahead of Varuna on the water, but behind after time correction was Brian Thompson's IMOCA 60, Artemis-Team Endeavour and Andrew Budgen and Fred Schwyn's, Volvo 70, Monster Project. The two canting keel yachts have been battling for IRC line honours boat for boat.
60 hours have passed since Monster Project rounded the top of the course, leading the IRC fleet and 60 miles ahead of Artemis-Team Endeavour. However, Artemis-Team Endeavour has been chipping away at the difference and at 1400 BST on Day 6, the team led by record-holding round the world sailor Brian Thompson, had passed Monster Project and extended an 11-mile lead with just over 100 miles to go.
Brian Thompson contacted the RORC Media Team just off The Lizard.
"It has been an incredible battle; we can see Monster Project right behind us. We have made up a lot of ground by sailing at the right angles. On the leg to St. Kilda we sailed some fast angles, which meant we had to do a couple of gybes, while Monster Project just went too straight, so maybe we were just sailing hotter and achieving a higher boat speed. The crew were really concentrating on that leg and we put in some good gybes and it all just fell into place. We were just on fire on that leg."
"Across the Celtic Sea, the tactic was to just stay out of the lee of Ireland and the big decision approaching the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) around Bishop's Rock was, do we go north or south? We had a fun game with Monster Project last night selling them a dummy (thanks to a Ferguson-Cummings match racing move!). Monster Project was six miles ahead and we were slowly catching them. We aimed to go north of the TSS and they gybed to cover us and at the last minute we gybed off to go south and we came out one mile ahead at Bishop's Rock."
Artemis-Team Endeavour is hot favourite to set the fourth world record of this year's race. The yacht needs to cross the finish line before 18:49 on Sunday evening to set a new course and race record. Artemis-Team Endeavour is expected to finish the race around midnight tonight, well inside the record.
At 1400 BST, Roderick Knowles, Class40 Swish was 766 miles from the finish on the west coast of Ireland. The British Class 40 is estimated to finish the course on Wednesday 20th August, which would set a new race record for the class. Swish rounded St. Kilda earlier this morning and turned south. The Class40 is a reaching machine and should the wind angle become more favourable, it is highly likely that Swish could finish well before their estimated time.
Change of Course sailed by David Dyer has a rudder bearing failure and is safely in Lerwick. Ruag White Knight 7, sailed by the Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club has retired into Peterhead due to boat damage. Scarlet Logic skippered by Ross Applebey has retired due to an injury to a crew member (dislocated shoulder). The crew has now been safely transferred ashore and due to the unfavourable weather conditions, the boat has turned back south:
"We have taken the difficult, but perhaps inevitable decision to retire from the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race," commented Applebey, "It has been a memorable race with some fantastic and challenging sailing, with a great team. We are very proud to have led our class for such a long part of the race. This race is over for us but we wish our fellow competitors safe and rewarding sailing for the remainder of the race. We will come back out fighting the next time! We would like to thank the very professional Shetland coastguard and the dedicated, capable team aboard the Kirkwell RNLI Lifeboat for their invaluable assistance providing the quickest possible medical assistance."
At 1400 BST Jens Kellinghusen's German Ker 51, Varuna leads the class. Custom JV52, Haspa Hamburg sailed by Katrin Helbert has rounded St. Kilda and has cracked sheets with 740 miles to go. This morning at 0900, JV53, Bank Von Bremen sailed by Carol Smolawa was back on the wind, facing a 70 mile beat to St. Kilda. At 1400 BST the German team had 30 miles to go before coming off the wind and it is likely that Bank Von Bremen will reach St. Kilda at around sunset and will enjoy an increase in both speed and comfort tonight, along the west coast of Ireland.
Racing Two Handed, Jankees Lampe's Open 40, La Promesse leads the class, but has postponed racing to carry out repairs to their mainsail. The Dutch duo have 890 miles to go and have chosen to head west into the strong winds. The pair are extremely experienced short handed offshore sailors and may well have be avoiding to tack to try to repair their damaged mainsail:
"One stitch in the main is departing seriously, between the 2nd and 3rd reef. We've just put the 3rd reef in and will wait for an opportunity to make repairs. This main has done two AZAB's and one OSTAR, plus half a Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland! We are under our 3rd reef and staysail doing 7 knots and a bit disappointed, but we just stopped racing to head for Stornoway to carry out the mainsail repairs. The area is too large to handle in these conditions on board, so we have postponed racing. We are both doing well though."
After Scarlet Logic's retirement, Ian Hoddle's Figaro II, Rare, racing Two Handed is the new class leader. Rare is 940 miles from the finish, 140 miles from St. Kilda and beating into big seas and strong headwinds. The British pair will be hoping that the wind backs to the north as predicted; otherwise it could be over 24 hours on the wind for Rare.
Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive racing First 36.7, Lula Belle Two-Handed are putting in a gutsy performance at the top of the course, still over 1,000 miles from finishing the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. At 1400 BST on Day Six, the Irish duo were finally heading west, having rounded Out Stack and no doubt relishing the prospect of turning south down the west coast of Scotland, towards their native Ireland.