Day Four: AM Update
At 0700 BST, Musandam-Oman Sail was just 100 miles from finishing the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. The MOD 70 was experiencing about 15 knots of northwesterly winds in the English Channel. Musandam-Oman Sail was still achieving a speed of 25 knots but the wind angle meant a considerable number of gybes, drastically reducing their VMG. The team have approximately five and a half hours to cover the last 100 miles; it is too close to call if they can make the line before 12:59:14 to set a new world record. The Royal Ocean Racing Club Media Team will be speaking with Musandam-Oman Sail's skipper, Sidney Gavignet, in the next few hours for a special report.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Volvo Ocean 65, Azzam, has extended their lead overnight and are now over 60 miles ahead of Team Campos, skippered by Iker Martinez.
Azzam skipper, Ian Walker, confirmed that another goal is within their sights during a satellite phone call to the RORC Media Team at 0600 BST.
"We are just rounding the Blasket Islands off the South West tip of Ireland, which seems incredible seeing as we only left Cowes less than 3 days ago," commented Ian. "We now have our running spinnaker up and conditions onboard have improved markedly. We have caught up on some sleep, eaten some food and are set up for what should be our last day and a bit at sea. We have wriggled away from the chasing pack overnight and now have a nice lead which we will aim to defend from here. It seems clear that the prize at stake is not just the first Volvo 65 but will also be the race record for whoever gets there first."
Ian Walker is referring to the monohull race record, set by Franck Cammas' Groupama in 2010 of 5 days, 21 hours, 26 minutes and 55 seconds.
There is a battle royal going on between the chasing pack led by Team Dongfeng, skippered by Charles Caudrelier, SCA, skippered by Sam Davies, and Alvimedica, skippered by Charlie Enright. Rounding St.Kilda, SCA made a big gain. Dongfeng and Alvimedica gybed to the east, presumably to get a better wind angle, but SCA went almost all the way to the North Hebridian island of North Uist and looked to be in better pressure and angle of attack. The problem was laying the next mark, Blackrock, but SCA looked to get lifted off the land on the North West coast of Ireland and crossed in front of Alvimedica, making a 30 mile gain from St.Kilda to Blackrock. The all-female team on SCA have until 20:40:53 on Sunday 17th August to take the outright record for the fastest all-female team around Britain and Ireland. The current record is held by IMOCA 60, Aviva, which set it in 2009 and with two of the Team SCA crew onboard: Dee Caffari and Sam Davies.
Yesterday evening there was a dramatic change in the weather conditions which will have a big impact on the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Shortly before dusk, the southwesterly breeze that had provided fast reaching conditions backed to the west, then northwest. For those competitors still in the North Sea, this meant beating into headwinds. For the faster yachts already around the top of the course, downwind conditions prevailed. At approximately 1330 BST yesterday Jens Kellinghusen's Ker 51, Varuna, was the last yacht to reach the crucial turning point at Out Stack before the wind inversion and in doing so retains the overrall lead under IRC. Realistically, looking at the weather scenario, only two canting keel flyers can now beat Varuna on corrected time. Andrew Budgen and Fred Schwyn's Volvo 70, Monster Project, and Brian Thompson's IMOCA 60, Artemis-Team Endeavour. However the two yachts are experiencing a period of light winds off the North West coast of Ireland, much to the advantage of Varuna which has a far lower handicap. Both of the canting keel challengers have moveable ballast while for Varuna to get in their winning position the crew would have been fully hiked out, especially in the early part of the race in the North Sea.
This morning 14 yachts are making slow progress, beating into a cold north wind in the North Sea. The JV52 Hapsa Hamburg, skippered by Katrin Hilbert, and Class40, Swish, skippered by Roderick Knowles, are close to rounding Mucka Flugga. At the back of the pack, two yachts are having a close battle and were contacted by the RORC Media Team yesterday.
Ian Hoddle's Figaro II Rare, sailed with just two crew, is the smallest yacht in the race and Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Logic, is a fully crewed and heavy displacement yacht. The two yachts are poles apart in terms design and crew but both are enjoying a tremendous battle in IRC Two. In the fast downwind conditions, Rare is lightweight and able to plane but with the upwind conditions, Scarlet Logic's displacement will come to the fore.
"The adrenaline has subsided and life on board is now routine," commented Ian Hoddle by satellite phone. "When we rounded Lowerstoft on day two our focus was on catching Scarlet Logic who had a 7 mile lead during the first night. With a rhumb line reach, we reeled them in as we navigated through the banks off Yarmouth. It seemed to take forever to finally pass them within a few hundred metres and then our courses diverged, as we went further inshore.
In the late afternoon the front came through with a bad squall. We had timed to perfection the change from Jib Top to J4, so the effects of the 35 knot blast were contained. A second front passed through and left us with 25 knots S/W, so at around 19.00 we finally got some colour in the sky with the pink A4 hoisted. A fantastic blast doing 16+ knots at times. By 22.30 the sky had darkened again, so we dropped the A4, just in time for 30+ knots with gusts. A great day for calling the sail changes!
Yesterday we continued to make great progress up the Eastern coast of the UK. 25 knots S/W clocked left and around lunchtime we found the low pressure system forecast. Big uncomfortable sea state with 30 knots building to nearly 40 made a tough afternoon. With two reefs in the main, we battled some really big breaking waves. With the wind clocking West and now N/W, we are in upwind mode trying to hold the rhumb line to the Shetlands. Scarlet Logic has returned back in AIS range and has reeled us back in!
Both the boat and ourselves are very damp. Off watch is spent cat-napping on spinnaker bags on the cabin floor - it's like sleeping in a washing machine....Looks like this is going to be the norm for a while now: Muckle Flugga, 196 miles to go."
Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Logic, has taken part in thousands of miles of RORC races in recent years and Ross spoke to the RORC Media Team from the yacht, 200 miles from Muckle Flugga and beating into a cold northwesterly wind. "This is the toughest race I have done - if you asked me right now if this is a good race to do, I would say that the RORC Caribbean 600 would be a better call - it's a bit bumpy out here!" joked Ross. "It is now getting colder, especially tonight, it will be thermals and full kit on the rail. We will have to dig in - it's going to be another seven maybe eight days before we finish and I am looking forward to a beer."