Lighter weather sets in
IMOCA 60 Artemis Ocean Racing have set the benchmark for the overall winner on handicap honours and it looks like it could go to the wire. At 0800 BST Lithuanian Volvo 60, Ambersail had 143 miles to go and were achieving a speed of seven and half knots. If they continue at that pace, they will finish at about 0400 BST. To beat Artemis Ocean Racing, they have to increase their speed and finish by 0144. However, the British Keelboat Academy's TP52, John Merricks II had 239 miles to go at 0800 BST and are also in with a chance of claiming the overall prize. But, as a ridge of high pressure from the west comes across the race course, the breeze is set to fade, which may alter things dramatically.
At the moment, Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens is the handicap leader and favourite to take the race win. Boat Captain, Matt Trautman called in as the boat went around the Fastnet lighthouse last night: "We had an amazing run down the west coast of Ireland with full main and the A3 up we were really trucking along; 24 knots was our top speed. Now things have gone a little lighter, but we still have 14 knots of wind and we are making good progress. One problem on board is the cooking, we have no gas! We are living off cold rations and biltong. We expect to finish around midnight on Tuesday, just before crewman Frank Gerber's birthday. His mother runs the King and Queen pub in Hamble and has promised us some steak sandwiches, which is a real incentive to keep the boat speed up!" To win overall Tonnerre must finish by 0154 on Wednesday so it will be a close cut thing.
Class 40 Concise, skippered by Tom Gall has rounded the southwest tip of Ireland and are still in the breeze heading for the Isles of Scilly. The German Andrews 56, Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg is also still in wind, some 35 miles behind Concise.
Further back on the race track it was quite a night for the competitors. Whilst calmer weather was predicted, the North Atlantic showed how unpredictable it can be. Steven Anderson, skipper of leading Class One yacht, Encore explains;
"Blimey that was a night! There we were, worrying about weather a few days ahead and we hadnt spotted what was coming. As we were approaching Skula Sgeir, it started to feel like time for #3 and as we were doing the change, there was suddenly loads of wind (our instruments are a bit uncertain). After a lot of work and a very cold wet crew, we ended up rolling along bare headed with three reefs in the main. We've just rounded St Kilda with the sun shining, porpoises playing round the bow, and British Soldier and Alicia aka Team Styrboard in sight, which is pretty amazing itself. A spinnaker has just gone up for the first time in the trip and a somewhat rested crew are feeling good, as we head for Ireland. Looks like the wind might get soggy tomorrow, maybe at least we will get a chance to dry out and make and mend."
This morning, the competitors are really struggling for wind . Steven Anderson's First 40.7, Encore gybed inshore yesterday and it looks to have paid off for both them and Peter Robson's First 40.7, Playing Around Logic who followed the move. The Army Sailing Association's A 40, British Soldier chose to stay further west. All these yachts have slowed significantly but east is paying off at the moment, however the breeze is likely to fill in from the west and those yachts will get it first. Philippe Falle's, Reflex 38, Visit Malta Puma continue to show great pace in light airs and passed Floris Ingen Housz's Baltic 45, Beluga at dawn on approach to St.Kilda. It has been an eventful trip for Visit Malta Puma and last night they added another chapter to the story, answering to a distress call from Beluga, thankfully, it was a false alarm.