2010 Race Updates
Lonely Out in Space
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.
Cat and Mouse to St Kilda
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.
The Shetland Islands in their wake
It 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."
Round the ragged rock
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.
Dogfight for Muckle Flugga
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.
High Road to Scotland
The Volvo Open 70, Telefonica Azul, is scorching along at a blistering speed. After the first 24 hours of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, the Spanish yacht has covered 440 miles of the 1,800 mile course.
Hurtling along behind them is Groupama and they are pushing hard. If anything the wind speed is due to increase during the night. The crews on board will be soaking wet and beginning to feel the effects of fatigue. Food will only be fuel and boat speed will be their primary concern.
To put this amazing 24 hour run into context, the two rocket ships are now north of Edinburgh, and could well be north of mainland Scotland by tomorrow morning!
Several hours behind the two front runners, Jonny Malbon and his crew on IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing, are reveling in the fast reaching conditions. (You can watch video from on board, in the Competitor Blogs)
Morning Race Report - Tuesday 24th August
After yesterday's dramatic start, the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is well under way. At 0800 this morning, all of the yachts racing had passed through the Straits of Dover and turned northwards into a westerly breeze of 15-20 knots, giving them a fast sleigh-ride up the Suffolk coast. This morning, there was the added luxury of clear skies and bright sunshine, in contrast to the wet and wild start. No doubt the hundreds of competitors in this epic challenge will be taking the opportunity to dry out wet weather gear this morning.
News in from ICAP Leopard is that the goose-neck fitting, attaching the boom to the mast, was the reason for their retirement.
"After a great fast start and only two hours into the race, we were obviously bitterly disappointed in not being able to continue in this fantastic race. The boom failure left us with no option but to retire, everything is now in order and we are making our way back to Southampton." Message from ICAP Leopard received: 17:30 Monday 23.08.10
Born to be Wild
The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race exploded into action at 1400 local time under grey leaden skies and big breeze. ICAP Leopard and Telefónica Azul chose to set off from the outer distance mark, and it was a hair-raising sight as RORC Chief Executive, Eddie Warden Owen reports from the race course:
"It was a magnificent start, 25 knots from the southwest with gusts of up to 30 knots coming out of the Medina River, Spanish entry Telefónica was an impressive sight, the Volvo 70 is built to race at full tilt around the world and she carried her enormous spinnaker to blast past the 100 foot Leopard at over 25 knots. It was a really impressive sight to these huge machines blasting down the Solent leaving the rest of the 27-strong fleet in their wake."
The IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing chose to start on the Island side and spectators on shore had an incredible view of the powerful boat surfing past Cowes.
Tonnerre de Breskens 3 from
Preview - 2010 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland
Spectacular downwind start expected
"The new route avoids a huge amount of heavy upwind work," commented ICAP Leopard navigator, Hugh Agnew. "From a navigator's point of view, going anti-clockwise means that we will go through a difficult part of the course fresh, rather than tired. On the east coast of England, there are some tricky shallow areas, especially around Yarmouth and Lowestoft and the Traffic Separation Zones create large areas that we are not allowed to enter.
It looks as though we will be experiencing windy conditions for the first four days which would mean a very rapid start but it really isn't prudent to suggest a finish time; a high pressure system that should develop over the latter part of the course, may well slow our progress."
ICAP Leopard are the favourite to take line-honours but they have some serious 'virtual competition'. Over 17,000 people are playing the on-line virtual race. Armchair Admirals get to race their own 100ft Maxi in the virtual race with real weather scenarios. To enter go to the Virtual Race Website.
Whilst the virtual skippers will be able to carry on as normal, the real Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is a non-stop and unassisted race. This morning crews were preparing for the off. For many, breakfast this morning will be the last meal ashore for quite a while.
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