Seven days into the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and the majority of the fleet still racing is experiencing full-on conditions around Out Stack at Muckle Flugga.
The most northerly point of the course is at the same latitude as Alaska. Hannah Stodel, skipper of Class40 Region Normandie reported: “52 knots from the south-west, we are hanging on in!”
Nineteen teams are still racing in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.
Benjamin Schwartz and Chen Jin Hao's Figaro 2 El Velosolex SL Energies Group is the new provisional leader after IRC time correction. Phil Sharp's Imerys Clean Energy leads the race for line honours chased by Tony Lawson's Concise 8, skippered by Jack Trigger.
The leading Class40s are in big breeze in the North Sea where Phil Sharp's Imerys Clean Energy heads the fleet with 365 miles to go (0900 BST 18 August). Concise 8, skippered by Jack Trigger is 29 miles behind. For the moment, the wind is forward of the beam and both combatants are travelling at roughly the same speed.
However, the wind is forecast to drop and veer north after the cold front passes allowing the leaders to hoist spinnakers. Imerys Clean Energy blew out their masthead spinnaker before Muckle Flugga.
The North Sea represents the most difficult part of the course to navigate with major shipping lanes and wind and wave farms. The approach to Felixstowe is complicated by a myriad of sandbanks and tidal rips are notorious.
In the Class40 fleet, Charles-louis Mourruau's Class40 Colombre XL (The Lost Boys) is third, and fourth is Aparito, skippered by Elin Haf Davies racing with her husband Chris Frost and Pip Hare.
Elin's blog makes amusing reading. She came late to sailing after playing rugby for Wales A and rowing both the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean: “I’ve been getting involved in pulling on ropes and making tea (Mam, you’d be proud!), bailing water and stacking 150kg worth of kit every time we tack or gybe.
“That’s a lot of weight for a desk-based bum like me. 'Tubs' our boat has been gathering pace. At times she’s charging ahead like a Welsh prop forward about to score a try in Twickenham – 35 knots of wind does that to you!”
El Velosolex SL Energies Group is the new overall leader after IRC time correction. The French and Chinese duo, racing two-handed in the smallest boat in the race, rounded Out Stack at midnight last night. They will be relishing the prospect of the forecast downwind conditions which will suit the team far more than Giles Redpath's Lombard 46 Pata Negra, which is now second overall, but leading IRC 1.
Ross Applebey's Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster has been going well through the night and is now up to third overall as the team round Out Stack. Performance Yacht Racing's First 47.7 EH01, skippered by Gareth Glover, is also rounding the top of the course and is up to third in IRC 2. EH01 sent in their blog by Henry Davis before rounding Out Stack.
“It is Chris’(James) Happy, Happy Birthday celebrations! Included, but not restricted to chocolate cake, birthday banners and disco dancing. Mother nature showed up for the celebrations by way of pilot whales and puffins to send their best wishes. We are halfway. We are halfway. We are halfway!
The marker for this is a grey lump of rock exotically called Sula Sgeir. The moment was also marked by the spinnaker (Charlotte). She blew her clew at the sheer excitement of it all. There is never a dull moment on board the jolly EH01.”
In IRC 3 Ian Hoddle's Game On (Virgin Media Business) is leading and set to round Out Stack this morning. Ian describes the scene on board the Sun Fast 3600 racing two handed with Ollie Wyatt.
“Not long after midnight we got hit by a 35 knot squall. My shout in the darkness above the howling wind and flapping sails was answered by the sleeping Ollie and we (he) got the reef in the main, whilst I fought control at the control and command centre behind.
“Control restored, Ollie returned to his dreams and I spent an awesome few hours surfing under jib and reefed main at 12+ knots before it was his turn for helming fun. Only sailors would probably get these moments as when you say it out loud, it does sound somewhat insane.
“The boat is screaming through the pitch black of night in big breaking waves, in the middle of nowhere; only instruments to guide the helm, being battered by the spray and sea surf as it launches over the boat and tries to detach you at every opportunity, whilst your mate sleeps in the washing machine below. That’s living!”
In IRC 4, the only class with no retirements, Charles Emmett and Tim Winsey racing Sigma 36 British Beagle rounded St. Kilda this morning and is experiencing a building breeze and sea state as the two-handed team head north at full hull speed.
Chris Staples Sigma 36 Tantrum of Langstone is off the wild west coast of Donegal, Ireland. Charlene Howard's American Sun Odyssey 45.2 AJ Wanderlust is due to round Black Rock later today. Constructed in 1864, Black Rock Lighthouse is one of Ireland's most remote lighthouses and the most westerly lighthouse off the Mayo Coast.
Campagne de France
Joanna of Cowes DNS
Track the fleet via: http://yb.tl/rbni2018