Rick Tomlinson Photography / www.rick-tomlinson.com

Omani MOD 70 leads the charge

As the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race sets sail from Cowes after a delay

Monday August 11th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

After almost a day's postponement thanks to the onset of ex-Hurricane Bertha, the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race started from the RYS line today at 0900 BST, the 1800 mile long course taking the fleet anti-clockwise around Britain and Ireland.

The 28 competing yachts headed east out the Solent under spinnaker in bright sunshine, driven by a stiff southwesterly and significant ebb tide.

At 1130 BST, all of the fleet was past Selsey Bill, making brisk progress in 30 knot winds. Musandam-Oman Sail, skippered by Sidney Gavignet, had averaged 30 knots of boat speed since the start. If the MOD70 keeps that up the team will finish the course in two and a half days, smashing the course record.

"We could be very close to the record but I am not sure at this stage that we will break it," commented Gavignet. "The computer says we can, but the reality is that the sea state will probably slow us down a bit - and we will still have 40 knots overnight, so for this we don't want to rush as the quicker we go the more wind we will have."

The IRC and Class40 Fleet start saw the Brian Thompson's skippered IMOCA 60 Artemis - Team Endeavour, judge the line well, blasting through the short chop at full power right on the gun. However, Andy Budgen and Fred Schwyn's larger VO70, Monster Project, outpaced her to take the lead. As they exited the Solent, the two canting keelers were locked in a high speed duel averaging 20 knots of boat speed. Just two hours into the race, Artemis - Team Endeavour was leading on corrected from Monster Project.

In the Class 40 dust up, the Forty(1)Design, Concise 8, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, was leading the Class40s, having opened up a two mile gap on Burkhard Keese's Stella Nova, over the first two hours of the race.

The five Volvo 65s started under Code Zeros, with the exception of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam, skippered by double Olympic Siliver medallist Ian Walker, which preferred the smaller A3. Team SCA, skippered by Sam Davies, got the best start, but Azzam soon peeled to the Code Zero, flying into the lead.

Despite pressure from Dongfeng Race Team and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team SCA had regained the lead as the boats passed Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, but the gap to first place was soon closed by her rivals, and a late charge from the Spanish team saw Iker Martínez’s crew on Team Pedro Campos edge ahead following an underwhelming start.

The tricky conditions were underlined by news of an injury to Dongfeng’s Pascal Bidégorry. The experienced French sailor collided with another crew member, lost balance and fell, injuring his hand. The resulting cut required four stitches.


Team Alvimedica navigator Will Oxley, who has completed two Volvo Ocean Races previously, spoke before the beginning of the race about the difficulties that the notoriously testing route would raise. “It’s a great race track, one of the best in the world, and from a navigator’s perspective, it’s very, very busy. It will also give us more time to work together, to tackle decisions, and go through the decision-making process, so that it is as smooth as it can be come race time in the Volvo Ocean Race.”

At 1100 BST, Jens Kellinghusen's Ker 51 Varuna was the class leader on the water and third overall in IRC Zero. Round the world veterans, Spain's Guillermo Altadill and Australian Luke Molloy are on board to strengthen the yacht's German crew. At 1100 BST she the was averaging over 15 knots and surfing significantly faster in the downwind conditions.

Jankees Lampe's Open 40 La Promesse was revelling in the downwind conditions in IRC One. The other half of the Dutch Two-Handed team is Bart Boosman, who was shouting for joy at the Skippers' Briefing when he heard that the course was being reversed from sailing clockwise around the British Isles, to anticlockwise. This morning La Promesse was averaging over 15 knots, leading IRC One and the Two-Handed Class and fourth in IRC Overall.

In IRC Two the five starters were virtually neck and neck at 1100 BST with Ross Applebey's Oyster 48 Scarlet Logic leading the fleet by virtue of having the lowest rating in the class.

Conrad Manning, racing doublehanded on Ian Hoddle's Figaro II Rare reported from the start: "What a sight! The VO65 fleet just came screaming past us and we can see Oman Sail flying on one hull at an incredible speed. We are really flying as well, it's blowing 30 knots out here and the speedo hasn't dropped below ten knots since we started!"

The only boat in IRC Four, Lula Belle, at present leads the two faster IRC Three boats, Change of Course and Ruag White's Knight 7 on the water, a fine start for the doublehanders from Ireland. The three boats are fairly closely rated and will be looking forward to their own battle around the course which is likely to last almost two weeks.

At 1700 BST, the Strait of Dover was already a distance memory for Musandam-Oman Sail which was leaving the Norfolk coast in her wake, her next land fall set to be Muckle Flugga at the northern tip of the Shetlands.

Gavignet reported: J1 blew out, managed to furl it clean. No more J1. We can see close to 40 knts ahead for approx 5 hours and then it should be okay. Happy camp, almost over 30 knots all the time from start. Boat in good shape except J1. Going to bed."

The VO65s were also eating up the miles, the leaders making more than 20 knots VMG up the course. Team Pedro Campos held a narrow one mile lead over Azzam, as the two boats drew level with Harwich. Dongfeng was a further two miles back with Team Alvimedica fourth and Team SCA bringing up the rear 22 miles off the leader.

Among the Class40s, Ned Collier Wakefield on the Forty(1)Design Concise 8, with a crew including World Record speed sailor Paul Larsen, was leading off Ramsgate at 1700 BST, outpacing the new German flagged Mach 40 Stella Nova of Berkhard Keese and with Conrad Humphreys on Cat Phone last, some 18 miles behind Concise, in his first competitive outing with his newly acquired Akilaria RC3.

The rest of the fleet has yet to pass through the Strait of Dover. Some of those already though are spearing off to the east, including Team SCA, Varuna and Stella Nova.

Bringing up the rear on the water was the J/109 Knight 7, which was still south of Newhaven.

Weather-wise - at present the GFS forecast as the centre of the ex-Hurricane Berth located mid-way between the Shetlands and Norway, where it is forecast to remain until Wednesday, slowly losing steam (at present it is an ear popping 976mB), before its centre slowly shifts southeast over southern Norway come midday Thursday. It appears that the Omani MOD70 will have to cross two dying occluded fronts before she rounds the top of the Shetlands whereas the boats behind will only have to cross one. The frontrunners can expect to sail into freshening southwesterly, that will build to as much as 30-35 knots by the time they're level with Yorkshire. But most notable is that with the system remaining static for so long, the sea state will have time to have built up nicely in what is relatively shallow water...

More pics from Rick Tomlinson / www.rick-tomlinson.com



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