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Negotiating with Bertha

Abu Dhabi takes the lead in the VO65s in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race

Tuesday August 12th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

The front runners in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race have been making fast progress up the North Sea overnight.

At 0845 BST the MOD70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail, was already at the latitude of the Orkney Islands with some 130 miles to go to Muckle Flugga at the northernmost tip of the Shetland Islands. It is worth pointing out at Muckle Flugga lies at 60°51N, roughly as far north as Cape Horn is south...

The significant issue for the boats looking up the race course remains Bertha, which remains a vast system and still deep, currently measuring 980mB at its centre (although this will be down to around 990mB in 24 hours time). But particularly important is that it has parked up with its centre just east of the Shetland Islands. This is allowing a fairly monumental sea state to develop around it caused by hours and hours of wind action and the crews - particularly those on the faster ones at the front of the fleet - will be trying to avoid the headwinds and especially the headseas to the west of Bertha's centre.

As a result the leaders are all heading east of the great circle to Muckle Flugga with the intention of leaving Bertha to port. This will prove easier for those at the front of the fleet with Bertha forecast to move slowly east and its centre to expand over the next 24 hours, by which time the door will have closed on the easterly route around Bertha and boats will have to face the most unpleasant of beats to get north.

Overnight the Omani trimaran has extended her lead over the chasing VO65s to 85 miles, but this doesn't look likely to increase that much more over the next few hours as Musandam-Oman Sail starts sailing into slightly lighter winds on the perifery of the Bertha's centre. 

Sidney Gavignet reports: "Great north sea! Grey and silver, very special. Had a strong night but all ok. Sometimes it is better to sail fast, she (Musandam-Oman Sail) goes better through the waves. When we slow down we hit the waves harder. Amazing experience for Sami and Yasser our most recent Omani crewmates on the MOD! We are slow in maneuvers during the night, we are missing proper racing training, but great to have Damian (Foxall) a solid partner! Jan (Dekker) had forgotten how it feels to go so fast for so long, he said!
Not too long before rounding the top, but will have to go through the edge of the low.
We are missing the J1, so it is touchy now with J2 and GNK, must be gentle…sort of…"

Behind three sets of match races have been taking place with Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team overhauling the Iker Martinez-skipper Team Pedro Campos yesterday evening, but the two remaining in close contact still making more than 20 knots, currently at the latitude of Aberdeen. Some 20 miles behind Dongfeng and Alvimedica also remain close with Charles Caudrelier's Franco-Chinese entry nine miles ahead of the US-Turkish boat. Meanwhile the all-women's crew on Team SCA is racing Andy Budgen's VO70 Monster Project, having erred further east than the boats ahead and now at the latitude of Edinburgh.

Behind, Stella Nova is now the lead Class40 following the retirement of the Ned Collier Wakefield skippered Concise 8 for reasons as yet unknown. Meanwhile Conrad Humphreys aboard his new Class40 Cat® Phone had pulled into Ramsgate having suffered issues with the lower section of the mainsail track.

Overnight Humphreys reported: "Just a quick update from the team as we are currently sat here in Ramsgate marina working on a solution to fix the lower section of the mainsail track back onto the mast. At first light we will look to see if there is a way to strap the track down, using a combination of ratchet straps and epoxy. It will be a temporary solution whilst we come up with a better solution.

"It's a tough start to our first race as a new team in the class 40, but not unusual given the conditions on the opening day of the race, which saw us gybing downwind in wind speeds gusting 30 knots. We are not entirely sure if it was during a gybe when the screws holding the track onto the mast pulled out, but when we found a bolt on the deck, we realised something had happened.

"The race is now on to see if we can make a secure repair that will enable us to continue. The conditions remain good to make good progress up to Lerwick and if we can leave here by midday we have enough race track ahead to still make an impact on the race."

Taking up the airtime this morning though has been the retirement of Sir Robin Knox-Johnson's Open 60 Grey Power, after splitting the mainsail between second and third reefs, also causing damage to the mast. Knox-Johnston and his crew member Simon Clay last night headed into Calais.


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