It’s indicative of the pace of Irish sailing in 2016 that for anyone taking an overview, it takes a bit of an effort to remember what the weather was like for much of our spring, summer and autumn. Admittedly, here in Afloat.ie we may skew recollections, as we’ll always go for a sunny photo or video if at all possible. Yet the cascade of memories of success and memorable events at home and abroad has been at such a pace that even if the sun wasn’t shining or the wind wasn’t obliging, the recollections are good. W M Nixon tries to make sense of the highlights.
If 2016 wasn’t the greatest Irish sailing season ever, then we’ll be happy to take on board proposals arguing the case for other years. And in the fantastic golden year of 2016, the supreme moment was on the evening of Tuesday August 16th, when the entire nation at home – or at least the entire sailing nation – was glued to a television screen of one sort or another, following every twist and turn for Annalise Murphy in the brief but intense drama of the final Olympic Medal Race for the Women’s Laser Radials on the flukey yet undeniably glamorous waters off Rio de Janeiro.
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As the weeks and months have passed since, we’ve forgotten that for Annalise to win the Silver Medal, it was a pilgrimage of sorts to put right the pain of missing out so closely on a medal at the 2012 Olympics. We’ve also forgotten that the tension was exacerbated by the fact that the Medals Race should have been held on Monday August 15th, but was blown out to cause an agonizing 24-hour postponement. And we’ve largely forgotten that only three months earlier, the prospects hadn’t seemed at all good for Ireland’s best hope, with a poor performance at the Worlds in Mexico.
Yet we remember just enough of that situation to put into perspective the ten weeks transformation that Annalise wrought within herself. With her dedicated support team, she ensured that she’d become a hugely improved sailor, a fitter athlete and psychologically in a very good place, as she took on the Olympic challenge on August 8th with a cool confidence which in due course received its proper reward.
Thanks to the close focus which was put on the outstanding Murphy medal, we are well aware of the breadth and depth of the backup team which helped to make it all possible. But in the end it was just one lone sailor entirely on her own who was trying to carve out the right route through extraordinarily difficult sailing conditions, racing against the very best in the world. So it is entirely right and proper that Irish sailing will remember 2016 primarily as the year of Annalise’s Silver Medal.
With a peak like this, a manageable review of the season can only re-visit the highlights, so if your favourite event doesn’t come up in the next thousand or so words, that’s the way it when the Olympics come up, which mercifully is only once every four years.
A year hence, we’ll be looking back at a more normal season in all its variety, but for now some further thoughts on the Rio experience fit the bill. For the fact is, the entire Irish sailing team put in a decent showing. Best of the rest of them were Ryan Seaton and Matt McGovern in the 49er. Had the chips fallen slightly differently, they might have come home with a medal themselves. But as it is, the fact that they had two race wins would have been a matter of added excitement in any previous year.
As for Andrea Brewster and Saskia Tidey in the 49er FX, they had one of their best regattas, very much at the races for most of the time, while the very young Finn Lynch – youngest sailor racing the Olympics – may not have been on his best form in the Laser Men’s, but his snatching of the Irish place in this class as late as May 18th in Mexico was testament to his grit, as he still hadn’t fully recovered from an injury sustained in an accident while out on some training cycling.
In fact, if there’s one little lesson which really came home from Rio, it’s the need to keep your athletes in one piece all year round. Our young international-level sailors can be an exuberant bunch, sometimes training and post-event relaxation becomes horseplay, and it was notable that some significant longterm campaigns were knocked off course by silly injuries.
Thus in looking back at the way Annalise’s success was celebrated in the heart-warming welcome home party at the national Yacht Club on Thursday August 26th, a notable recollection is that in thanking all those who had helped her to the Medal, Annalise particularly mentioned the physiotherapist Mark McCabe. For it seems that whatever training and guidance Mark McCabe has been giving her over the years, she has never been hampered by any serious injury or temporary disability.
This may seem a slightly odd point to be making in an annual sailing review, but there’s a lesson for sailors at every level in this. So if 2016 also emerges as the year in which we all learned the benefits of keeping ourselves in good shape and following best practice in sailing fitness, then it will have been be a very good year indeed.
But as the Olympics didn’t take over the stage until the second week in August, an impressive amount of sailing had already been registered. Indeed, it went right back to January when Doug Elmes and Colin O’Sullivan – who sail from Howth but Doug’s from Kilkenny and Colin is from Malahide – returned from Malaysia with the Bronze Medal from the 420 Worlds.
Then in February offshore racing came centre stage with the RORC Caribbean 600 seeing Conor Fogerty of Howth with his Sunfast 3600 Bam! continuing a remarkable programme of Transoceanic criss-crossing (some of it single-handed), the Caribbean 600 “diversion” producing a win in Class 3.
Into April, and attention focused on the Irish GP 14 Association’s superb group effort in getting 22 boats to Barbados for the GP14 Worlds 2016. Merely to achieve that was quite something in itself, but then Shane McCarthy of Greystones, crewed by Andy Davis, emerged as the new World Champion. That provided extra impetus back home as the rapidly developing Greystones Sailing Club worked towards its new clubhouse, which came on stream in May with the hosting of the Cruising Association of Ireland’s Start-of-Season rally.
With the proper season in Ireland under way, June’s highlight was clearly the Volvo Round Ireland race from Wicklow, but before that ICRA had to get in their three-day Nationals at Howth, and despite light winds the programme was completed, winners including John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II in Division 1, Dave Cullen’s Half Tonner Checkmate XV in Div. 2, Ken Lawless and Siobhan McCormack’s Quarter Tonner Cartoon in Division 3, and Colm Bermingham’s Elan 333 Bite the Bullet in Division 4.
In the Volvo Round Ireland Race starting June 18th, for the leaders at any rate lack of wind was definitely not a problem. For those biggies, it was a cracker. And as an event, the Round Ireland is back and then some, with 63 entries including George David’s wonderful Rambler 88 and three MODs which sailed the entire course within close sight of each other, and records tumbling at every turn.
Rambler had a brilliant a crew of international talents, and they were able to take every last advantage of the fact that the weather Gods – or more properly the wind Gods – smiled on them. They took monohull line honours in a runaway record time, and then achieved what many would have thought almost impossible for a boat with a stratospheric rating - they won overall on IRC as well.
As for the MOD 70s, with Damian Foxall with Sidney Gavignet on record holder Oman Sailing, and Justin Slattery with Lloyd Thornburg on Phaedo III, there was added home interest, particularly as both Irish stars admitted they’d been so busy all over the world building their sailing careers that they were Round Ireland virgins……
And what a race the trio of trimarans served up for those virgins…... Within reach of the finish in the dark, Team Concise was in the lead in a fading breeze, but Oman Sailing went a little bit offshore and found a fresher air to come in on port tack at first light and nip into the win.
As for any all-Irish contenders, the best performance was put in by the J/109 Euro Car Parks (Dave Cullen), the only Irish class winner, a good marker early in the season, for at the beginning of October the temporary Euro Car parks, long since reverted to her proper name of Storm, won the Irish J/109 Nationals for Pat Kelly and his keen crew from Rush Sailing Club.
July had three major highlights – Volvo Cork Week at Crosshaven, the Topper Worlds at Ballyholme, and the KBC Laser Radial Worlds at Dun Laoghaire. While the numbers involved in the two dinghy events were stupendous, it was Volvo Cork Week which captured public imagination in an unexpected way with the inaugural Beaufort Cup series.
Racing for the trophy named after the famous Irish admiral and maritime researcher, the Beaufort Cup started out to be an event with an international flavour between crews from national defence forces. But then its remit was broadened to include personnel from emergency and security services with maritime links, and in the end 32 owners generously made their boat available for something which perfectly captured the mood of the moment. The amount of goodwill generated was beyond measure, and the win by an Irish Defence Forces crew skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne sailing John Maybury’s J/109 Joker II has given a visionary event an excellent inauguration.
The Topper Worlds at Ballyholme looked like providing an Irish win until the last day, when a fresh northerly swept in with real Belfast Lough vigour to make it a big boys’ game, but young Michael Carroll from Cork hung in gamely and finished fourth overall, while Sophie Crosbie from Crosshaven was first girl and 7th overall.
With a total fleet pushing towards the 350 mark, the KBC Laser Radial Worlds in Dun Laoghaire were almost beyond comprehension, but a pattern was discernible, and what was most encouraging was that at least five young Irish sailors were serious contenders at the very top level.
However, one was head and shoulders above the rest in every way, and this was Ewan MacMahon of Howth. He was right in there pitching for the Gold in some ferocious racing, and though he concluded the series with the Silver Medal, this was serious stuff and the world quite rightly sat up and took notice of a remarkable and developing talent.
Came August, and just two days before the Olympics took all attention, 29ers took to the seas off Torbay in Devon for the annual British Championship, 76 boats in all and just one of them Irish – Harry Durcan and Harry Whittaker of Royal Cork. They won overall by two good clear points, an achievement so brilliant that further comment is superfluous.
Then in August we had of course all sorts of local festivals such as Calves Week out of Schull, but everyone’s thoughts were on the Olympics, with normality only returning after an afternoon and night of celebration seemed to have just about the entire Irish sailing community – and many non-sailors too - gathered in Dun Laoghaire and around the National Yacht Club to welcome home Annalise and her medal.
Cruising being something undertaken at its own pace, reviews of what has been achieved are a matter for more leisurely contemplation in the depths of winter. But in late August a real text-book cruise drew to its close when Neil Hegarty of Cork sailed his Dufour 34 Shelduck into Baltimore after an efficient Atlantic crossing from Newfoundland, with Shelduck blithely coping with two mid-Atlantic gales, one of Force 8 and the other hitting Force 9. There have of course been many other Atlantic crossings during 2016 involving Irish boats, but this successful conclusion of a detailed Atlantic circuit cruise of several years duration really was a model of its kind, a cruise to be savoured.
Other cruises and new additions to the fleet were to be savoured as the Cruising Association of Ireland held its end-of-season rally in Dublin’s River Liffey in mid-September, with a goodly fleet providing the annual entertainment of all the opening bridges being opened at the same time in a neatly choreographed exercise, which succeeded brilliantly in bringing a sense of the sea into the heart of the city.
Meanwhile in nearby Clontarf the 70th Anniversary of the iconic Irish Dinghy Racing Association 14ft OD Dinghy was celebrated in style with a series of well-attended events driven on by the energy and enthusiasm of Ian Sargent, who saw his efforts well rewarded with a memorable Gala Dinner for the class in Dun Laoghaire at the Royal St George Yacht Club, where the concept of the IDRA 14 was first aired way back in 1946.
As for those who like it offshore with a bit of competition, 2016 was a year of further growth for the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, with the season neatly rounded out by a points championship settled in the final race, the overall win going to Stephen Tudor’s J/109 Sgrech from Pwllhei.
The further we got into the Autumn, the better the weather became. So although the All-Ireland Junior Championship at Schull at the end of September raced in the Dave Harte-developed TR 3.6 dinghies was put through successfully despite some very mixed weather in the rest of the country, with Johnny Durcan of Royal Cork the new champion, a week later in the first weekend of October the All-Ireland Seniors were sailed at Crosshaven with racing in the new Phil Morrison-designed Ultra variant of the National 18, and they had weather that was almost too summery on the second day.
But a breeze filled in and it ended up as an absolute cliffhanger, with so many boats tied on points at the end that they’d to go through several permutations of countback to get a result, with RS 400 champion Alex Barry of Royal Cork and Monkstown Bay the Champion of Champions 2016.
October saw Irish interest swing towards the Mediterranean and the annual Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta with extra Irish interest in three boats in the 107-strong fleet. Conor Fogerty’s ubiquitous Bam! appeared yet again, and though it wasn’t her most successful race, the points accumulated shunted her up to 3rd overall in the RORC Class 3 Points Championship 2016 despite doing only five RORC races, but the Caribbean 600, the Volvo Round Ireland, and the Rolex Middle Sea race all carry extra points weighting.
A better Middle Sea result was obtained by the XP 44 Xp-Act, which came second in Class 4 with her crew including the RIYC’s Barry Hurley and the Irish National Sailing School’s Kenneth Rumball. But our outstanding result was the clear overall win taken by Vincenzo Onorato’s Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino, navigated with pure genius by international star Ian Moore, who hails from Carrickfergus.
This rounded out a remarkable year for the Moore family, as his mother Wendy was Commodore 2016 in Carrickfergus Sailing Clyb, where they were celebrating their 150th Anniversary (as was the Royal Ulster YC across Belfast Lough in Bangor) with events at Carrickfergus including a Hilditch Regatta for boats constructed by the legendary Carrickfergus boatbuilder. He created many vessels of distinction including the 1898 Howth 17s, who in turn arrived in Carrick to help celebrate a year which was to finish in such style in Malta.
Except it hasn’t quite finished yet. Even as we write this. Cork Institute of Technology are in the top three in the 36th Student Yachting World Cup which concludes today in Las Rochelle. And then tomorrow the irrepressible Enda O’Coineen with Kilcullen Voyager will be one of 29 starters along the French Biscay coast off Les Sables d’Olonne, where the Vendee Globe gets under way before a crowd of tens of thousands. Irish sailing in 2016 is truly a complex and endless tapestry………
Last night, National Yacht Club Commodore Larry Power presented American yachtsman Llyod Thornburg and the crew of Phaedo 3, with the Cork Dry Gin Round Ireland Record Perpetual trophy for August's record breaking run. A dinner to celebrate the new Round Ireland Speed Record followed at the Dun Laoghaire clubhouse. Irish World Speed Sailing Commissioner Chris Moore attended.
Thornburg set the new record in his 70–foot trimaran Phaedo 3 just a month after a new record was made by rival MOD 70 Oman Sail. Phaedo 3 crossed the Kish lighthouse start/finish line at Dún Laoghaire, at 04.01.04am on Friday, 5th August 2016, beating the previous world record by approximately 1 hours and 45 minutes.
The 36 hours and 52 minutes time was later ratified by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.
All crew members who were onboard for the world record run attended last night's dinner, including County Kerry's Damian Foxall.
American skipper Lloyd Thornburg has set a new Round Ireland speed sailing record in his 70–foot trimaran Phaedo 3 just a month after a new record was made by rival MOD 70 Oman Sail. Phaedo 3, with Ireland's leading offshore sailor Damian Foxall on board, crossed the Kish lighthouse finish line at Dún Laoghaire, at 04.01.04am this morning (Friday, 5th August 2016), beating the previous world record by approximately 1 hours and 45 minutes. The time has still to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.
Thornburg and his crew, including Ireland’s Damian Foxall, set off from Dún Laoghaire on Wednesday at 15.09.00 returning 36 hours and 52 minutes later.
The previous world record of 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds was set by Musandam Oman-Sail in last June’s Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race.
The latest record comes just weeks after Lloyd and his Phaedo 3 crew won the Round Island Race in the UK, smashing Sir Ben Ainslie’s record, and setting a new record of just 2 hours 23 minutes and 23 seconds, for round the Isle of Wight.
Back ashore at Dun Laoghaire, Thornburg said the crew was exhausted but it was worth every second. “You really appreciate how beautiful this island is when you see it from the coast-side. The first time we came here was when we took part in the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht race last June. We had to come back and do it again and setting a new world record made it all the more worthwhile. It was intense but we’d do it again tomorrow, and we will be back!”
Celebrations will be short-lived however as Lloyd and the crew will be heading straight to the UK for the 2016 Cowes regatta, which kicks off tomorrow, Saturday.
The record-setting crew on board for the record were: Lloyd Thornburg - helm, Brian Thompson - Co-Skipper, Miles Seddon - Navigator, Damian Foxall - Bow, Paul Allen - Trim, Sam Goodchild - Trim, Henry Bomby - Grinder, Fletcher Kennedy - Grinder
Phaedo 3, hitting speeds of over 30–knots, made spectacular time covering two thirds of the northabout voyage from Dublin in a record time but things slowed dramatically in the closing stages yesterday evening when speeds dropped after rounding Tuskar Rock. Speeds as low as three knots brought the tri home past the Wexford coast and the estimated midnight arrival time slipped by with no finisher. Thornburg entered Dublin Bay at 4am, cutting things quite fine at the end.
Although the Round Ireland speed sailing record stood for nearly 22 years, clearly something very special indeed is happening in the Record Breaking Dept in 2015/16 when it is broken three times in little over a year.
Sidney Gavignet and the skipper of Oman Sail broke the 44–hour time set by Steve Fossett's 60ft trimaran Lakota in 1993 that withstood several challenges, including three by top French skipper Gavignet.
The OmanSail MOD 70 finally broke it with a time of just over forty hours in May 2015. Gavignet was back on Irish waters a year later as part of June's three–way MOD division of the Round Ireland Race. With some very exciting sailing on the 700–mile route, he broke his own record with a new sub 40–hour time of just over 38 hours.
Now that the Omani/French record has fallen to an American entry, how long will it be before another attempt is made at what is a very international dimension to Irish sailing?
Having left Dublin Bay (Kish lighthouse) at approximately 3pm yesterday (Wednesday), American trimaran Phaedo3 is now two–thirds of the way round their anti–clockwise Round Ireland record bid. TRACKER here.
The crew, led by skipper Lloyd Thornburg, are currently gybing downwind towards the Fastnet rock and the sun is shining on the 70–ft trimaran. The time to beat is Oman Sail's June record of 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds.
While progess to date has been good thus far, things look a bit soft for the international crew this evening on the east coast between the Kish light finish and the Tuskar Rock, but they’ve quite a good margin in hand.
It's important now that they get to the East coast before the wind dies.
Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD 70 was past Achill Island in Mayo this morning by 0700 in her anti-clockwise Round Ireland record attempt, which began at Dublin Bay Bay’s Kish Lighthouse at 3.0 pm yesterday afternoon writes W M Nixon. But though she had more wind than she needed for much of yesterday, the sting has gone out of the westerly breeze off the Connacht, coast and off Clew Bay at 0710 hrs she was doing a relatively modest 15.1 knots on track southward. See tracker here.
With the fresh winds veering towards west to nor’west as she came onto the north coast, as expected Phaedo had to beat from Torr Head to Malin Head. But with her enormous speed potential, it was an advantage that the tide was flooding adversely southeast into the North Channel, as it this eliminated the area’s Maelstrom-like conditions when it’s wind over tide, and the boat’s extraordinary speed enabled her to offset strong adverse tidal stream.
Phaedo showed her quality by taking just four hours and forty minutes to beat from Torr Head (where she was making 19.3 nots) to Malin Head, and with Malin finally astern at 00.40 hrs this (Thursday) morning, she was finally able to lay the course past Tory Island and then free still further for potentially faster progress towards the northwest headlands of Mayo.
But with the sea state somewhat confused after two days of strong winds, and the bite in the nor’west and then westerly breeze sometimes weakening, she hasn’t always been at her full speed potential. Though she was at 25.7 knots approaching Achill Head at 0640 this morning, once past it the pace slackened for a while, but now at 07.35 things are looking up again, and she’s making 29.1 knots
Phaedo3 has just blasted through the start line of the official WSSRC course for the 'Round Ireland' record, in attempt to set a new time. With winds of over 20 knots, gusting 30 they speed through the line right beside Kish lighthouse on Dublin Bay in an anti–clockwise direction with the hope of breaking the existing record.
Lloyd Thornburg and his team tried to keep this record attempt under wraps, but now the secret is well and truly out. The boat and crew are fresh from winning the Round Island Race in the UK, in which saw the boat smashing Sir Ben Ainslie’s record, and setting a new record of just 2 hours 23 minutes and 23 seconds, for speed sailing round the Isle of Wight.
The team were last in Ireland for the Volvo Round Ireland Race, where after leading for the last leg, got pipped at the post by a few minutes by their fellow MOD70 Oman. The current WSSRC record is held by the MOD70 Oman when they crossed the Volvo Round Ireland Race finish line at Wicklow in just 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds.
Phaedo3 say they hope to knock a couple of hours off this record.
Crew on board for the race: Lloyd Thornburg - helm, Brian Thompson - Co-Skipper, Miles Seddon - Navigator, Damian Foxall - Bow, Paul Allen - Trim, Sam Goodchild - Trim, Henry Bomby - Grinder, Fletcher Kennedy - Grinder
Phaedo3 tracker is here
If we’re going to have this abominable weather for the first week of August on the fronts and backs of the weaving Jetstream, then somebody might as well do something useful with it writes W M Nixon. So here’s cheers to Lloyd Thornburg and his crew on the MOD 70 Phaedo 3 as they gather themselves in Dun Laoghaire to rocket out to the Kish Lighthouse and get timed on their way by NYC Commodore Larry Power for yet another tilt at the magnificent challenge of the Round Ireland Record. Tracker here
Time is of the essence, for as the noon pressure map shows, a low of 989 (already up from its lowest of 987) is currently tightly bunched at Tory Island, giving favourable winds northward through the Irish Sea and North Channel. But as the low continues to march eastward off Ireland’s north coast, it’s going to continue losing the depths of its central pressure – albeit slowly - the isobars will start to spread, and what had been strong winds can become messy stuff all over the place surprisingly quickly.
Assuming they’re going anti-clockwise, the idea is to reduce the tricky bit on the North Coast from Rathlin Island to Malin Head to as quick a sail as possible, as there’ll be more favourable nor’westers beyond Malin for a while.
It should be remembered that a lot of time was lost during the clockwise Volvo Round Ireland Race on the south coast with the long board taken seaward in search of stronger winds, and to make windward progress down to the Fastnet in the earlier southwest wind.
As a result, the three MOD 70s sailed 790 miles to cover the 704 mile course. Yet despite that they chopped a clear two hours off the record to bring it down to 38 hours 37 minutes. So a time of 30 hours – okay, let’s say 33 – is theoretically possible.
Lloyd Thornburg has a crew of all the talents, as he has Brian Thompson who set the beautiful Lakota record with Steve Fossett in 1993, and he also has Damian Foxall who was on Oman Sail when she set the new record at the finish line of the Volvo Round Ireland Race on June 20th.
But Foxall was also on Oman when she flipped during the Quebec Transatlantic race to France on July 17th, so he knows only too well how much on the edge you are with these boats when pushing to the limit, and this will be a continuous theme if this challenge is going to be a success.
The seas are tide-riven and turbulent the whole way from the South Rock at the south end of the North Channel on past Rathlin, continuing potentially rough to very rough until you’re well beyond Malin Head.
And then out there in the open Atlantic, even if you do catch a useful amount of the strong north’westers on the back of the low, you’ll find the strong to gale force sou’westers of the past couple of days have provided a leftover head sea which may never completely disappear, for after a while it is presaging the next lot of bad weather coming in from mid-Atlantic.
It’s a complex and fast-changing meteorological scene out there. But the message from this weather map at noon Wednesday seems to be that they should be on their way northward from Dublin Bay right now
Track the Round Ireland speed record attempt by the MOD70 Phaedo3 Lloyd Thornburg below.
The record time to beat is: 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds.
Stay tuned to the Yellowbrick tracker below.
There are unconfirmed reports that the MOD70 Trimaran Phaedo3 will make a further bid at the Round Ireland Speed Record this month. The MOD70 skippered by American Lloyd Thornburg is understood to be considering a return to Ireland to make a further bid on the 700–mile record time set by Oman Sail during last month's Round Ireland Race. In a thrilling three way duel Thornburg's crew were edged out of the honours in an Irish Sea battle on June 20th.
The historic new record for the fastest-ever sail round Ireland was set when Oman Sail crossed the Volvo Round Ireland Race finish line at Wicklow on June 20th in just 38 hours, 37 minutes and 7 seconds, smashing their own 2015 record by an incredible 2 hours, 14 minutes and 50 seconds. The new time is subject to ratification by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.
Fresh from setting a stunning new Round Ireland record in June, County Kerry's Damian Foxall and his Musandam-Oman Sail team have set their sights on another milestone record in the Transat Quebec-St Malo (TQSM) with a match against the world’s largest trimaran Spindrift 2 expected to push them to the limit.
The Omani MOD70 – which at 70 foot (21m) is almost half the size of Spindrift 2 (130ft/40m) and will be crewed by seven fewer sailors – will leave Quebec in Canada on Wednesday at 1500 local time and head out on the 2,897 nm (5365 km) course across the North Atlantic to St Malo in France with the aim of breaking the existing record of 7 days 20 hours and 24 minutes set in 1996 by Loïck Peyron.
The forecast for the passage looks favourable for a new record and the prospect of a battle against Spindrift 2 was creating a real buzz among French skipper, Sidney Gavignet’s crew of Damian Foxall, Fahad Al Hasni, Alex Pella and new crewmember Mayeul Riffet, as they prepared for the off.
“Spindrift 2 is wider than we are long!” commented Gavignet who has completed three TQSM races in his career.
“We have beaten them in the past during the Round Britain and Ireland where there are lots of corners, but an Atlantic crossing is more like an Autobahn and with a speed difference of up to 5 knots, they will be very hard to beat.
“They should beat Loïck Peyron’s record and Musandam-Oman Sail also has a chance to finish ahead of 7 days, 20 hours and 24 minutes.”
Before the David and Goliath match begins on the open seas, the team will have to navigate the spectacular St Lawrence River which is dotted with sand banks, logs and various whales and is regarded as a navigator’s challenge.
“We saw a boat grounded at the monohull start and on our way in, we saw two minkies, a hump back and a bunch of belugas so we are going to have to be diligent,” warned Foxall.
“It will take us a couple of days to get down to the Grand Banks and they are allowing us to cut across the Banks on a route where there is less ice which will be good news if we want to get the record. There is also a series of lows coming off Canada to create the train we need to blast across the Atlantic.
“The conditions are looking fantastic so I think it is currently looking like less than seven days. Hopefully both Musandam-Oman Sail and Spindrift can set new records.”
Fantastic conditions do not necessarily mean comfortable conditions, added Gavignet so with the icebergs, big seas and marine life, they are in for a great adventure.
“For us the conditions will feel extreme; we are constantly soaking wet and to get from the cockpit to the helm, we will be crawling on our hands and knees. We are all very competitive so we will be aiming to have the best possible adventure and the best possible race.
“For a sailor, the Quebec-St Malo is one of the classics; it is like rounding Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, it is one of the mythical races in a sailor’s career.”
Oman’s leading offshore sailor Fahad Al Hasni is no stranger to transatlantic races and started his helming career on Oman Sail’s first race in their MOD70, the Krys Ocean Race from New York to Brest in 2012.
“It was my first transatlantic and I remember being very cold and wet so this time I know what to expect and I’m really excited about it,” he said.
“We will be downwind all the way across the North Atlantic to the Fastnet Rock and then over to St Malo for the finish. The weather is looking good for a record so hopefully, we can get our second record for Musandam-Oman Sail this year.”
The Transat Québec - Saint Malo is staged every four years and in 2016 has attracted 24 entries, both monohulls and multihulls, from across the world. The bulk of the fleet started their race on Sunday but Musandam-Oman Sail and Spindrift 2, both competing in the ‘Ultime’ class start on Wednesday in the hope that the entire fleet will be nearing the finish in St Malo at around the same time.
Last month, Musandam-Oman Sail set a new Round Ireland record when they beat two other MOD70s Phaedo 3 and Concise 10 to win the Volvo Round Ireland Race, setting a new time of 38 hours 37 minutes and 7 seconds, which was more than two hours faster than their previous time of 40 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds set the previous year.
The Transat Quebec-St Malo 'Ultime Class' start is at 1500 local time on Wednesday 13 July.