When three MOD 70s swept through the starting line at Wicklow on Saturday June 18th for the Volvo Round Ireland Race, so much work behind the scenes had gone into bringing this very special trio to Ireland’s premier offshore racing event that it would be easy to forget that the first seeds of this remarkable lineup were planted some years ago by our own sailing superstar, Damian Foxall of Derrynane in County Kerry.
Thanks to his rising status in the high-powered French multi-hull scene, Foxall was able to bring the challenge of the Round Ireland Record up their agenda, and at every possible opportunity, he encouraged his most regular multi-hull skipper, Sidney Gavignet with Musandam-Oman, to slot the possibility of a Round Ireland sprint into the busy annual schedule.
Foxall’s powers of persuasion must be really remarkable, for it was after no less than three attempts, when the challenges were called off as the weather failed to develop as expected, that Gavignet finally cracked it at the beginning of May 2015.
But by a cruel irony, Damian Foxall wasn’t on board, as he had been pre-booked to fill a key role in a Volvo World Racer. Thus the Round Ireland remained unfinished business in the Foxall CV, while other MOD sailors reckoned that Gavignet’s new time was beatable.
With this new consciousness burgeoning about the Round Ireland challenge, as soon as Wicklow SC confirmed there would be a proper multihull division in 2016 race, the MOD 70 wheels started turning. But few would have been so optimistic as to predict that three of these magic machines would turn up in Wicklow, and even fewer would have predicted that all three would blow away Musadnam-Oman’s 2015 time.
To make the fantasy nature of it complete, it emerged that neither Damian Foxall who was sailing on Musandam-Oman, nor Justin Slattery who was aboard Phaedo 3, had any experience of doing this long-established race from Wicklow round their homeland. They were Round Ireland Virgins, having both been so busy building their careers at the very top level of the international circuit that the Round Ireland had simply never come up on the radar before.
Well, it’s very much on the radar now, after the race of a lifetime. For much of it, Ned Collier Wakefield with Team Concise led narrowly from Phaedo 3, with Musandam-Oman spending rather more time in third slot than her supporters might have liked. But in the final dozen miles, it started to come right, and perfectly called tactics saw her take the first place in style as dawn began to break on the Monday. Damian Foxall is very deservedly one of the winners of an Afloat.ie International Sailor of the Month Award for June 2016.