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Irish ports battle it out

17th October 2008
Irish ports battle it out
Only a week into the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) and Ireland's new-found love
affair with world offshore sailing is to continue as Belfast prepares to bid
for stop-over port status in the 2011 edition of the race.

The news comes in the first week of the current sprint where two Irish
inspired entries battle it out on the first 6,500 mile leg to Cape Town. The
event calls to Galway next May, the first ever Irish stop-over.

Belfast is only the latest in a series of bids for international events here
following headline Irish performances offshore.


Success in the 2005/6 Volvo Ocean Race, the Fastnet, Sydney-Hobart, Med Cup, Round Britain and Ireland, the Azores and back and an overall win in February's Barcelona Worlds have given great confidence to Irish ports.

The Belfast Harbour Commissioners’ delegation, led by chairman Len O'Hagan, travelled to the race start in Alicante last weekend and met with organisers to discuss a bid to tie-in with the 100th anniversary of the building of the Titanic in May 2012.

Hosting the event, to include an entry in the race, is costing the Galway
campaign as much as 10 million euro but the expected return to the local
economy can be expected to be over 43 million euro.

Belfast city fathers are rejuvenating an area of the city known as the
Titanic Quarter. It is a £5bn development and the VOR stop-over would be a
centrepiece to celebrations in an Olympic year and, of course, a further
boost to Irish sailing.

Of course, the VOR is the main Irish attraction right now but there are
actually three world girdling races underway, all with some Irish interest.

Michel Kleinjans leads the solo class in the Portimao Global race. In 2005,
the Belgian yachtsman, sailing Roaring Forties, crossed the National Yacht
Club finish line off Dun Laoghaire to set a new single-handed record time
round Ireland of four days, one hour and 52 minutes that still stands.

And Damian Foxall, one of three Irish crew on the Green Dragon, continues to
harbour ambition to compete in what many refer to as the 'real Everest' in
sailing: the Vendee Globe, single-handed, non-stop round the world starts in
23 days time. Clearly, Foxall will be unavailable but he may make the Vendee
his ninth circumnavigation in four years time.

Staying with offshore news, Cathal Drohan and Paul Egan are competing in
tomorrow's 40th Malta middle sea race in their X-41, Legally Brunette.
Drohan has been looking forward to the chance to compete in the
Mediterranean for some years, "it's always a race I've wanted to do. It's
been on the list for years, so I said I'd better do it now! Paul and I
decided last year that we'd put it in the programme for this year."
Just getting to Malta has been something of an expedition, with the delivery
trip starting in the middle of August and involving two gales in the Bay of
Biscay before ending with a blissful sail east through the Mediterranean.

VOR and Green Dragon

18 miles off the western Sahara coast last night, Galway's Green Dragon
entry with British skipper Ian Walker is fourth, 69 miles behind the leader.
Limerick's Ger O'Rourke continues to hang in there, defying his lack of
preparation, on Dutch entry Delta Lloyd, in fifth position.

Things have settled down after the nip and tuck through the Canaries on
Wednesday. Walker in particular is relieved to be sailing in good breeze in
T shorts and shorts as he picks up the trade winds. He aims to pass the Cape
Verde islands early this morning.

He concedes he made a tactical mistake off the Canaries and that was why he
was the first in the fleet to hide his position for 12 hours using the races
Stealth facility.

Any way the fine weather they currently enjoy is all a far cry from
Saturday's start in 40 knots when the Green Dragon was forced to start on
port tack and operate her swinging keel by hand.

Walker maintains that he is pleased with progress after a week's sailing in
the eight boat fleet, especially as they made big gains tactically early on.
He remains worried though that the Green Dragon is not particularly fast in
the light stuff.
Published in Editors Blog Team

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