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#roundirelandrecord – At his fourth attempt, top French skipper Sidney Gavignet with the Mod 70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail has finally toppled the long-standing Round Ireland record set in September 1993 by American Steve Fossett with the 60ft trimaran Lakota, but by only three hours.

And if anything, the Gavignet achievement has heightened just what a remarkable job was done 22 years ago when the American skipper with his smaller, heavier and much less technically advanced boat set such an exceptional time writes W M Nixon.

Unlike the state-sponsored Musandam-Oman campaign (and it's one very rich state), the Lakota project was very much a private enterprise effort, with Fossett's crew including husband-and-wife multi-hull enthusiasts Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavey of the National YC in Dun Laoghaire. They had met the Lakota crew in Portugal some months earlier, and had persuaded them that a successful round Ireland challenge was just what was needed to set Fossett's sailing on the track to high achievement, and their suggestion succeeded brilliantly on both counts.

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The new record holders – The mighty Mod70 returns to Dun Laoghaire this morning

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Cathy MacAleavey in some of the gentler conditions during Lakota's successful challenge

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Getting there – when Lakota went past the Fastnet during her 1993 anti-clockwise circuit, they knew they were well on their way with the chance of an outstanding record.

Lakota's startling new time of 44 hours was not easily achieved, as the boat had arrived in Dun Laoghaire with a damaged mainsail which had to be rushed to Crosshaven for repairs by McWilliam Sailmakers while the clock was remorselessly ticking down towards the ideal situation of a vigorous low pressure area becoming centred over Ireland.

But as it happened, the Gods were on their side. The delay while waiting for the sail repair made the weather situation even better as far as records were concerned, and Lakota went round in style as regards speed, though for quite a lot of the passage she was sailing in conditions in which most people would have been very content to stay comfortably at home in front of a large fire.

And as the Lakota challenge included Irish crew and was Irish inspired, we all felt that we had a part of it, however small. But for this new record, the only Irish element has been the weather and our coastline, for although Gavignet's interest was first inspired some years ago by our own Damian Foxall who was involved in two of Gavignet's previous attempts on the Ireland challenge, the Kerryman is of course currently active in the Volvo World Race, and has had the frustration of watching from afar as Gavignet finally does the business.

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Tired but triumphant – Con and Cathy as pictured in the Evening Herald at the conclusion of Lakota's successful challenge

As it happens, although the monitoring of the challenge has been under Record Commissioner Chris Moore of the National Yacht Club, the crew is distinctly international, with two French – Gavignet himself and veteran Jean Baptiste Leavailliant, plus one Spanish, Alex Pella, and three Omanis who are now Gavignet veterans - Fahad Al Hasni, Yasser Al Rahbi, and Sami Al Shukaili.

The weather pattern was settling in nicely with strong sou'easters when they went off at 1800 hrs on Monday to storm northeastwards from the start point at the Kish L/H through the Irish Sea. But the current spell of volatile weather was making things decidedly moody over the north of Ireland. What had been a useful low pressure area of around 780 had already developed further to have two centres, and it may well have become the case that at least three different vortices were in action to provide unstable wind patterns of rapidly varying strengths, and sometimes no strength at all.

For the first stage, they'd been averaging speeds of up to 25 knots and better, and had confidently been anticipating knocking a cool ten hours off the record. That would have brought it in within the 35 hour working week so beloved of the French. But the fickle North Channel winds had other plans, and they unexpectedly dropped to just 6.32 knots SOG off Cushendall in County Antrim for a frustrating period around midnight on Monday.

Then they got going again along the North Coast, and were well back on track for a new record which, after all, required an average speed of only 16 knots. But one of the low pressure centres off the Donegal coast got itself all over the place through Tuesday afternoon, and progress was at times excruciatingly slow – at one stage northwest of Erris Head in far Mayo, they were crawling along at 3.11 knots, which for a MOD 70 is dead stopped.

The frustration was enormous, for they knew there were strong west to northwest winds on the way, and trying to get to them was the challenge. By Tuesday evening they were at last beginning to benefit, and then Musandam-Oman Sail fairly streaked south in very impressive style, zooming past the Blaskets and shaping her course with an ever-increasing eastern slant past the Skelligs and the Fastnet and along the south coast. She was tacking to lee at speeds which were hauling them rapidly back into the record business, but there was now no way they could make that elusive ten-hours-off-it target.

A least two high profile capsizes with MOD 70s – including on in Dublin Bay a couple of years ago – have shown that while they're able and versatile boats, they have their limits. So in tearing northwards along the east coast this morning in relatively smooth water with the wind off the land, care had to be taken that any sudden squalls off the mountains wouldn't take charge. But everything was kept firmly under control and the job was finished in businesslike style just before 11 o'clock this morning. And they're well pleased with their achievement, as it's a much clearer margin than the 16 minutes with which they bested Bank Populaire's Round Britain and Ireland record last year. So well done, Musandam-Oman Sail. And here's to the good old Lakota – she still sails the sea, a very special boat.

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Victory! Lakota's crew with the trophy in 1993 are (left to right) Con Murphy, Cathy MacAleavey, the late Steve Fossett, Steve Scully, and Brian Thompson

Published in Offshore

#Mod70 – In the second dramatic capsize of a MOD70 trimaran – the first on Dublin Bay in June – French skipper JP Dick has been rescued by helicopter after his giant trimaran flipped in a training run.

In similar circumstances to the Dublin Bay capsize of Spindrift the Tri appears to have been blown over in a gust of wind. After the gust hits, the 70-footer sails along for several seconds on its leeward hull before finally capsizing, smashing its carbon mast as it fully inverts. One crew can be seen falling from the hull into the water.

Jean-Pierre Dick and Roland Jourdain were on board Virbac-PAPREC 70 off Belle Ile, practicing in 15-20 knots of wind for this month's Transatlantic Jacques Vabre race. According to reports from the professional French racing team the boat 'turned suddenly' and capsized. A Helicopter and lifeboat lifeboat retrieved the crew and boat. Below are vids from both the leeward side of the hull and from the rescue helicopter.

On June 22, the race-winning multihull Spindrift capsized in gale force winds off Dun Laoghaire at the start of the Route des Princes series of inshore racing spectacle on Dublin Bay.

That accident happened about 700 metres off the starting line as the fleet of five MOD 70s were accelerating in the strong and gusty winds. The boats were not carrying full sail as a precaution against the strong offshore winds blowing in the bay that day.

 

View from inside the leeward hull

Heli rescue - JP Dick injured

Published in Offshore
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#mod70 – The MOD70s trimarans that thrilled – and capsized on Dublin Bay last month – are to race from Brest to New York next year.

Three hundred days for a chance for revenge for the fleet after the 2012 edition saw Spindrift, skippered by Yann Guichard, speed to victory from New York to Brest in a record time of four days 21 hours and eight minutes. The race leader in the Route Des Princes series capsized on Dublin Bay, and the hull was towed back to France by sea with no mast.

A rapid run across the North Atlantic provides a race of rare intensity on an 'oceanic scale', say promoters.

Two years ago Brest gave the race an extraordinary welcome for the first edition of the Krys Ocean Race by placing it at the heart of the Tonnerres de Brest (the Brest Maritime Festival) with its 700,000 visitors. For the start of the second edition, Brest will beat to the rhythm of the Krys Ocean Race from May 3-11, 2014.

The KRYS Ocean Race will mark the return of the MOD70 fleet to the ocean for a rematch to New York, from east to west, against prevailing winds and currents.

The MOD70 fleet which will line up for the start of this second edition will each have on board six sailors, including some of the greatest multihull skippers of our time.

Published in News Update
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#Spindrift - The race-winning multihull Spindrift has capsized in gale force winds off Dun Laoghaire this afternoon (22 June) at the start of the Route des Princes series of inshore racing spectacle on Dublin Bay, as David O'Brien reports on scene.

The MOD70 trimaran that was first into Dun Laoghaire from Lisbon on Wednesday capsized meres from spectators in Scotsman's Bay ahead of the first of three inshore races.

Rescue photos below.

The accident happened about 700 metres off the starting line in the first race, as the boats were accelerating in the strong and gusty winds. The boats were not carrying full sail as a precaution against the strong offshore winds blowing in the bay. Today's in–port racing was billed as 'fast and furious'.

At least one person is injured and is being treated upturned hull of the stricken craft. As of 3.08pm a rescue helicopter was dropping its winchman to the vessel. 

It is feared by National Yacht Club personnel that the mast of the inverted trimaran is stuck in the sea bed and may be broken.

All racing has now been postponed as rescue services attended the scene. Eight crew were onboard the vessel at the time of the capsize.

Update 3.10pm: All other boats have returned to Dun Laoghaire Harbour as rescue services continue to attend to the capsized Spindrift and its crew.

Update 3.18pm: Weather conditions in Dun Laoghaire continue to be strong and gusty, and it's reported that some local DBSC RC racing had already been cancelled earlier today.

Update 3.27pm: A news update on the Route des Princes website (via @sailracewin) says one crewman on the upturned Spindrift has a back pain.

Update 3.35pm: Twitter users Mark Lloyd (@Lloyd_Images) and Philip Bromwell (@philipbromwell) have posted photos of the failed Spindrift in Dublin Bay as emergency services attend to the scene.

Update 3.39pm: The crewman casualty has been winched to the helicopter and is being airlifted to Tallaght Hospital. His condition remains unclear.

Update 3.41pm: Triage for any injured racers has been set up at the National Yacht Club and all rescue boats have been asked to report to the NYC to account for numbers.

Update 3.53pm: Assessments are currently being made as to how to recover the 70ft hull still floating north of Dalkey Island.

Update 4.04pm: Sailing journalist Kate Laven comments on Twitter re the Spindrift capsize: "Everyone recovered but two injured"

Update 4.08pm: The Route des Princes website has followed up its earlier update with a news post which confirms that weather conditions at the time of the Spindrift capsize were 20 knots with strong gusts.

Update 4.55pm: Dun Laoghaire lifeboat towing the upturned Spindrift hull (minus mast) towards Dun Laoghaire harbour

Update 6,00pm: The upturned hull has been successfully righted, the hull is intact but the mast is broken. 

Update 7.00pm: There are unconfirmed reports that the injury to the Spindrift crew man is a broken pelvis. 

Update 8.00pm: Spindrift racing team release statement on capsize and injury to crew member

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Rescue craft, local boats and the Dun Laoghaire lifeboat attend the upturned hull. Photo: Gareth Craig

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The Coastguard helicopter arrives on scene and a winch man is lowered to make an assessment. Photo: Afloat.ie

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Rescue personnel and Sprindrift crew on the upturned hull in Dublin Bay this afternoon. Photo: Afloat.ie

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Spindrift minus her mast is lifted in Dun Laoghaire harbour this evening. Photo: Michael Chester

Published in Route des Princes

No sooner had Dun Laoghaire waved goodbye to the visiting French Trimarans yesterday afternoon than the MOD70s were approaching the Fastnet Rock off the south west coast this morning. Yann Guichard's Spindrift racing holds a very small lead on the second leg of the European Tour. After leaving Dun Laoghaire, Dublin yesterday afternoon bound for Cascais, Portugal, conditions have not been quite as tough as they were initially forecast but the MOD70 fleet have been working upwind through the night, at first seeking some relief from the slamming, choppy seas by sticking close to the Irish coast all the way down to Tuskar Rock on the SE corner of Ireland.

Winds have been up to 28-30kts and progress has been fair.  Stève Ravussin's Race for Water lead to Tuskar, profiting most from their most inshore line, but they have lost out since and lie fifth.

The anticipated cold front, which will in time shift the wind direction more into the West, has not yet reached the fleet and it will not do so until after they pass the famous rock landmark off the SW tip. And so their upwind conditions will continue for some hours once they have rounded Fastnet, making the initial strategic choices more complex.

At 0400hrs GMT (0600hrs BST) Spindrift racing still had some 40 miles to go to Fastnet and was some two miles ahead of Sébastien Josse's Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. All were sailing on the direct, layline course for the rock, making between 17 and 20 knots. On the previous tack, out from the Irish coast, Spindrift racing was able to make a higher line, gain some leverage and that is taking effect as they head for the Fastnet.

There is little to separate the tightly matched one design fleet after 16 hours of racing. Sidney Gavignet's Musandam Oman Sail has a favourable position to windward of the fleet, lying in third place, sailing 2.4 miles off the windward hip of the race leader.

Sébastien Josse, skipper of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild said this morning at 0400hrs GMT: "We are still forty miles from the Fastnet, near the coast in seas which are a still a bit nasty. The SW'ly wind is dropping currently and we are still quite closely spaced as a fleet. We had up to 28 knots of wind and the sea was not as bad, but it was slamming a lot. We sailed close to the Irish coast to Tuskar to get some protection from the seas and to take the little lifts and bends in wind. And then once past the tip there, everyone has changed their  strategy, going offshore where waves are better organised and the wind is more stable.

Currently we have 18-22 knots of SW'ly and we should pass the Fastnet lighthouse before the front arrives within the next three hours. And it looks like we will still be on the wind after the rock."

"The guys have had a little sleep despite the slamming."

Standings at 0400hrs UTC

1 Spindrift racing, EUR, (Yann Guichard, FRA) 1054.5 miles to finish

2 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, FRA, (Sébastien Josse, FRA) +2 miles behind leader

3 Musandam Oman Sail, OMA, (Sidney Gavignet, FRA) +2.5 miles

4 FONCIA, FRA, (Michel Desjoyeaux, FRA) +4.7 miles

5 Race for Water, SUI, (Stève Ravussin, SUI) +6.2 miles

Published in Dublin Bay
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#mod70–Dun Laoghaire, Ireland bid a brisk, breezy farewell to the MOD70 European Tour fleet with Sébastien Josse's crew on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild collecting the maximum 3 bonus points from the prologue circuit and leading the fleet out on to Dublin Bay for the leg to Cascais, Portugal.

In a brisk 15 knot SW'ly breeze the preliminary circuit of two triangles delivered great entertainment for the big crowd of spectators and challenging racing for the teams. Josse's crew lead Spindrift racing – the winners of the Dun Laoghaire City Races with Race for Water taking 1 point for third.

Dun Laoghaire, Ireland bid a brisk, breezy farewell to the MOD70 European Tour fleet with Sébastien Josse's crew on Groupe Edmond de Rothschild collecting the maximum 3 bonus points from the prologue circuit and leading the fleet out on to Dublin Bay for the leg to Cascais, Portugal.

In a brisk 15 knot SW'ly breeze the preliminary circuit of two triangles delivered great entertainment for the big crowd of spectators and challenging racing for the teams. Josse's crew lead Spindrift racing – the winners of the Dun Laoghaire City Races – through the scoring gate, with Race for Water taking 1 point for third.

Once more it is was Spindrift racing who made the best start but Groupe Edmond de Rothschild were better positioned for the first gust and they were able to accelerate ahead of Spindrift racing.

It was not the start that the MOD70 European Tour leaders FONCIA wanted.

They were slow off the start line and then fouled Musandam-Oman Sail at the outermost mark on the second round and had to take a 270 degrees penalty turn. Along with a temporary problem with a winch, FONCIA already had their work cut out when they left Dun Laoghaire in fifth place.

The skies remained clear with some sunshine for the send off after two days of great City Races, but the weather outlook promises a tough tactical beat in a building SW'ly wind round to the Fastnet rock.

The 200 mile leg round to the lonely light, known as Ireland's teardrop as it was the last landmark that Irish emigrants saw as they set off for America in the 19th century, will not only see robust, potentially boat breaking seas but may offer an early split in the fleet depending on the timing of a cold front which is due there at around the same time as the fleet.

Teams will be working at maximum effort to gain every metre, expecting to pass Fastnet in the early hours of Monday morning, the first section of the 1218 miles course. Thereafter it will be a fast, almost direct reach towards Cape Finisterre. The leaders are expected to reach Cascais on Wednesday morning.

"This is an important leg for us to hold on to our lead over our rivals." Warned Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper of FONCIA, "the downside of being in the lead that you have people who want to knock you off, but then there is also the extra confidence which comes with being in the lead with a points cushion.

The route to Cascais is not direct and there will be a balance between the wind strength and the conditions to deal with. It is going to be complex and with it is likely that we will not be on a direct route."

Quotes:

Michel Desjoeyaux (FRA), skipper FONCIA (FRA):

"There will be some subtleties on the weather side of things to work on with stronger breeze one side and then options of a more direct course on the other. The routings show one thing but then on the actual race there are subtleties and local effects that you have to take into account and know how to read and work with.  This is actually good because it is pretty much the only leg where we have offshore racing so on an open ocean race course after the Fastnet.

We are going to have to be fast but also choose the right way across.  So we are in ocean racing mode with interesting conditions on a really very strategic leg, probably the most open of the MOD70 European Tour."

Sidney Gavignet, FRA, skipper Musandam-Oman Sail (OMA)

"The conditions will not be as tough as initially expected but there will be a few key moments I think.  One as we leave Ireland where the wind is due to ease a bit so will have to not stay too close to shore and then the second one is roughly just at the Fastnet Rock when it will be important to not get stuck behind the front and then keep out west and not get tempted by following the more direct course. Another key moment could be the finish with little wind."

Yann Guichard, FRA, skipper Spindrift racing:

"It is going to be a key leg because it will mark the mid point on the MOD70 European Tour and we have to try and claw back some of the gain FONCIA has on us.  There are going to be a number of stumbling blocks on the leg and a key point of passage after Fastnet, which we have to leave to port.  It is not very clear just after that and we will have to really be careful to negotiate the finish well.  It is going to be a nice gull wing shape route.  Like the first leg, we could see light conditions for the finish."

Sébastien Josse, FRA, skipper Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (FRA):

"This is a traditional offshore ocean race leg with a weather forecast that is easier to work with, and with fewer oil platforms, course marks and so on to deal with. The first night is going to be pretty tough with some 15 upwind tacks to do to get to the Fasnet Rock before we head out and south to the nice weather! The key moments on this leg will be the passage at Fastnet Rock when we have the cold front coming over us that will give the favourable downwind conditions and provide the first with the chance of extending the gaps."

Steve Ravussin, FRA, skipper Race for Water (SUI):

"It is a Franck Cammas Volvo leg! There will be some interesting moments with the various fronts to deal with and strategical decisions to be made, but then Franck is good at that kind of thing. We are going to have to be both fast on the helm and good on the strategy.

Upwind, then some tough changes to negotiate to and at the Fastnet, but the boat is good for these conditions, then we have the better downwind weather for the finish in Cascais. I think it is going to be a nice race and we have to put the pressure on after the first leg, but then I feel good about this leg.  We have some good helmsmen on board with Franck and my brother (Yvan Ravussin) and are going to work on smooth manoeuvers and maintain close contact with the fleet."

Published in Dublin Bay

#mod70 – After six City Races it took one exciting Speed Match tie-break finale, a short out-and -back reaching sprint, to decide the overall winner of the Dun Laoghaire City Races.

From two days of tight competition in a great mix of breezes Spindrift racing, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and FONCIA finished locked together with the same 63 points aggregate.

But it was Yann Guichard's team on the black and white hulled MOD70 Spindrift racing that won the start and broke the finish line first in the showdown, to secure the overall City Race series in Dun Laoghaire.

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Groupe Edmond de Rothschild reaches past Sandycove

It was a fitting and very exciting conclusion to a fabulous day of inshore racing for the MOD70 European Tour's second stage.

After Dublin Bay saw an incredibly close finish to the 1238 miles first offshore leg from Kiel when FONCIA, Spindrift racing and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild finished within 77 seconds after three and half days racing, the inshore series carried on the same level of suspense and tension which is becoming increasingly associated with this exciting MOD70 one design fleet.

Friday's racing was in light and fickle breezes when FONCIA won two races but today the SW'ly winds topped 20kts at times.

Complemented by perfect September sunshine which helped draw sizeable crowds to the East Pier to watch the racing, the strong breezes placed the greatest premium yet on crew work and manoeuvres round the compact race course and over the piece Guichard's crew were the better starters and the most fluid around the turning marks.

Spindrift racing looked to have set themselves up to win the first race of the day when they lead down the first downwind leg but they were passed on the short, fast reaching leg by Groupe Edmond de Rothschild who went on to take first gun. With the mark for the leeward offset mark drifting, race direction had set a RIB with flag M as a mark and alerted the fleet by VHF.

The leading two boats went to the drifting mark whilst both Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Musandam-Oman Sail both rounded the substitute mark-boat and gained.

In the second race of the day perfect timing and placement was the key to Spindrift racing's flying start with the breeze up at its strongest, 18-21kts, and Guichard's team were unstoppable, going on to win.

FONCIA made an uncharacteristically slow start and struggled, finishing up fourth, pipped to third by Sidney Gavignet's Musandam-Oman Sail.

Race 6 saw Race for Water profit at the top end of the windward leg to lead Musandam-Oman Sail in second around the course. But with Groupe Edmond de Rothschild rounding third, FONCIA fourth and Spindrift fifth the final order meant these three closely matched teams all finished with the same points aggregate.

When it came to the high pressure finale it was Spindrift racing who, again, won the start, accelerating away to lead round the one turning mark and win the series overall.

DunLaoghaire City Race, Overall after 6 races

1- Spindrift racing EUR (Yann Guichard FRA) 12+11+9+11+12+8 = 63 points

2- Groupe Edmond de Rothschild FRA (Sébastien Josse FRA) 9+10+11+12+11+10 = 63 points

3- FONCIA FRA (Michel Desjoyeaux FRA ) 11+12+12+10+9+9 = 63 points

4- Race for Water SUI (Stève Ravussin SUI) 10+9+10+8+8+12 = 57 points

5-Musandam-Oman Sail OMA (Sidney Gavignet FRA) 8+8+8+9+10+11 = 54 points

Speed Match

1- Spindrift racing(Yann Guichard)

2- Groupe Edmond deRothschild (Sébastien Josse)

3- Musandam-Oman Sail(Sidney Gavignet)

4- Race for Water(Stève Ravussin)

5- FONCIA (MichelDesjoyeaux)

Published in Dublin Bay
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#MOD70 - The Irish Times' Simon Tierney goes for the ride of his life on board one of the super-fast yachts sailing in Dun Laoghaire this weekend on the MOD70 European Tour.

Tierney reports from Brest in France on his "hair-raising" taster trip on the Spindrift, winner of July's Krys Ocean Race across the North Atlantic - completing the 2,950-mile route in just over four days 21 hours.

As he signs a disclaimer and straps on his helmet, he knows he's "not on an ordinary sailing boat. We will be going fast. Very fast."

The Spindrift is one of a five-boat fleet in Dublin on the first stop-over of the four-leg MOD70 European Tour that will later take in Cascais, Marseille and Genoa.

And even in the confines of Dublin Bay racing today, these multi-hull trimarans will be treating the spectators to some incredible feats of speed.

Tierney writes of his experience: "The water is furious in our wake, kicking enormous fountains into the air. I glance at the speed gauge. We are doing 35 knots. This is an extraordinary velocity for a sailing boat. It would be difficult for a speed boat to keep up with us."

As crew member Léo Lucet tells him: "Multihulls can go faster than the wind... [we can] create our own wind. That’s why we can say that the MOD 70’s are in the range of the fastest boats in the world.”

Make sure to catch the fleet in action yourself in Dun Laoghaire before they depart on the next leg to Cascais tomorrow afternoon.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Dublin Bay

#ANNALISE MURPHY - The Daily Sail reports on a busy few days ahead for Irish Olympic sailing star and August Sailor of the Month, Annalise Murphy.

As previously covered on Afloat.ie, the 22-year-old - who scored Ireland's best Olympic sailing result in 32 years at London 2012 in the Laser Radial class - will today join the crew of the Omani MOD70 yacht Oman Sail-Musandam in Dublin Bay as part of the MOD70 European Tour, in celebration of the 19th anniversary of the Round Ireland speed record set by the late Steve Fossett.

Meanwhile, Murphy is also busy supporting her fellow UCD students selected as Ireland's representatives in the 2012 Student Yachting World Cup, to take place in La Rochelle, France late next month.

Murphy, who returned to UCD this week to complete the degree in science she deferred for her Olympic training three years ago, said: “I’m great friends with the guys on the team from either sailing or my first year in UCD.

"They’re a really strong team and have a really good chance of winning at the World Cup. I wish them the best of luck."

Published in News Update

#mod70–When Steve Fossett's 60ft trimaran Lakota came into Dun Laoghaire Harbour after setting a well nigh unbeatable Round Ireland record in September 1993, it was Dublin Bay's first introduction to the new generation of ultra-light speed machines, which were sweeping away long-standing time achievements by the fastest mono-hulls and the earlier waves of offshore multihulls.

Until this week, Lakota was our benchmark for the sharp end of multi-hull development. And she was a very good boat in her day. But as of midnight Wednesday, we're up to speed with the very latest thinking. The arrival of the five boats of the MOD 70 class at the end of Leg One of their European Tour has brought the awe-inspiring presence of machines which are 15 per cent bigger than Lakota, yet considerably lighter, and much faster.

That is, if they get the wind. Originally, the plan had been to race from Kiel out of the Baltic north of Scotland, then south to Dun Laoghaire. But the forecast – subsequently fulfilled – of gales in the high latitudes led to a re-routing through the English Channel. In this upside-down summer, they found precious little wind down south.

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Manoeuvring for the start with a boat that seems as wide as it's requires special skills. Photo: WM Nixon

But as they're one designs, they'd brilliantly close racing. The lead changed several times, and the finish in the faintest zephyrs on Wednesday night just minutes before midnight saw the three front runners crawl across the line in just 77 seconds. That would be impressive in club racing. But in a 1300 mile offshore race, it's sensational.

Michel Desjoyeaux and his crew racing Foncia snatched it from Yann Guichard on Spindrift by 32 seconds, with Sebastian Josse and the Groupe Edmond de Rothschild team 45 seconds further back. Another 35 minutes elapsed before Steve Ravusin brought Race for Water to the finish. And then 1 hour and 34 minutes behind the leader, the fifth-placed Oman glided across in virtual calm, the crew including international multihull legend Brian Thompson who was with the late Steve Fossett – as were the National YC's Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavey – when Lakota did the business 19 years ago.

When they went out for the first three City Races yesterday, hopes were high that the MOD 70s would get the kind of breezes in which they become truly spectacular, as the early afternoon gave a hint of a decent sea breeze filling from the southeast. But in early September, even when summer is doggedly clinging on, there just isn't the dynamic to create a fresh onshore wind, and though boats speeds of up to 14 knots were recorded in mid-afternoon, the winds were mostly light.

But it provided an ideal setup to observe these extraordinary machines in close-up, and for this reporter it was an excellent opportunity to tick several boxes at once, as we went to sea aboard Hal Sisk's remarkable 63ft "motor launch" Molly Bawn, an exquisite Nigel Irens design, built in Denmark, which is so easily driven in her elegant hull that they're able to measure fuel consumption by the litre.

So it was a dizzy combination, the sheer style of Molly Bawn, and the five MOD 50s zooming about with a deceptively relaxed air. A bit too relaxed in the case of Oman – they missed the first race through clobbering a rock with a daggerboard in Scotsman's Bay while being too enthusiastic about getting near the spectators on shore, though I think it was a little unkind of one non-sailor to comment that this was the most exciting thing that happened all afternoon.

By the time Oman re-joined for Race 2, Michael Desjoyeaux with Foncia was showing the sort of consistency which wins any boat racing series. These freakish machines, with hulls so narrow that the main crossbeam is actually thicker, really do race more or less like normal boats, which takes some skill in pre-start manoeuvres. But then, the sudden acceleration which results from getting the trim just right, means that massive gaps open out in seconds.

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Weird and wonderful – a Mod 70's very slim main hull is narrower than the depth of the crossbeam. Photo: WM Nixon

Equally, of course, huge leads can disappear in a waft of wind. By the third race, Foncia was firmly in the points lead, and a new westerly drifting down the bay was indicated by the aroma of several happy barbecues ashore, not least at the National YC where hundred of happy punters were finding that this business of racing state of the art multihulls can be a notably thirst and hunger inducing affair.

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Apres sailing at the National YC – quite something for a September evening after the worst summer on record. Photo: WM Nixon

For a September evening after the worst summer on record, it was wuite something. Today, with Dun Laoghaire en fete, the five boats will be showing their exceptional speed potential with an afternoon of racing and speed trials from 2.0pm to 5.0 pm off Dun Laoghaire harbour and along the coast to Sandycove point. Then tomorrow afternoon it's back to serious work – Leg 2 of 1215 miles from Dun Laoghaire to Cascais in Portugal, with a good sou'wester in prospect.

While the MOD 70 circuit is the new sailing going very public indeed, down in Kinsale they're geared up for one of the classics of international sport, a week of racing for the Dragon Gold Cup which dates back to 1937. A remarkable fleet of 60 boats has converged on the south coast port, and with Simon Brien from Belfast Lough already putting down a marker by winning the class's historic Edinburgh Cup back in July, the thriving Irish fleet includes several favourites for the Gold.

Meanwhile both the 1720s and the Laser SB20 (formerly the Laser SB3) were showing they're in good heart with major championships last weekend, Mark Mansfield and Terry English of Crosshaven taking the 1720 Euros at Baltimore in the last race, while Ben Duncan of Howth emerged from the pack to win the SB20 Nationals.

This weekend at Malahide, we've a geographical conundrum. At its newly refurbished dinghy headquarters on the Broadmeadow, Malahide YC is hosting more than a hundred very junior helms in the International Optimist Connacht Championship. Is this inter-provincial confusion, or what? We're assured that Malahide is the Connacht of Howth, and geography can be stretched from there.

Published in W M Nixon
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