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Along the Leinster coast, the summer sea breeze from various points in the east can get a boost from the enormous heat storage unit that is the Greater Dublin area writes W M Nixon. But it’s not something to be relied on. There’ll be unexpected and enormous changes in direction. It can sometimes just disappear as though some giant hand has simply switched off an electric fan. And as evening draws on, it becomes ever more fickle and finally fades altogether.

Joker II defence forces Barry Byrne of the Defence Forces took third overall and won the inaugural Round Ireland Services Challenge Photo:

But while the sea breeze still made in over the city and the afternoon ebb got going with full vigour, a rush of boats today in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 made every effort to get themselves across Dublin Bay and down to that elusive finishing line before the evening calm set in.

As ever, there’s much at stake. Ireland’s Defence Forces are represented by Commandant Barry Byrne (originally from Wicklow) and navigator Mick Liddy with the J/109 Joker II. Like every other boat in this demanding 700-mile race, Joker II has had her moments of glory and her times of frustration. But this afternoon she was going mighty well, and closing in by this evening with a strong likelihood of securing the winning slot among the Services crews, and possibly even the chance of snatching the second overall position from Chris & Pat Anne Power Smith’s already-finished J/122 Aurelia.

Fujitsu British soldier 4103British Army boat Team Fujitsu, skippered by Donal Ryan of Howth

On top of that, she had nearly two hours in hand on her closest rival for the Services prize, the already-finished but significantly larger and higher-rated British Army boat Team Fujitsu, skippered by Donal Ryan of Howth. In such an inter-port and inter-unit setup, talk of “special rivalry” is scarcely adequate…..

So there was Joker II making her way ever closer to the line, but all the time her speed was fading. Inexorably, she slipped down the Corrected Time rankings. Soon, she was irretrievably behind Aurelia. But Joker II crawled on, clinging to third overall. 4.3 knots over the ground. With just 3 miles to cover. Agony.

8.0pm. Less than a mile to go. Now making 4.7knots. Hang in there, lads. Just do it by sheer will power……8.09 pm: Joker II has finished……Let there be rejoicing

What with Niall Dowling of the Royal Irish YC winning overall, and Chris Power Smith of Royal St George YC getting second overall, and now Barry Byrne of the Defence Forces getting third overall and winning the Services Challenge, things are stacking up quite neatly for the home team in this 20th Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018.

Race tracker and leaderboard HERE Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE

Published in Round Ireland

Three of the primary positions are now resolved in the 20th Round Ireland Race writes W M Nixon. Niall Dowling (Royal Irish YC) has repeated the remarkable George David/Rambler 88 double of 2016 by taking both Line Honours and the overall IRC win with the Ker 43 Baraka GP. And the attractive new Class 40 Corum from France – completely fresh out of the wrappings when she arrived in Ireland a week ago – has ended with a comfortable 2 hours and 17 minutes lead in class over Norway’s Hydra.

Niall Dowling RIYC 3688Niall Dowling (Royal Irish YC) has repeated the remarkable George David/Rambler 88 double of 2016 by taking both Line Honours and the overall IRC win with the Ker 43 Baraka GP (below) Photos:

Baraka GP 3925

A small cluster of boats made the finish as mid-day drew near, but with the north-going flood tide at full flow, there’s a gap with the 58ft American sloop Patriot next in line to get there, and she is currently off Dublin Bay while managing 7.9 knots in the moderate northwest to north wind.

Auerlia Chris power smith 3664Chris Power Smith's J122 Aurelia finished second overall Photo:

Other contests now include the Services win, and who will be the first Mini 6.5 to sail round Ireland non-stop. The British Soldier entry Team Fujitsu, a high-rated X41 skippered by Donal Ryan of Howth, may have already finished in close company with second overall in IRC Aurelia (Chris and Pat Anne Power Smith). But there’s still a chance that Wicklow’s own Commandant Barry Byrne with the J/109 Joker II could pull it off for the Irish Defence Forces, as he has time in hand and is currently off Lambay making 7.0 knots despite the adverse tide.

Round Ireland Joker II 4275Wicklow’s own Commandant Barry Byrne with the J/109 Joker II could pull it off for the Irish Defence Forces Photo:

However, it’s a moot point as to just how long this helpful fair wind will last, and the two Mini 6.5s, currently off the County Down coast and running smoothly, are doing so in the expectation of having some windward work before they finally get to Wicklow.

Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier and Cathal Clarke) has a good lead over the Mayo entry Blackshell Farm (Louis Mulloy), but the Galway sailors are quick to point out that it’s a miracle the Mayo boat is in any sort of serious contention at all, as she broke her spinnaker pole on the first night out. They had to do a complete on-board carbon and epoxy repair job, and whatever a Mini 6.5 may be, it is not the ideal spar repair workshop. But they managed nevertheless.

Yannick Mini 650 4541Mini 650 Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier and Cathal Clarke) Photo:

Whoever finishes first of this dynamic duo if little ’uns will automatically become the smallest boat ever to have sailed round Ireland non-stop, so they’ve added an extra interest to their private contest.

Nicolas Pasternak’s JPK 10.10 JaasapNicolas Pasternak’s JPK 10.10 Jaasap Photo:

Another specialist contest is the two-handed division, which has gallantly persisted in its ability to surprise everyone by providing the overall leader from time to time. Nine boats started, and the two outstanding ones have been very different craft - Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland, and Nicolas Pasternak’s JPK 10.10 Jaasap. At the moment, it is Jaasap which is carrying the two-handed banner to the best effect, so much so that she could well be third overall at the finish, but CoOperation Ireland is right in on the hunt, and is currently rated as being sixth overall.

Irish offshore sailing 4459Ronan O Siochru’s organisation has the 37ft Desert Star (which he skippers himself) (above) in first, while sister-ship Sherkin 2 (Daniel Smith) below is second Photos: Afloat.ieIrish offshore sailing 4459

Finally, an area of special interest is the Sailing Schools, with six boats racing. The spreading in through the night of the new wind from the northwest did Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire no end of good, and Ronan O Siochru’s organisation has the 37ft Desert Star (which he skippers himself) in first, while sister-ship Sherkin 2 (Daniel Smith) is second. If they can keep this up, it will look very good indeed in the End-of-Term reports…….

Race Tracker and Leaderboard here

Published in Round Ireland

The fair winds from the northwest, which late last night and early this morning were spreading slowly through the latter half of the Round Ireland fleet off Donegal and then Antrim, now cover the entire remaining race area writes W M Nixon. The best of the breeze is in the North Channel, but with the tides ebbing north there until late morning, progress is unspectacular but it is at least progress, in contrast to the total frustration of the earlier part of last night.

Meanwhile, up front and among those already finished, we gladly make a thorough re-appraisal of our assessment of Niall Dowling’s all-conquering Ker 43 Baraka GP – line honours and likely overall IRC winner - as having been a thoroughly professional job. Not so.

Yet when you remember that on Tuesday night the Volvo 60 Libertalia Team Jolokia had got to within a dozen miles of Baraka in the northern part of the North Channel, yet by Wednesday lunchtime Baraka was in Wicklow and well finished with Line Honours with 90 miles now between her and Jolokia, it’s understandable that the whole performance shone through as being professional levels of the highest standards.

baraka at kish2 1Baraka off the Kish during her remarkable progress yesterday morning down in a light breze the Irish Sea. The way her sails are set up to deal wkth a hyper-close reach merits the closest study. Photo John Sheehy RStGYC

And certainly navigator/tactician Ian Moore is one of the world’s very best professionals. But aboard Baraka GP, his shipmates included three total amateurs including skipper Niall Dowling, and while the boat was an impressive performer, her mixed crew had to deal with at least as many sail and gear problems as anyone else.

They’d also to cope with the fact that at one stage off the North Coast of Mayo, they were shown as being in a seemingly irredeemable 24th overall. And while she may indeed have been set up for maximum performance in hyper-close reaching conditions as she came in past the Kish yesterday morning, the crew photos show a somewhat motley bunch without that unmistakable professional sheen, as do their line honours celebrations in Wicklow.

Baraka GP crew2Baraka’s crew celebrations in Wicklow were in best amateur style

Baraka RIYCBaraka GP back at the Royal Irish YC in Dun Laoghaire yesterday evening - during the Round Ireland Race, she’d had to cope with gear and sail problems like everyone else. Photo:

So we very happily re-instate Baraka GP with honour as being in the “Real” Round Ireland Race as much as everyone else, and now we watch with interest to see if her huge theoretical IRC Handicap lead is going to withstand the fact that Nicolas Pasternak’s two-handed JPK 10.10 Jaasap is coming down the Irish Sea in purposeful style, and for a while was back in second place overall on the IRC progress sheets.

However, with the stronger area of wind moving away to the east in the Irish Sea, Jaasap is shown at only 5.4 knots and still has 64 miles to sail, whereas Chris Power Smith’s Aurelia is back into provisional second at 5.9 knots with 12 miles to the finish, so she should be well finished by lunchtime in company with the British army entrant, the X41 team Fujitsu skippered by Donal Ryan of Howth. But this still leaves Baraka GP with a very comfortable margin for the overall win.

Yet these IRC provisional timings are sometimes about as useful as opinion polls in assessing the outcome of a General Election. In other words, the only timings that will really matter are the final and official results.

Towards the back end of the fleet the two little Mini 6.5s Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier) and the Mayo boat Blackshell Farm (Louis Mulloy) were having a close race of it last night as the new wind brought them bustling in round Malin Head.

But a cheerful phone call last night from Cathal Clarke who’s with Yannick aboard Port of Galway appears to have de-activated their Yellowbrick Tracker, so all we know for now is that Blackshell has got past Fair Head against the last of the adverse tide, and as of 11am her speed shot up to 10 knots as the new fair tide started to do its stuff. The between the two of them is crucial, as the first to finish will be the smallest boat ever to have sailed round Ireland non-stop.

Yannick lemonnier Mini650 4517Yannick Lemonnier in his leading Mini 650 is on target to be the first to finish in the smallest boat ever to have sailed round Ireland non-stop Photo:

And just as this update is being posted, a call from Cathal Clarke tells us that Port of Galway is 13 miles ahead of Blackshell, but they have work to do as she is only making good 7.6 knots.

Race Tracker and leaderboard here

Published in Round Ireland

Yesterday evening, the all-conquering Baraka GP had enough breeze and hull speed to break through the foul tide at Rathlin Island and Fair Head in some style, writes W M Nixon.

But tonight (Wednesday 4 July), there has been no breeze in the same area, yet the foul tide is there with equal vigour, and Round Ireland Yacht Race boats have been ground to a halt.

Paul O’Higgins’ Rockabill VI has kedged just east of Rathlin’s northeast point. Slightly to the south, off Fair Head, the biggest boat in the fleet, the Swan 65 Desperado of Richard Loftus, may be shown as making 3.2 knots, but it’s in a northerly direction and she has no steerage way, so not for the first time, ‘Un-Fair Head’ is in the Round Ireland lexicon.

Swan Desperado 4314Swan 65 Desperado Photo:

It will be 11pm by the time there’s any easing of the adverse stream. Meanwhile, down off the southeast corner of Belfast Lough, Chris Power Smith’s J/199 Aurelia may have to work to windward, but she’s registering 4.6 knots in more or less the right direction, and is well placed in the role of leader of the ‘real’ Round Ireland Race.

Aurelia Chris power smith J122The J122 Aurelia - in the role of leader of the ‘real’ Round Ireland Race Photo:

However, with boats well slowed off the north coast, the British Services crew racing the X41 Team Fujitsu beside Aurelia have moved up the rankings despite their high rating, and they’re now next in line, but still nearly two hours behind Aurelia on corrected time.

Fujitsu British soldier 4103The X41 Team Fujitsu British Soldier are next in line behind Aurelia, but two hours behind on Corrected Time. Photo:

Up ahead, there are two Class 40s close in off the Co Down coast, with Corum showing clear in front again after being challenged for some time by Hydra. Between them is the very high-rated Ker 40 Hooligan, which may improve her overall standing now that she has got through the worst of the tides by putting the South Rock astern, but her stratospheric handicap number still means she’s way back at 29th overall.

Round Ireland Hooligan VI 4058Ker 40 Hooligan Photo:

Much further south, and out on her own approaching Lambay, is the Volvo 690 Libertalia Team Jolokia from France, enjoying the brisk sou’easter which is localised in the Greater Dublin region, but she still is at a lowly 38th overall despite being well on track to take second in line honours.

So there’s no doubt that, as Peter Ryan of ISORA sagaciously predicted before the start, this is turning out to be the oddest Round Ireland race that has yet been staged in the 38 years history of the event.

Yannick lemonnier Mini650 4517Yannick Lemonnier in the Mini 650 Port of Galway Photo:

By tomorrow, the northern half of the country should be experiencing the northwest to north winds which are already bringing the two Mini 6.5s Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier) and Blackshell Farm (Louis Mulloy) scampering up towards Malin Head under spinnaker. But it’s a moot point how far the new winds will get before they peter out.

We will see in the morning, but for now here’s the Race Tracker and Leaderboard for the current crazy state of play.

Published in Round Ireland

When Niall Dowling’s exceptional Ker 43 Baraka GP crossed the finish line at Wicklow at 1320 hrs this afternoon to take Line Honours and put down a very strong marker for the IRC overall win, the way was cleared for attention to focus on what we might call the Real Round Ireland Race writes W M Nixon.

While the Baraka show was at full throttle, we could only marvel at the sheer competence with which this Performance Yacht Charter package was sent out on the Round Ireland challenge, and the particular skill shown by navigator/tactician Ian ‘Soapy’ Moore.

Baraka line honoursThe Baraka GP crew celebrate in Wicklow

As they say in showbiz and in celebrity culinary circles, it was simply the best. But for most of the entries who are still out there plugging away, while this may indeed be simply the best, it’s just not the real world.

"The real world is getting your boat and amateur crew together, and setting out with your heart in your mouth"

The real world is getting your boat and amateur crew together, and setting out with your heart in your mouth to face up to whatever the 704-mile course has to offer.

It’s not the day job, nor is it the night job. It’s what you do as a personal private sport in precious holiday time carved from a busy working life. But it’s what you want to do.

So for those outside observers who are feeling maybe a little sorry for the amateur sailors in their little boats still slogging along mostly to windward off the sometimes decidedly harsh coasts of Donegal and Antrim, and sailing across a sea which is seldom as smooth as the sea across which Baraka sliced so suavely at the Kish LH this morning, the message is: Forget about it. Or as they’d say in New York: fuggedaboudid.

They don’t need your sympathy. The fact is, these guys in their little boats aren’t feeling sorry for themselves at all. On the contrary, you can be quite sure they’re in some intense private battle with a boat nearby, or some particular rival boat they know to be already round the next headland. They are utterly absorbed in what they’re doing. And they’ll likely be back on the next Round Ireland Race in two years’ time.

So in the Real Round Ireland Race, the leader is Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, currently turning to windward off Garron Point on the Antrim coast, with the favourable flood tide reaching its last gasp under her to keep her speed at 7.2 knots.

cooperation irelandPaul Kavanagh's CoOperation Ireland

Second in the real Round Ireland race is Paul Kavanagh’s lovely vintage Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland, being raced two-handed. She’s due north of Inishtrahull and showing only 4.3 knots, but is in some much higher-rated company, and all is well with the world.

Fujitsu British soldier 4103The X41 Team Fujitsu British Soldier Photo:

Third in our Real Round Ireland race is Team Fujitsu, an X41 which is owned by Donal Ryan but is racing as a Services competitor. This means she’s head-to-head with Commandant Barry Byrne, Mick Liddy et al on board the J/109 Joker II. But the much higher-rated Team Fujitsu is actually close beside Aurelia well into the North Channel, while Joker II – lying fourth overall in the Real Round Ireland and just seven minutes on corrected time behind Team Fujitsu - is laying in on port tack towards the north coast, but is still well offshore at Portrush.

Joker II Defence forces 4276The Defence Forces entry Joker II Photo:

Fifth in the RRI is former overall leader Jaasap (Nicolas Pasternak from France) which is another of these hyper-keen two-handed contenders. Jaasap is close east of Inishtrahull and is making only 3.3 knots, but they have a handy little race going on with sailing school entries in their area, notably the First 40 Olympia’s Tigress which is being jointly skippered by Susan Glenny and Irish Sailor of the Year Conor Fogerty.

Olympia tigress 4148Susan Glenny's Olympia Tigress Photo:

With this setup, we find ourselves in the area of the Utterly Real Round Ireland Race. We are about as far as we can get from the highly-paid rock stars who took Baraka GP to such a famous victory. For a significant proportion of the crew on sailing school entries are relatively newcomers to sailing who are prepared to pay good money for the exquisite tortures and profound satisfaction which a Round Ireland Race can serve up.

Bellino round Ireland 4249Rob Craigie's Sun Fast 3600 Bellino lies eighth off the North coast Photo:

So all this is still going on, and will continue for two or three days yet. We'll have another update on the 'Real' Round Ireland race around 9.0pm tonight.

Meanwhile, here’s the Tracker Chart and Leaderboard:

Race tracker and leaderboard HERE Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE

Published in Round Ireland

Niall Dowling’s chartered Ker 43 Baraka GP was across the finish line at Wicklow a few minutes before 1.30pm to comfortably take line honours in the 2018 edition of the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race, the 20th staging of this major event.

The Royal Irish YC skipper has seen his specialised boat put in a spectacular performance during the past 18 hours, lengthening away from all opposition to such good effect that the next in line, the Volvo 60 Libertalia Team Jokolia, is still all of 90 miles from the finish.

“AtAt the time of finish, Baraka was shown as having a Corrected Time lead of seven hours. Photo: John Sheehy/RStGYC

Baraka is indicated as currently having a strong lead in the main section of the fleet, the IRC Handicap Division. Her closest challenger, Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, still has 140 miles to race, and at the time of finish, Baraka was shown as having a Corrected Time lead of seven hours.

Race tracker and leaderboard HERE Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE

Published in Round Ireland

After Niall Dowling’s Ker 43 Baraka had led the Volvo Round Ireland fleet by a large margin in successfully negotiating the adverse tides of Rathlin Island yesterday evening, ace navigator Ian Moore (originally of Carrickfergus) had moved his boat and shipmates into an entirely different scenario from the scattered opposition astern – some of it very far astern writes W M Nixon.

Once onto the east coast, the fleet leader on the water and in IRC handicap found smoother water and breezes which gave her sufficient speed to make a nonsense of the foul tides. And as it became a fair tide well before midnight, she was soon streaking through the North Channel in the night like an arrow at 9 knots and then 10 knots, while the second-placed Aurelia (Chris Power-Smith) struggled with headwinds in those notably disturbed waters between the most northerly coasts and islands of Ireland, and the Scottish island of Islay.

Baraka GP Niall dowling 3980Fleet leader Baraka GP, the beautifully-prepared Ker 43 is crewed entirely by top sailing professionals Photo:

Baraka’s progress has been so good that she is now well past Rockabill, and making 8.8 knots towards the Wicklow finish just 28 miles away despite the first signs of the adverse north flowing tide as she gets into the waters of St George’s Channel. In the heat of recent days, it has been shown that the Greater Dublin area generates one of the briskest sea breezes in the country, so being becalmed in the final approaches towards the finish seems unlikely, and we could be looking at an early afternoon finish.

"Overall, the picture is not so encouraging for the rest of the fleet"

Overall, the picture is not so encouraging for the rest of the fleet, as the winds off Donegal are all over the place, but in the overnight re-shuffle of the pack, Ian Hickeys Noray 38 Cavatina from Cork – winner of two previous circuits when lower-rated boats were favoured – is now up into second overall, but she is currently almost becalmed five miles westward of Bloody Foreland in Donegal, So even though there may be nor’westers tomorrow, at the moment it requires infinite faith and patience to keep Cavatina in the hunt. But her crew have shown they have these traits in abundance, and if this race has shown anything, it is that fortunes can suddenly improve out of all recognition.

Paul OHiggins Rockabill VI 3812Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI Photo:

One boat which seems determined to prove this is Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI. Yesterday morning at 1100 hrs, she and Chris Power Smith’s Aurelia were on the wind in close proximity to each other, on starboard tack about eight miles off Rossan Point at the most rugged area of the Donegal coast. Then for the first time in many miles, they split. Aurelia continued to head north, but Rockabill took a stab in towards the shore.

Aurelia 4124Chris Power Smith’s J122 Aurelia Photo:

It was a fatal error. For much of the day, she was virtually becalmed off Loughros More Bay, while Aurelia sailed merrily along in a private breeze, beating efficiently past Bloody Foreland and Tory Island and doing so well that at times she was showing as leader overall on IRC.

But having finally found a breeze again, Rockabill VI is now on the attack, and is currently approaching Malin Head – admittedly at just 5.6 knots – with the tide soon to turn in her favour. Aurelia meanwhile has been doing some rather desperate tacking against the foul tide well out at sea, midway between the entrance to Lough Foyle and the southwest coast of Islay, and equally anticipating the favourable turn of the tide with hope.

But it is inevitably all rather messy by comparison with the clinical performance which has been put in during the past 24 hours by Baraka GP. Admittedly the beautifully-prepared Ker 43 is crewed entirely by top professionals. But when we remember that 36 hours ago she was shown as being back in 24th place in IRC overall, it’s fascinating to see what real pros can do when they seem to have been dealt a very challenging hand.

"Baraka GP has a clear lead on Corrected Time of seven hours over second-placed Cavatina"

By this afternoon, they’ll be in the Wicklow waiting game. But for now, as she sweeps past Lambay in a very sunny easterly breeze at 8.6 knots over the ground, Baraka GP has a clear lead on Corrected Time of seven hours over second-placed Cavatina.

Round Ireland cavatina 4418Cork yacht Cavatina, a double race winner, is lying in second place Photo:

Third is the Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland (Paul Kavanagh), 4th is the JPK 10.10 Jaasap (Nicolas Pasternak), which like the Kavanagh boat, is being sailed two-handed, fifth is Aurelia and sixth is the Barry Byrne-skippered J/109 Joker II.

Round Ireland Joker II 4266Defence forces entry Joker II skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne Photo:

But while there’s less than two hours’ difference between the corrected times of Cavatina and Joker II, Baraka GP has that very clear seven-hour margin. Now, approaching the finish, she is indeed very much in a race of her own.

Race tracker and leaderboard HERE Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE

Published in Round Ireland

Three years ago, after he’d navigated a Transatlantic Race winner to a mighty victory, his crewmates said admiringly of Ian Moore that having him aboard as navigator/tactician was as good as narrowing the ocean by at least 150 miles and probably much more writes W M Nixon

This evening, Moore has been giving a master-class in working every little twist of the coast to get the Ker 43 Baraka GP (Niall Dowling) past tide-riven Rathlin Island against both tide and wind. It’s very different from weather-reading skills in mid-ocean, but it’s all part of the multi-faceted Moore package.

Ian Moore Niall dowling 3694Baraka GP Navigator Ian Moore (left) and Skipper Niall Dowling Photo:

Having taken the boat in towards the scenic Antrim coast to minimise the adverse effects of the full flowing ebb, he has been cliff-hopping along Rathlin’s steep north side after closing up with the island in its tidal shadow.

Round Ireland Jasaap 4377In the overall race handicap stakes, Pasternak Nicolas on Jaasap, a JPK 1010 tops the provisional leader-board, taking over from Stephen Quinn's J97 Lambay Rules (below) Photos:

Lambay rules Howth Stephen quinn 0715

This is one odd island. You begin to realise that you’ve arrived at a crazy place when you notice that while the clifftop Rathlin West lighthouse may have an orthodox white tower, the actual light which should be that the top is at the base, sitting beside it, in order to keep it below the fog ceiling…….There’s the photo above to prove it.

"It’s still very much Game On, promising an interesting night of boat racing"

And as for Ian Moore’s tide-dodging, the ploy is working so well that Baraka has continued to improve her overall standing in the IRC fleet, going up from 6th to 4th and now first as the smaller challengers are slowed by plugging to windward in lumpy seas back off Donegal.

The off-the-wall Rathlin scenario - it’s something with which every persistent round Ireland competitor can readily identify. Years ago, this reporter found himself doing the circuit on a ramshackle 83ft Maxi well stricken in years, with sails to match. There were loose bits hanging out of the huge mainsail. It looked like anything but a racing mainsail. We were forcefully reminded of this as we dodged the foul tide right in under the Rathlin rock-face, and cliff-nesting seabirds tried to alight on our mainsail under the impression it was their multi-ledged home. I am not making this up.

Nor am I making up the fact that Baraka and her multi-talented crew are sailing a blinder. We hinted at the possibility yesterday of such a thing eventually arising, but didn’t expect to see it so soon, demonstrated quite so vividly and in this Rathlin place too – we were looking instead for an unexpectedly fast Irish Sea transit.

There’s still plenty of time for the Niall Dowling-skippered boat to get hung up by evening calm and the remains of the ebb past Fair Head. But the tide turns again by around 10.0pm, and we can be quite sure that Ian Moore will know of the local spots where it turns earlier – in some cases much earlier - and will make sure Baraka is right there if at all possible.

As it is, with Baraka close in – and we mean really close in - at Rathlin’s northeast corner at 6.30 pm and still somehow making good at all of 7 knots, all bets were off. Because she is now calculated as leading IRC overall on Corrected Time. Which shouldn’t be the case at all, but there it is, and though by 7.0pm she was slowed back to 5.0 knots over the ground, she’d broken through the Rathlin tidal gate and was round the corner and on her way.

Aurelia J122 Chris Power smith 3642Chris Power Smith's J122 Aurelia is up to fourth overall Photo:

On down the line, the big news is that Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia has got her mojo back. With the Prof on board in fine form, Aurelia took a little private stab to seaward out west of Glencolmcille in Donegal, found herself a better breeze, and now she’s up to fourth overall, but still half an hour behind the miraculous Baraka. However, with the top six boats covering less than an hour, it’s still very much Game On, promising an interesting night of boat racing.

Irish offshore sailing 3627Rónán O'Siochrú's team on Irish Offshore Sailing's Desert Star, have overcome a spell of seasickness for some crew-members Photo:

Race tracker and leaderboard HERE Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE

Published in Round Ireland

When they left the tide-swept Tuskar Rock astern on Saturday night with a cold fair wind helping them on their way, the crews in the Volvo Round Ireland 2018 knew that tidal streams would no longer play a hugely significant role in the race until they’d got to Ireland’s most northerly point at Malin Head writes W M Nixon.

But between Malin Head with its turning mark out beyond the rocks of Inishtrahull off northern Donegal, and the South Rock off County Down’s east coast, tide is the dominant factor. It can run at up to 8 knots around Rathlin Island and off Fair Head, and there’s an entire universe of difference between having it in your favour and being agin it.

Baraka GP 3716Niall Dowling's Baraka GP Photo:

For fleet leader Baraka GP (Niall Dowling, RIYC), this is all about to become painfully evident. Her crew will have hoped to be at Malin Head in time for the new east going flood around 1030 this morning, and it looked for a while as if they might be on time. But a soft patch north of Lough Swilly found them well off the pace, and by the time they got to Inishtrahull, half of the favourable six-hour flood had already run its course.

"Everything enters a new chapter with those North Channel tides playing an increasing role in the story"

So although she’s off the mouth of Lough Foyle making a crisp 9 knots and better as we write this, by 1600 hrs the fates will be against Baraka. She’ll have six hours of frustration which will test her crew as they work to find any favourable eddy that’s going, which they can only do if the northeast breeze holds up.

Rockabill VI 4063JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins) has moved up to fourth overall on IRC Photo:

Overall, things had been looking much better for the impressive Ker 43, as she’d continued her upward progress in the IRC overall stakes to have reached 7th place. Well astern, the rest of the IRC fleet continues to turn to windward off North Mayo and Donegal coasts, with the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins) and the J/122 Aurelia (Chris Power Smith) showing impressive gains to move up to 4th and 5th overall.

Aurelia 4124J/122 Aurelia (Chris Power Smith) now in fifth on IRC overall Photo:

Paul Kavanagh’s handsome Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland continues to lead overall, with Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules just 5 minutes astern in second. Barry Byrne continues well in control of all the J/109s, his Joker II lies 5th overall, but Ian Hickey’s gallant old Noray 38 Cavatina has slipped a bit - she’s now back in 8th.

Round Ireland Cavatina 4408Ian Hickey’s Noray 38 Cavatina has slipped to eighth. Now in her 40th year the Cork crew is hoping for a third race win in the vintage yacht. Photo:

However, everything enters a new chapter with those North Channel tides playing an increasing role in the story, and we’ll see how it has shaken things up with the 7.0pm posting.

Race tracker and leaderboard HERE Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE

Published in Round Ireland

The vigorous north to northeast winds which have given the fleet in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 such a tough time as they battled their way up the Atlantic seaboard have now eased and veered further as the leaders work their way around the coast of Donegal and northwest Mayo writes W M Nixon.

This means the north coast is now providing line honours leader Baraka GP (Ker 43, Niall Dowling RIYC) with yet another dead beat. And the further east she gets, the more significant becomes the role of the tides, with the new flood tide eastward into the North Channel now flowing strongly from Malin Head towards Rathlin.

Niall Dowling Barak GP 3821Niall Dowling's Baraka GP is line honours leader Photo:

When you’re beating, a favourable tide is a mixed blessing, for even in lighter winds it quickly kicks up a steep and breaking sea. But Baraka GP has shown her exceptional ability to maintain high average speeds in a wide variety of adverse sea states, and as predicted last night, she is expected to continue to improve her overall position, which has now moved up from 16th to 11th overall this morning - a significant improvement on the 24th place she was recording 24 hours ago.

Lambay rules Howth Stephen quinn 0978Stephen Quinn's J97 Lambay Rules Photo:

The IRC Corrected Time lead has seen a slight shift, with Paul Kavanagh’s classic 45-year-old Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland now narrowly ahead (the gap is just three minutes) of Stephen Quinn’s little J/97 Lambay Rules. The main consideration here is that the Kavanagh boat is being raced in the two-handed division, which makes her current placing a great achievement, even if the long tough beat all the way from the Skelligs in Kerry and beyond has been the sort of sailing the Swans of that vintage particularly relish.

Pomeroy Swan Coperation north 4017Paul Kavanagh’s classic 45-year-old Swan 44 Co–Operation North is a two-handed Round Ireland entry Photo:

Round Ireland Joker II 4275First Lieutenant Alexander Rumball from the Artillery Corps is a helmsman on the Joker II Defence Forces entry and this morning leads his brother Kenny on the J109 sistership, Jedi (below) in some Round Ireland family rivalry Photo:

INSS Jedi Round Ireland 4167

Other overnight expectations have been fulfilled, with the J/109 Joker II (currently off Broadhaven in Mayo) continuing to be raced with style by Barry Byrne and navigator Mick Liddy. Having surprised everyone yesterday by a massive flyer far west into the Atlantic which did them no harm at all, they now lie fourth overall, close behind the third-placed French JPK 10.10 Jaasap (Nicolas Pasternak).

Rockabill VI Round Ireland 4085Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI from the Royal Irish Yacht Club Photo:

As for the two of the pre-race Irish favourites, Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI and Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, they too have fulfilled expectations of overnight improvement with Rockabill VI now up in 5th overall and going well midway across Donegal Bay between Broadhaven and Rathlin O’Beirne, while Aurelia is close by, and significantly moved up the rankings from 18th overall to 9th.

Aurelia Round Ireland 3652Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia from the Royal St. George Yacht Club Photo:

The fleet is now well spread at its extremities, with Baraka GP far to the furthest north approaching Malin Head, while the oldest boat in the fleet, the 81-year-old restored 43ft classic gaff ketch Maybird (Darryl Hughes) is still off Kerry, having recently experienced much lighter winds than those being “enjoyed” by the bulk of the fleet west of Clare and Connacht.

Yannick lemonnier Round Ireland 4537Mini 650 Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier) Photo:

The two litle’uns, the Mini 650s Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier) and 303 Blackshell Farm, are still in the hunt with Blackshell (Louis Mulloy) off Clifden making 3.9 knots in the gentler wind, while Port of Galway is at a brisker 5.9 knots off Clew Bay.

Race tracker and leaderboard HERE Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE

Published in Round Ireland
Page 6 of 16

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