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There was something otherworldly and very special about the mighty silver bullet from the moment she arrived in Ireland, berthing quietly in Dun Laoghaire in the countdown to the Volvo Round Ireland Race at Wicklow on June 18th. George David’s Juan K-designed Rambler 88 is just about the most understated colour you could have for a boat. Yet from the moment she appeared, there was no doubting that Rambler 88 was something very special, and the combination of quiet yet undoubted potential with the sheer enthusiasm of her veteran owner made for an irresistible combination.

But the mythology was only starting to build. The actual start, with the mighty Rambler somehow finding her way through a milling fleet of much smaller craft to make a wellnigh perfectly on-time beginning, was to set us all off on the sail of a lifetime. It’s very rarely that a Maxi will figure at the front of a corrected time leaderboard as a race with a fleet of 63 diverse boats moves itself along the course. But it was only for a while far to seaward of the south coast as she sought the freshening wind that Rambler 88 was not leading on corrected time, and of course she was out of sight in terms of mono-hull line honours.

When the freshening wind arrived, it was to give the bulk of the fleet still struggling down to the Fastnet quite a pasting. But Rambler 88 was gone, tearing up the west coast at record speed. Unlike the MOD 70s, she’d only herself to race against, and it says much for the keenness George David engenders in his very international crew that the pace never slackened for a moment, while every tactic was called with successful precision.

This virtue was rewarded with a freeing westerly wind as she entered the Irish Sea on Monday morning, and Rambler 88 was able to lay towards the finish 90 miles away with sheets increasingly eased. She may have missed getting round Ireland in less than two days by a couple of hours. But the fact that we should even have thought of such a crazy possibility only serves to emphasise what an extraordinary performance Rambler 88 logged, with every mono-hull record shattered and the overall win on IRC confirmed in due course. George David’s promised return to Ireland far exceeded anyone’s expectations in terms of leadership inspiration and team achievement, and he is an International Sailor of the Month for June.

george david 2Starting as she intends to go on…..the stylish way that Rambler 88 managed to make her wellnigh perfect start in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 set the tone for her entire fabulous race. Photo: W M Nixon

Published in Sailor of the Month

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 International Sailor of the Month Award for June 2016.

damian foxall 1Musandam-Oman and Phaedo 3 streak away from the start of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016. In the final miles to the finish of this 704 mile classic, Musandam-Oman - with Damian Foxall on board - took over and kept the lead. Photo: W M Nixon


Published in Sailor of the Month

Taking a charter boat with old sails, borrowing a few other sails, filling it with a crew whose average age is nearly 50 might not sound like a recipe for success against some full–on campaigns but when Howth YC skipper David Cullen put six ICRA National Champions in his crew line up he was always going to be a potent force. Here, Cullen describes how his J109 Euro Car Parks entry was the only Irish class winner of this month's Volvo Round Ireland Race.

With the big Five Oh approaching, I felt it was time to revisit a challenge that I hadn’t participated in for 18–years so decided to participate in this year’s Volvo Round Ireland Race. Perhaps my close interest in following the Volvo Ocean Race was part of the inspiration or perhaps the start of a mid-life crisis, but regardless of why it was time to put the best campaign affordable together.

As my own half tonner Checkmate was too small (even though I did one previously in a half tonner), it was time to look at the charter route. Given Rambler 88 was a certainty to steal the monohull line honours prize, I decided early on that the goal should be a class win on IRC.

Inspection of the previous two races results showed a narrow defeat of a J109 in the last race so this seemed to be a good option. At that time, there were no JPKs entered so this looked like a realistic proposition and I didn’t have to look much further than my own Howth Yacht Club to find Storm which is one of Ireland’s leading J109s.

Euro car parks J109 Round Ireland

Above and below: Pre–race preparations along side at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Photo:


With a deal done, then it was time to assemble a crew. With a core crew from Checkmate to include Aidan Beggan, John Murphy, Gary Cullen, Eddie Bourke and Franz Rothschild, I needed some J109 expertise to bolster the crew. I regard one of my better moves as recruiting Mark Mansfield and Maurice “Prof” O’Connell to bring along their significant J109 boat speed experience which paid off handsomely.

Prof had just come from a class win in ICRA Nationals class zero aboard Jump Juice. Mark had, for the second year, just won ICRA class one aboard J109 Joker II. Both were obviously in good form and both had vast experience of setting up and sailing J109’s quickly. Added to that both were well known drivers. In offshore racing, drivers and trimmers with a good navigational plan is what makes the difference.

Crew complete, it was now time to start the crew and boat preparations. Not realising the safety requirements for the race, several of the crew were quickly enlisted in First Aid, VHF and Sea Safety courses. These were all very enjoyable and valuable and in retrospect, I am sorry I did not complete these years ago. I cannot recommend these courses enough even if you are not going offshore as surprising how little we actually knew despite the huge miles we had all logged.

We then moved on to the boat preparations. As Storm was an inshore boat it didn’t have a Code Zero which I ordered from Norths so we had a complete suite of sails (along with a bit of borrowing). Next was to organise the financials. I had an original budget of €20k but this ended up closer to €35k so I was glad of the support of Euro Car Parks and Windward Hotels to supplement the costs. The boat was rechristened Euro Car Parks for the race.

With an average age of 48, we weren’t taking any short cuts on safety so I installed all new safety equipment, harnesses, EPIRB, flares etc for peace of mind. Ocean Safety also assisted in this aspect.

We then spent two weeks getting the boat ready for sea. As the J109 is not really an offshore boat, we devised ingenius additional bunks and sleeping arrangements whilst replacing many of the high load bearing systems and adding a bobstay to the pole. We completely underestimated the time required for preparing the boat and several midnight work parties meant we started the race tired which is a lesson for next time. AIS and wifi was added so we could run Expedition on the laptop and also comms were improved to enable data to get forecasts, grib files, etc.

Food was our next thought and Franz took on the role of provisioner and chef. Decision was to go the pressure cooker route with frozen meals and nobody could fault his food choices.

Our IRC Championships the week before the race left us with little boat practice but six of the crew started as IRC Champions from various boats so the pedigree was good.

Before the race, Paul O’Higgins purchased a JPK1080 Rockabill VI which was favourite for our class but there were several other boats including some experienced J109s so we weren’t sure where we would end up but podium was a definite goal.


Euro Car Parks (pictured above on port tack) was deemed 'on course side' at the start of the race

The forecast the day before the race indicated a light start, reach up the West coast and light finish; all ideal for a J109 and lulling us into a false sense of comfort. What arrived was quite at odds with that forecast.
The morning of the race had c10–knots south westerly which was great for our start, had I not put us over the line at the gun! We had the walk of shame back to the line to restart but at least we got some press coverage, albeit for the wrong reason.


Mark Mansfield and Prof O'Connell shortly after the start

Rambler 88 and the MOD 70s disappeared in the blink of an eye and we were left trying to play catch up with our fleet. It didn’t take us too long to get back into contention but we ended up in an Easterly position when approaching Tuskar Rock which definitely was not the favoured side. That said, although behind, we were back in contention. Our food plans meant the use of spoons and bowls for the race so you can imagine the look on our faces when all the spoons went overboard when emptying a bucket! One teaspoon fed the crew for the rest of the race supplemented by the clever use of Doritos.

As the night drew in, it was clear that we were in for a windy beat along the south coast so we agreed as a crew to push it! All of the crew spent the next 24 hours on the rail in truly miserable conditions of pelting rain and c.30knots of breeze with big seas. We pushed on with full main and a J2 whilst similar boats carried a lot less sail and at the end of the ordeal, we were in contention for first place in Class. Food was cancelled and a staple diet of jelly beans and water kept us going.

"One teaspoon fed the crew for the rest of the race supplemented by the clever use of Doritos"


Whilst the Round Ireland is renowned for the scenery, our roundings of Fastnet, Skelligs and Blaskets were fairly miserable in grey, windy and wet conditions. As we rounded Mizen Head, so did the wind to stay on the nose until we got to Kerry when finally the breeze went abeam and the rain stopped.

A fast beam reach up the west coast was most welcome but also suited Rockabill VI even better, who by Donegal had over an hour advantage on handicap. Proper food reappeared to warm our spirits.

At this point the boat, all of our gear and all of the crew were saturated so a run along the top gave us the opportunity to dry the boat thoroughly and catch up on some rest. Inspired by some loud U2 and Seal, morale improved where we saw ourselves making handicap gains into Rockabill VI and a favourable Northern passage put us ahead by the infamous Rathlin. For a change we made the tidal change at slack tide and with some breeze started the long push south in a light southerly breeze.

Again it was rail time for the beat down the Irish Sea which was in moderate breeze and dry so no real complaints.

We now had Rockabill VI in our sights approaching Rockabill Lighthouse but a dying breeze made for a very difficult night where we were both becalmed several times. Although tempted to drop the hook, we persevered to approach

Dublin Bay at one knot still on the coat tails of the JPK. The Yellow Brick tracker was nearly worn out with our constant tracking and we started to understand the AIS debate on the Volvo Ocean Race.
Approaching Greystones and Wicklow and the infamously calm Six Mile Point, we eeked forward in an increasingly foul tide just long enough to get inshore behind Rockabill VI and about two hours behind them. This was in fact how we finished and with them owing us over 3½ hours, the Class win was ours.

Clearly the race was a big boat affair. the smaller boats including ourselves were virtually on the wind for the whole race, bar from the Skelligs to Rathlin, thats two thirds of the course. The larger boats were able to lay all the way along the west cost without a tack. In the end the breeze also died allowing the larger boats to claim all the podium positions. Some years it is a small boat race, some a big boat race. This year it was for the big ones. Whilst we were never in contention for overall on IRC which was won by Rambler 88, we had been up to third overall but the lighter conditions at the end finished us in a credible fifth overall. 


Class 3 winner Euro Car Parks safely back in Wicklow harbour. Photo: W M Nixon

The famous Wicklow Welcome could not have come quick enough after 118 hours and 55 minutes at sea and it wasn’t long before various members of our crew were found asleep in showers, toilets, etc with a beer in their hands!
On reflection, we got several of the decisions right and the choice of boat and crew being the key ones leading to a harmonious and fun trip despite the misery. We even got a chance to revisit “offshore” stories of old that cannot be put to print so we ticked all the boxes.

Wicklow sailing club Round ireland crews

The essential post-race de-briefing – the crews of Euro Car Parks and Rockabill VI, leaders in Class 3, get together in Wicklow SC on Thursday afternoon after five days of racing against each other round Ireland. Photo: W M Nixon

I have two years to decide whether to do it again but I am tempted to go again in a 109 but next time it will be 109 feet! 

The next big event for us is to try and retain the Half ton Cup trophy which we won last year. Most of the crew now switch their attentions back to Checkmate for the event in Falmouth in August. Mark, however joins our clubmate Mike Evans on Big Picture for the same event so it will be interesting to see what each of us has picked up from each other over the five days of Round Ireland.  Two other well tickled up Half Tonners from Howth, Harmony and King one, will Join us at that event to bring the Irish representation to four boats.

See Round Ireland tracker here Afloat's Round Ireland 2016 coverage is here and download overall results here

Published in Round Ireland

Being a maritime correspondent can be encouraging, disheartening and frustrating.
Preparing the current edition of THIS ISLAND NATION I experienced those emotions.
I heard a sailor praise the coastal communities he had met during a 42-day voyage around Ireland. He described them as the “most wonderful people who are essential to this island nation.”
I also talked to a fisherman, trying to ensure the future of his community, describe the dismissive, discourteous attitude of State agencies.
I stood at the evocative memorial to those lost at sea in Dunmore East fishing port in County Waterford, where a fisherman pointed out to me the names of those of his family who had died in marine tragedies. He told me that visitors to coastal areas wanted to see fishing boats, not yachts at marinas.
I was the only journalist on the pier at Schull in West Cork on Saturday afternoon when Gary Sargent completed his ‘one wild ride’ on a Laser around Ireland. The general media didn’t show much interest..
Gary learned a lot about coastal communities during his voyage, which started an ended at Schull in West Cork: “They are wonderful people who commit themselves to helping you. It was an eye-opener, a lesson for me, from Dublin, showing me how vital these communities are to this island nation. We are blessed with wonderful coastal people, whom we should respect and value. We have an amazing coastline and eco system that we should get out and see more of. I have learned so much about respecting the water.”
On his voyage, he capsized four times. “It was mentally harder than physically. There was the challenge of getting into the boat in a wet suit every day, no matter what the weather and no matter how I felt.”
• Listen to Gary describe his voyage on the programme below and about the garden mats which were a vital part of his equipment

I interviewed Sean Doherty, a fisherman from Cheekpoint on the Suir Estuary who told me that he fears children in coastal communities will not know the history or heritage of their communities which are being destroyed by Government neglect, he said. His interview is a salutary contrast to what Gary Sargent experienced amongst the coastal communities. Sean Doherty outlines how his community put a lot of time and effort into submitting plans for the future of their communities, but after a year of waiting for response, they have heard nothing.
That is unacceptable and appears to indicate a dismissive attitude towards coastal communities.
• Listen to Sean Doherty on the programme
Also in the past week, the latest figure for the value of catches which European Union fishing nations, other than Ireland, take from Irish waters every year was put at €4 billion by the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation That is a huge loss to the Irish economy and is a transfer of wealth from Ireland, an effective contribution to the EU about which very little has ever been said in public by the Government or the national media.
At the same time there is a lot of political mouthing and posturing about our Ocean Wealth. Is it any wonder I get frustrated at times?

Published in Island Nation

Overall results for 2016's 63–boat fleet are downloadable below.

Published in Round Ireland
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American businessman George David’s world-famous maxi yacht Rambler 88 completed a unique treble of Round Ireland wins this morning when he was officially declared the outright winner of the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race. On Monday, David also broke the monohull speed record and the race record too.  

In what has been one of the toughest ever editions of the race, with rough seas resulting in 15 retirals from the record 63 strong-fleet, sailing history has been made across a series of fronts.

Last Monday George David smashed both the race record and the speed record for sailing around Ireland when the yacht crossed the Wicklow finish line after just 50 hours 24 minutes and 09 seconds.

However as the race is decided on handicap, it wasn’t until this morning (Friday 24th June) when the majority of the fleet had completed the 704 mile course around Ireland that the official result was certain.

His IRC handicap time was 3 days 20 hours and five minutes. Second place goes to Eric De Turckheim’s Teasing Machine and third place has been taken by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd aboard Lisa.

Race organisers have confirmed this has been the most exhilarating ever race in the Volvo Round Ireland’s 36 year history with a series of new race records and new world records smashed over the past week.

For the first time ever, multihulls were eligible to compete in the Race and three of the fastest and most-famous Mod 70’s from the US, Oman and the UK came to Wicklow with one aim – to break records – and all three did.

In a spectacular nail-biting contest, the three remained as little as half a mile apart for the entire course with Phaedo3 and Concise 10 looking likely to be first across the line right up to the end. In an astonishing change of fortunes, Oman Sail took advantage of an inshore track and pipped Phaedo to the post by six minutes, breaking their own 2015 record* by an incredible 2 hours, 14 minutes and 50 seconds. Concise 10 came in just over a minute later.

Beyond the competition aspect, this has been a very poignant and emotional event for many concerned.

The fact that it was George who set the new record was particularly meaningful as it was as a tribute to the Irish Rescue services who saved his life in 2011 that he took the decision to sign up for the race. He had two main objectives: first and foremost to grow the reputation of the race and attract other world-famous sailors to travel to Wicklow. The second was to break records – both targets were more than exceeded, but he hesitated to declare these intentions too soon, learning from his long and impressive business career that ‘actuals should exceed expectations.’

Indeed as he sprayed his crew with the winning Jeroboam of exclusive Italian Astoria prosecco, he reminded race organisers of his wise words.

It was also particularly nostalgic to see RORC commodore, Irish man Michael Boyd take the win for third place aboard First 44.7 Lisa. The 2016 Race marks the 20th anniversary of Boyd’s 1996 win with many of the same crew from his 1996 winning yacht, Big Ears.

Like George David, the RORC commodore, was determined to support Wicklow Sailing Club in growing the international profile of the prestigious race by participating himself.

These and many others came good on their promises and helped deliver a 63-strong fleet, the largest ever number of entries in the 36 year history of the race.

Race organisers at Wicklow Sailing Club say it has been an unforgettable week of sporting history.

Theo Phelan, Race organiser:

“The race is not over until every single yacht is back safe and sound across the finish line. There are still 4 boats at sea, which we expect in this afternoon. The reports from the sailors are that it was a fantastic race, with everything a race should contain. It started on Saturday afternoon and already by midday on Sunday, they were being hit full blast by 30 knot winds, leading to 11 retirals on Sunday alone.”

“The conditions were ideal for the fast yachts however - the Mod 70’s were outside the wind pattern of everybody else. The competition with the Mod 70’s was epic. As top Irish off-shore sailor Damian Foxall, who finished first aboard Oman Sail said, ‘if you really want to achieve good racing seed, you have to do it against other boats. The last boats are just as important as those which arrived in early. They have endured the greatest hardship and it is a tremendous feat that they have completed the 704 mile course’”

Race organisers have already confirmed a date for the next edition of the biennial race for June 30th 2018. Already some of the big names have declared their intention to return to contest their titles and new title sponsor Volvo has upped the ante by putting a brand new Volvo car up for grabs for the skipper who has accumulated the best overall points' results on corrected time, over a three-race series including this year’s edition.

This evening the tired but exhilarated sailors will attend the awards ceremony at Wicklow Sailing Club. The renowned sailors’ rum Goslings are putting on a special Goslings dark n’ stormy reception to welcome all the crews back.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

Published in Round Ireland
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Day 5 2000 While last night may have been eminently forgettable for racing, with its frustratingly light airs in the Irish Sea writes W M Nixon, today has brought a southerly breeze which freshened through midday. In combination with the ebb tide running from early afternoon from Skerries down past Wicklow, the new wind provided some lively sailing and even some bright sunshine for the lower-rated and smaller craft still racing in the Volvo Round Ireland 2016.

Welcome this breeze certainly was, but it would have been much more welcome a few hours earlier, when it might have saved some of the good overall placings which Class 4 boats had built up in four days of concentrated and arduous racing round one of Europe’s great offshore courses,

However, the chances of one of them being on the podium in the overall placings evaporated through yesterday evening and last night, and the final set of overall results shows a preponderance of larger boats in the choice slots all the way down to sixth place, where Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks is the first of the medium-sized boats.

Finishing just before noon today made her winner of Class 3, having come best out of the race-long duel between Euro Car Parks and Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill, a duel which was under way with a certain edge when it became clear that Euro Car Parks had done badly on Day 1 by tending to the east in the beat down to the Tuskar Rock.

As the race progressed, Rockabill VI had then worked out a very substantial lead of forty miles when the north coast was reached. But a local calm which affected only her and two or three other boats beside her at Inishtrahull stopped her completely for three hours, and having taken 20 miles off Rockabill’s lead thanks to it, Euro Car Parks’ very able crew led by Mark Mansfield just weren’t going to let the gap open out again. They sailed with such determination that other J/109s were simply nowhere as the Cullen crew raced on in hot pursuit of the significantly higher-rated Rockabill VI, which finished 50 minutes earlier today, but slipped back to second in Class 3 and 8th overall.

Class 3 has finished as very much an Irish preserve, as Euro Car Parks is first, Rockabill VI is second, Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam is third, and the Irish National Sailing School’s Reflex 38 Lynx is fourth, suggesting that skipper and teacher Kenneth Rumball was providing some very effective lessons during the course of the race, as her place at the finish was her best at any stage.

The successful schoolship. The Irish National Sailing School’s Reflex 38 Lynx – seen here today at Wicklow outside Class 3 winner Euro Car Parks – was better placed at the end of the Volvo Round Ireland race 2016, at 4th in Class 3, than she’d been at any earlier stage of the race. Photo: W M Nixon

We’ll be giving the race a complete overview in Sailing on Saturday on June 24th, meanwhile we finish this evening’s update with the news that one of the most remarkable campaigns in the race, the two-handed challenge by Patrice Carpentier in the attractive little Sunfast 3200 GROUPE 5, concluded at 1650hrs today when she crossed the line to take first in Class 4. But here again a good lead at mid-race had evaporated in Wednesday night’s calm, in the IRC Two-handed Division the little GROUPE 5 has to be content with second to Belgian Michael Kleinjans majestic Open 40 Roaring Forty 2.


A very businesslike cockpit. The control centre on Michael Kleinjans’ Open 40 Roaring Forty 2 at Wicklow today shortly before she was confirmed as overall winner of the IRC Two-Handed division. Photo: W M Nixon

See Round Ireland tracker here and Afloat's Round Ireland 2016 coverage here

Published in Round Ireland
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Sit down, strap yourself in and get ready to experience the rollercoaster ride that was the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016. Here's the MOD70 Concise 10's video take of their epic circumnavigation in one day 14 hours and 44 minutes. They hit a top speed of 44.56 knots! 

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

Published in Round Ireland
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What do former round Ireland trophy winners do when they don’t have time to do the race itself? Former regular in the Round Ireland fleet Dave Nixon of Howth tells us the best thing to do is sail a 109–year–old gaff sloop for a day or two in the opposite direction. He and Nick Massey set out on Tuesday to sail the 1907-built Howth 17 Deilginis to Ardglass in the first stage of a passage to Bangor, where Deilginis is joining six of her classmates (the others have been road-trailed there) with other classics such as the Strangford Lough Glens to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Royal Ulster Yacht Club for the next four days.

They’d a fine fair wind for the 60 miles passage to Ardglass, knocking it off in nine hours - the Howth 17s are no slouches with sheets freed. Then yesterday lunchtime with spinnaker set, they were closing in on the South Rock Light to take the new ebb northward to Bangor when clubmate Dave Cullen’s Euro Car Park appeared and tacked close head as she plugged southward in the Volvo Round Ireland race.

The message from Deiliginis’s crew is that those guys are gong to wrong way. Euro Car Parks is still strugging to get to Wickow this morning, but despite having no engine, Deilginis was comfortably into Bangor Marina yesterday evening, and is all geared up to race acres Belfast Lough to Carrickfergus today to celebrate the class’s connection with legendary boatbuider John Hilidtch of that port, who built the first five Howth 17s in 1898.

Published in Historic Boats
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Day 5 1000 We took our leave of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 yesterday evening with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish Yacht Club aboard his First 44.7 Lisa off Dublin Bay with her racing prospects becoming rather less than rosy writes W M Nixon. Lisa may have been well placed overall in the race, but her crew – which includes such talents as Barry Hurley and the skipper’s brother Paddy Boyd – were facing the daunting prospect of getting to the finish line in Wicklow 22 miles away in a fading southerly breeze, and against a new north-going flood tide.

Through the remainder of the summer evening and the first part of the night, it was indeed difficult sailing. It forced Lisa’s crew to draw a balance between seeking less adverse tide close inshore, and the chance that a slightly fresher breeze reported well out to sea might have spread its tentacles nearer to the lovely Wicklow coast.

In the circumstances, they got the balance just about right, and approaching Wicklow itself towards midnight, they were given the well-earned reward of a local breeze which lifted their speed over the ground to above 5 knots, bringing them across the finish line at 23.38 hrs.

This put Lisa at second in IRC Class 1 behind Eric de Turckheim’s A13 Teasing Machine from France, but it also placed her at third in the virtual overall rankings, which at midnight read 1st Rambler (George David), 2nd Teasing Machine; 3rd Euro Car Parks, and 4th Lisa.

These midnight placings reflected the fact that the smaller boats still at sea between the County Down coast and Rockabill were having a very slow night of it. Earlier in the night, the plotted positions had shown Lisa at one stage at 6th overall. But as she approached the finish, the boats at sea slowed down still further, and she moved up the calculated rankings past the likes of Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 GROUPE 5 and Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules, such that by the time she finished only Dave Cullen’s Euro Car Parks had any prospect of eventually beating her.

That looked increasingly unlikely, and the still-racing Euro Car Parks may slip yet further from her current fifth behind the long-finished Alan Hannon’s Katsu in the overall rankings as the final stages drag on. Euro Car parks was one of a gaggle of boats getting down near Rockabill as Lisa finished at Wicklow, and though they were nicely placed for the turn of the tide around 0100 to help them on their way, the fickle southerly breezes – which had in fact been weaving between southeast and southwest or sometimes even west – died off almost completely.

Fast-accelerating lighter boats were able to keep some control over their course by taking advantage of every zephyr to maintain steerage way. But one of the heaviest boats in the fleet, Rob Mabley’s Swan 47 Sarabande which has led IRC 2 for most of the race, found herself drifting around until she was pointed north, and it was a long time before her crew could get her back on track. A similar fate befell Chris & Patanne Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, but they were able to remedy it more quickly.

Of the four battling boats which we looked at in detail in our previous report, it was Paul O’Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI which was first past Rockabill. She managed it around 0100hrs with her speed showing an encouraging – in the circumstances – three knots. And things were soon looking better, as Rockabill and Donal Ryan’s J/111 Team Fujitsu, which has emerged from the trailing pack to join the pace-setters, found themselves off Howth at 0400hrs enjoying speeds which hovered around 8 knots over the ground.

A clip showing the Class 40 yacht Fuji skippered by Ari Kanaskroski passing the Kish lighthouse on Dublin Bay earlier this morning

This reasonably good progress had now spread to the rest of the fleet in the Rockabill-Lambay area. But once the leaders got south of Dublin Bay the bite began to go out of the breeze, and by breakfast time purposesful sailing was a thing of the past, and the full strength of the new flood tide at 0800 hours put the kibosh on progress.

As of the 0900 position fix, Rockabill is right inshore in Kilcoole beach south of Greystones making 1.6 knots towards Wicklow, and though her rival Euro Car Parks is almost as far south, she’s four miles offshore and showing only 1.0 knots over the ground.

Traditional thinking would have it that you hold right inshore to stay out of the tide, but during the past two days the M2 weather buoy 15 miles out in St George Channel has consistently shown stronger sou’west to south breezes, so an offshore gamble may yet be on the cards.

But whatever course they take, the gallant challenge for top overall placings by our selection of four top smaller boats has now come to an end. The current light breeze and adverse tide until early afternoon means that we are now looking at the permanent position of the top four places in IRC Overall being held by 1st Rambler (George David), 2nd Teasing Machine (Eric de Turckheim), 3rd Lisa (Michael Boyd), and 4th Katsu (Alan Hannon).

For the moment, Dave Cullen’s Euro Car Parks continues to lead Class 3, while Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 leads Class 4. And despite her north-facing experiences, Sarabande holds onto the lead in Class 2. There are many private races still to be finished, and we note in particular that Kenneth Rumball with the reflex 38 Lynx of the Irish national Sailing Sschol in Dun Laoghaire has made a particularly good job of coming through the North Channel and the Irish Sea, and is now among those off the Wicklow coast facing the struggle to the pierhead finish.

However, at the very tail end of the fleet, the oldest boat in the race, Darryl Hughes 1937-vintage Tyrrell of Arklow-built ketch, is confrmed as having retired into Baltimore with mechanical problems, so our final focus on Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 is closing in on Wicklow. And as ever when light airs affect the final stage of a race round Ireland, we look to see where Ian Hickey’s Cavatina has got to, and find that she is at the South Rock making 4.8 knots in the right direction, the new south-going tide is already making and helping her along, and overall she lies 10th between Conor Fogerty’s Bam in 11th and Stephen Quinn’s Lambay Rules at 9th, with Cavatina also leading the Cruiser Division.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

Published in Round Ireland
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