Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI has been piling up the pressure from the front on the chasing opposition in the Volvo Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2017 writes W M Nixon. She swept up to Skellig Michael at 8.8 knots in the sou’wester around 1730 hrs well in the lead, and then in shaping her course into Dingle Bay with twenty miles to the finish, she was still going good at only slightly reduced speed of 7.1 knots.
On down the line, fortunes have varied enormously, and anyone watching the Tracker has felt helpless as one boat after another wandered into the local flat patch at Mizen Head, with their speed falling right away.
The gallant charge of the Spirit 54 Soufriere (Stephen O’Flaherty & David Cagney) came to a virtual halt here. For long enough – or so it seemed - the Two-handed Division leader sat almost paralysed at barely a knot while smaller lighter boats such as Andrew Algeo’s J/109 Juggerknot, which had been right beside her, were able to slip away in the slightest sharpening of the light air and get back up to speed off the mouth of Dunmanus Bay.
But now Soufriere has got herself going again at 1800hrs, and is getting up to speed at 6.8 knots, yet the J/109s around her – with Juggerknot a bit over a mile ahead and Ruth (Shanahan family) much the same distance astern astern – are matching the pace.
Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox’s leading J/109 Mojito is in turn just under three miles ahead of Juggerknot, but that puts her all of 15 miles behind Rockabill, which has been sailing a remarkable race. But then you’d expect that with helmsmen of the calibre of Mark Pettit and Peter Wilson aboard, the latter having an unrivalled record in this race as he played a key role when Richard Burrows’ Sigma 36 Black Pepper was overall winner of the first dash to Dingle in 1993.
Within classes, the Tyrrell family’s J/112E Aquelina continues in a solid lead in the Cruiser Division, and is midway between the Fastnet Rock and Mizen Head making 6.4 knots on course, while in Racing Division 2, the leader on the water, Irish Offshore Sailing’s Jeanneau 37 Desert Star skippered by the sailing school’s principal Ronan O’Siochru, is currently nearing the Fastnet. However, Ian Hickey and his Cork crew on the Granada 38 Cavatina are close enough astern to maintain their corrected time lead, while Desert Star is second.
We maligned that tough old salt Liam Coyne in the First 36.7 Lula Belle by suggesting in an earlier report today that the Round Britain and Ireland Race class winner had retired into Kinsale this morning. Lula Belle did indeed go into Kinsale Marina at about three minutes to eight this morning, but at 8 o’clock she was heading straight back out again, having presumably made the necessary drop-off of a crewman. Lula Belle is currently pacing along at better than 5 knots between Desert Star and Cavatina, currently lying third in Racing 2 where a right old ding-dong is clearly developing for the top three places.
Further down the line, the two tiny Mini Transat 650s Port of Galway Green and Port of Galway Black are by no means last on the water, and they’re just about in sight of each other and having a real race, with Green (Yannick Lemonnier and DanMill) leading from Black (Marcus Ryan).
At time of writing (1830 hrs Friday) it’s looking hopeful for a daylight finish for Rockabill VI, as she has been logging 7.3 knots tacking downwind, and has just 15 miles to go to the finish. That said, strange things can happen to the winds of Dingle Bay as evening draws on, and even as we finish writing thisdispatch, the leader’s speed has dropped to 6.9 knots...