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Brave 'Lame Duck' Lulabelle Struggling On Round Britain & Ireland Race

20th August 2014
Lulabelle from Dun Laoghaire has only 500 miles to finish the Round Britain and Ireland race but skipper Liam Coyne wonders if they'll make it in his Day nine blog below. Photo: Rick Tomlinson
Brave 'Lame Duck' Lulabelle Struggling On Round Britain & Ireland Race

#rorcsrbi – After nine days at sea and 500 miles still to sail, Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive are struggling to finish the 1800–mile Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race this Saturday in Cowes. Two spinnakers gone, the mainsheet track shattered, Coyne asks 'what next?' from the deck of two-handed Irish First 36.7 Lulabelle, currently off the West Coast of Ireland. 

We have been to far from shore over the last few days communications have not been possible.
Days 4 and 5 were just a hard slog against the tides and wind to get to the Shetlands but we finally got there. We rounded Muckle Flugga but knew there was a rough weather system coming from west. We had to decide to take shelter or head out. We decided to head west and we would be able to cross on southerly winds to the centre then head south on the north westerly winds the other side.
This would cost us a lot more time but it would be safer. Lula Belle 2 handed does not perform well up wind. With the lack of weight we get blown cross ways in the water.
We went west and it was a hard slog as our southerly winds were more south west and with wind it was very difficult to keep it west and not north.
Finally a day later and the winds died. We knew we were in the eye of it. On the way the Shetland Coastguard radio had moved from force 8 to force 9 and then warned as system had passed Faeroe Islands the winds were severe storm force 10. We were very apprehensive. We readied the boat with 3 reefs and storm sail and sat and waited. Two hours later for shift change Brian came up and asked for a report. I said it's like been stood up for a date. Your sitting here with all your gear and your date has not arrived. Two hours later when the storm hit Brian said, 'your date has arrived' and 'she's nasty'.
It was a nasty storm. I don't know if going west cost time but I was so glad we were meeting this from the north and not coming sideways to this storm. As we still have no wind instruments from day two we don't know how strong the winds were but the waves were enormous. There were massive waves from the north. These were not to bad as we could surf these. The small waves from the west were the dangerous ones. As they hit the stern of the boat they would cause her to turn to wind to round up. All we could do was to ride it out. Later the northerly waves got quite scary as they started to break behind us and water would fill the cockpit and on occasions in the wash boards. These were scary. They came in sets of 3 every 20 minutes.
Then to make things worse, waves from the east started. These were far more dangerous, as the west waves only caused round ups, these east ones caused us to accidentally gybe. And as anyone knows an accidental gybe is dangerous but in force 10 it's really not nice.

"An accidental gybe is dangerous but in a Force 10 it's really not nice..."

We had to turn the Boat more to weather and suffer the round ups as this was the safest option. We don't know the wind strength but we were doing 16–knots boat speed at one point with only a 3 reefed main and no head sail. We battled this for 12 hours. When it finally subsided. This was a night to remember but we were glad it was over.
We arrived at sunrise to the majestic sight of the Sun rising over St Kilda. The wind was about 20 and we had reached the half way point. We have no idea how we are doing in the race but now we have the A5 up and we are pushing for the home county of Mayo and Belmullet. With the speeds we are doing we should be there by Tuesday morning about 5am after 8 days. Sailing now with the kite was exciting but hard work. When your 2 hour shift finishes your arms feel like they are going to fall off your shoulders.
Then Monday night day 8 disaster strikes. Due to wind shifts we were back to white sails only and then the wind died. This was expected and really we needed to go to kites. But the night was so black we did not really chance flying the kites.
We have no wind instruments. And normally we would pick a cloud, star or something to point at but the sky is only black. No reference point. Very unstable ways to fly a kite. We took the decision at 2 am leave it so with main only we proceeded. By 4 am the sky had broked a little so we went for a hoist. Hoisted the brand new A2 for Brian to say there's a rip in that and there was. No sooner had he said those words than it completely shredded. Not one spin on the new kite.


Liam Coyne at the pre–race press conference – Photo: Paul Wyeth/RORC

We then put up the A3 and went with that. I went to bed and Brian started his shift. 20 minutes later I was awoke been turned upside down as the Boat broached. It was not righting so I rushed up to help Brian. We finally stopped it flogging and the boat righted only for us to see this kite now also had come apart.
Completely deflated we got the kite back on board and decided to think about things. We were heading west so decided to gybe to Belmullet. Everything was going so good. We were screaming down south it looked like our racing now just started and our two weapons of kites are gone. What next?
Well as we gybed to Belmullet the track for the main sheet shattered. Bits of track everywhere. Bearings everywhere. Brian and I just looked at each other. We had come through everything that could have ruined our race and here on a mild night of no more than 16/18 knts of wind everything is going wrong.
So here we are on day 9. A lame duck. As always our main priority is safety of us and vessel and we believe nothing damaged or broken pose a threat to that. We have decided to try to finish. We have one small kite with a repair done to it left and our white sails.
It has to be said it's doubtful we will be able to finish but we will give it our best shot.

Liam and Brian, we're all behind you! – Ed.

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