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’Not a Race for Novices’: RORC Marks Nine Months Till Return of Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race

6th November 2021
The Lombard 46 Pata Negra was the overall winner on IRC time correction in the 2018 race
The Lombard 46 Pata Negra was the overall winner on IRC time correction in the 2018 race Credit: Paul Wyeth

Held every four years, the 1,805nm Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race “is a true marathon of epic proportions”, according to its organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC).

Roughly three times longer than the Rolex Fastnet Race, the course sends the competing teams around a myriad of headlands with tidal strategies.

Coupled with the notorious British and Irish weather, the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race is arguably the toughest pro-am race in the world. Every team that completes the challenge rightly deserves the admiration of any offshore sailor.

The Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race also requires that at least half of the crew must have completed a minimum of 500 miles offshore racing within 18 months of the race start, including the skipper. Every crew member must also have experience of sailing a boat offshore and be prepared to encounter heavy weather.

“This is not a race like any other in the RORC programme,” RORC racing manager Chris Stone said. “It is a very tough race in remote locations with a lot of navigational work required. Ultimately the qualification process combined with the crew working together will result in success for the teams.

“This is not a race to put a crew together at short notice, it is a race for a well-seasoned and well-practiced team. The Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland is not a race for novices.”

Previous editions have seen the course reversed due to adverse weather conditions. Here is a walk through the course assuming a clockwise direction for the next edition that’s set to start nine months from now, on Sunday 7 August 2022:

After a momentous start at the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes, Isle of Wight, the fleet race through the Solent then past the famous headlands of southwest of England. The epic adventure continues into the Celtic Sea, past the Fastnet Rock and Mizen Head onto the wild West Coast of Ireland.

The Atlantic racing continues past St Kilda, up to the most northerly point of the course, Muckle Flugga on the 61st parallel. Then, turning south through the infamous North Sea, the fleet will have turned their bows for home.

The English Channel and Solent form the final stages of the race where, after the finish, a warm welcome awaits at the RORC Cowes Clubhouse.

The Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race route map, assuming a clockwise direction | Credit: RORCThe Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race route map, assuming a clockwise direction | Credit: RORC

The overall winner of the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race is decided by IRC time correction. In the last editon in 2018, the winner was Giles Redpath’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra. Antoine Magre was one of the crew and will be racing again in 2022 on Class40 Palanad 3.

A number of Class40 teams are expected for this race. Palanad 3 is both the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race Class40 champion as well as overall winner of the 2021 RORC Transatlantic Race.

“In 2018 I said to myself that I need to do this race on a Class40. There is some upwind, but a lot of reaching angles where you can open up — it will be a whole new world in a Class40,” Antoine Magre said.

“It is a very fast and a very harsh race; that is the attraction. You know you are going to have storms to deal with and it can be very wild and hostile. It is a complete race in terms of seamanship skills — I would love to put a second notch on my belt!”

The outright race record for the Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race was set in 2014 by Oman Sail-Musandam. Skippered by Sidney Gavignet, the MOD70 finished the race in an elapsed time of three days, three hours, 32 minutes and 36 seconds. At an astonishing average speed of 23.48kn, Oman Sail-Musandam set a record that few believe will ever be broken.

“The weather was exceptional…I doubt you could find better for the course, let alone the race. We went round Great Britain and Ireland without a tack, only gybes. No tack, zero tacks. That is rare, possibly unique,” Gavignet said.

In 2014, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s VO65, Azzam, skippered by Ian Walker, set the monohull race record of four days, 13 hours, 10 minutes and 28 seconds. After four days of relentless, high-speed racing, pushing the crews and the fleet of VO65s to their limits, the strong downwind conditions abated. As Azzam and Team Campos closed in on the finish, the leaders had a light air battle for the line.

“The race crew have got a few bumps and bruises, sail changes were excellent and navigator Simon Fisher didn’t put a foot wrong all race,” Ian Walker said after the race. “The first 48 hours was brutal; it has been really hard on the body and there is not much left of our hands. However, mentally nothing has been as tough as the last 12 hours.”

In 2018, Phil Sharp’s Class40 Imerys Clean Energy set a new world record (40ft and under) of eight days, four hours, 14 minutes and 49 seconds. “This is definitely the toughest race in the northern hemisphere, harder than a transatlantic and all credit to the team who stuck at it and were exceptional, especially when the going got tough,” he said after setting the record. “You don’t expect to do a race like this without breaking gear.

“During the race we saw real extremes of challenging weather conditions, from heavy downwind, to light upwind sailing. Although in our class we had other competitive boats that pushed us, it turned out to be very much a race of attrition. Many thanks to the Royal Ocean Racing Club for organising a fantastic race.”

Long-term partner Sevenstar Yacht Transport continue to support what’s widely regarded as the toughest event in the RORC racing calendar and the 2022 edition will mark their fifth as title sponsor, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

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The Round Britain & Ireland Race

The 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race will feature a wide variety of yachts racing under the IRC rating rule as well as one design and open classes, such as IMOCA, Class40 and Multihulls. The majority of the fleet will race fully crewed, but with the popularity of the Two-Handed class in recent years, the race is expected to have a record entry.

The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race starts on Sunday 7th August 2022 from Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK.

The 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is organised by The Royal Ocean Racing Club in association with The Royal Yacht Squadron.

It is run every four years. There have been nine editions of the Round Britain and Ireland Race which started in 1976 Sevenstar has sponsored the race four times - 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018 and has committed to a longterm partnership with the RORC

The 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is a fully crewed non-stop race covering 1,805 nautical miles and is open to IRC, IRC Two Handed, IMOCA 60s, Class40s, Volvo 65s and Multihulls that will race around Britain and Ireland, starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron line in Cowes on the Isle of Wight starting after Cowes Week on Sunday 7 August 2022

The last edition of the race in 2018 attracted 28 teams with crews from 18 nations. Giles Redpath's British Lombard 46 saw over victory and Phil Sharp's Class40 Imerys Clean Energy established a new world record for 40ft and under, completing the course in 8 days 4 hrs 14 mins 49 secs.

The 1,805nm course will take competitors around some of the busiest and most tactically challenging sailing waters in the world. It attracts a diverse range of yachts and crew, most of which are enticed by the challenge it offers as well as the diversity and beauty of the route around Britain and Ireland with spectacular scenery and wildlife.

Most sailors agree that this race is one of the toughest tests as it is nearly as long as an Atlantic crossing, but the changes of direction at headlands will mean constant breaks in the watch system for sail changes and sail trim

Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race Records:

  • Outright - OMA07 Musandam-Oman Sail, MOD 70, Sidney Gavignet, 2014: 3 days 03:32:36
  • Monohull - Azzam Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, VO 65, Ian Walker, 2014: 4 days 13:10:28
  • Monohull All-Female - Team SCA, VO 65, Samantha Davies, 2014: 4 days 21:00:39
  • Monohull 60ft or less - Artemis Team Endeavour, IMOCA 60, Brian Thompson/Artemis Ocean Racing, 2014: 5 days 14:00:54
  • Monohull 40ft or less – Imerys Clean Energy, Class40, Phil Sharp, 2018: 8 days 4:14:49

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