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Two Handed Round Ireland Female Sailors Head North in Record Bid

14th October 2020
Speeding into the long October night – Cat Hunt and Pam Lee getting the performance from their Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta. They could be nearing the coast of Connacht by midnight Speeding into the long October night – Cat Hunt and Pam Lee getting the performance from their Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta. They could be nearing the coast of Connacht by midnight

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Two 1800hrs: As Pam Lee and Cat Hunt continue to make good progress on Ireland's west coast northwards towards Connacht with light to moderate winds in the easterly sector, the developing weather for their Round Ireland Female Two-Handed Challenge could well produce a really remarkable time in any context, and not just in their basic ambition - under the auspices of the World Sailing Speed Record Committee – of setting an indisputable time for a Two-Handed Female Crew.

For sure, they're the first to do it in this way, and whatever time they eventually set will immediately have a special status. But nobody sails round Ireland in a vacuum. There are many who have made the circuit before in various crewing configurations, and the complexity of the story first became evident after the late Steve Fossett, Con Murphy & Cathy MacAleavey and others set a seemingly unbeatable record with the 60ft trimaran Lakota in September 1993.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

It was reckoned that a significant peak had been reached - and it had, as the record stood for a clear 23 years. To mark its establishment, the National Yacht Club – Con and Cathy's home club – staged a gala dinner to which everyone who had ever achieved a significant round Ireland sailing time was invited, and a historic list was compiled which traced circuiteers as far back as 1889.

At the time it was reckoned there must have been some intrepid voyagers before 1889, but nobody knew of them until determined maritime researcher Wally McGuirk came up with a special book published in 1983 which was based on the logs of a mid-19th Century Dublin Bay sailing man called William Power. The collection included incontrovertible proof that he sailed his 25-ton cutter Olivia round Ireland in 1864, just four years after the great "Kingstown to Queenstown Race" from Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour in 1860 had seen the first indications of modern offshore racing.

Yet there's something about sailing round Ireland which makes those who do it for the first time feel like complete pioneers, while those who have done it more times than we can remember – whether racing, cruising or record-setting – never fail to be delighted by its apparent novelty each time round.

Thus it's something very special. And as we contemplate the determination of Pam Lee and Cath Hunt as they face into their second night at sea, knowing that once Slyne Head is abaft the beam they're past the halfway mark and already in the homeward leg with a record inside four days within sight, it's surely timely to respond to Afloat.ie readers who have requested that we outline vaguely comparable performances which have emerged from the forty years of the Round Ireland Race.

Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood with their trusty vintage X332 Pyxis, with which they've done the Round Ireland Race in the two-handed division four times Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood with their trusty vintage X332 Pyxis, with which they've done the Round Ireland Race in the two-handed division four times

Kirsteen Donaldson & Judith Eastwood

In particular, readers have drawn attention to Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood from Hampshire, who have done no less than four Round Irelands in the two-handed division in Kirsteen's X332 Pyxis. They've also done several Fastnets and other offshore races, and in general they're the kind of quiet enthusiasts who are the backbone of the RORC programme. But while they've been in the frame in several other races, the sheer challenge of Round Ireland is revealed by the fact that their best elapsed time, achieved in 2018, was 5 days 20 hours 5 minutes and 3 seconds.

Yannick Lemonnier & Aodhan Fitzgerald

A more pointed two-handed performance was achieved with the special doublehanded division's introduction in 2004, when Yannick Lemonnier and Aodhan Fitzgerald with the new Figaro 2 Do Dingle went round in 4 days and 6 hours.

Young tearaways – Aodhan FitzGerald and Yannick Lemonnier, kitted out in 2004 to race the Figaro 2 Do Dingle in the Round Ireland in the Race's first staging with a two-handed division, in which they set a record time that still stands.Young tearaways – Aodhan FitzGerald and Yannick Lemonnier, kitted out in 2004 to race the Figaro 2 Do Dingle in the Round Ireland in the Race's first staging with a two-handed division, in which they set a record time that still stands.

It still stands as the two-handed record for the Round Ireland Race. And much and all as it's invidious to make comparisons between a race at a pre-set time and a carefully-planned record attempt, it gives us an impressive time to consider as we admiringly monitor the remarkable progress of Iarracht Maigeanta around our eternally fascinating coastline.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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