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It's Pay-up Time for Iarracht Maigeanta in Tackling Headwinds & Strong Tides on Ireland's North Coast

15th October 2020
Magenta Project with Pamela Lee on the helm enjoying, the kind of sailing that has brought the Team of Two to North Donegal from Dublin Bay in record time Magenta Project with Pamela Lee on the helm enjoying, the kind of sailing that has brought the Team of Two to North Donegal from Dublin Bay in record time Photo: courtesy Magenta Project

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Three 2000hrs: When the going is good, the good get going - and they get going fast. This has been the mantra of Pam Lee and Cat Hunt, who brought their Beneteau Figaro 3 in past Tory Island and on to Ireland's North Coast at 1745 this evening (Thursday), just 34 hours after departing Dublin Bay with very focused use of favourable conditions in a clockwise circuit of Ireland, their mission being - as the Commissioner for Ireland for the World Sailing Speeds Record Committee has officially informed us today – the creation of "The Initial Women's Double-handed Around Ireland Record".

The semantics of it all can be resolved in the fullness of time. Right now, it's pay-up time. After hundreds of miles of favourable winds, they have the much more immediate problem of the southeasterly wind having a bit too much east in it, while lacking real oomph – the North Coast is proving to be hard work. Thus our hopes that they'd be just about able to lay Inishtrahull from Tory have been frustrated, as they're now hard on the wind and about 20 degrees below the required course. But at least the Figaro 3 is a performer, and at 1930hrs they were making 7.2 knots.

Regardless of its direction, so long as there's wind of some sort they can make progress, or can until they get into the seriously big tides east of Inishtrahull, and especially along and around Rathlin Island, which is not so much a tidal gate as more of a brutally uncompromising tidal drawbridge.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

East of Inishtrahull, it'll be a dead beat towards Rathlin, and as the tide will start running against them towards midnight, they may find it advantageous to tack inshore in slacker tides by Portrush, close past the spot where, in another life and about a million years ago, Shane Lowry was carving triumph for us all out of the Open Golf Championship.

Just as everyone was with Shane 15 months ago, so now the entire Irish sailing community is with the crew of Iarracht Maugeanta as the Date with Destiny at Rathlin draws nearer. Roughly speaking for the next two or three tides, the stream will be with them between 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock, so peak No-Go Time at Rathlin will be between one o'clock and 5 o'clock, regardless of day or night.

Admittedly the mighty tides at Rathlin are so weird that close in along the north cliffs, the stream is always running to the eastward. But to take advantage of that you have to be so close inshore that the cliffs play merry hell with the wind. One upon a time we were doing the Round Ireland Race in an ancient 83ft Maxi with a huge battered old mainsail which looked like it merited a tillage grant. With the ebb roaring outside, we were clawing along in daylight right inshore at Rathlin, and the cliff-nesting seabirds became so confused with this monster mainsail that some of them tried to alight on it. That's the kind of thing that happens racing past Rathlin - it's an otherworldly sort of place, not really part of Planet Earth at all.

The beating along the north coast by Iarracht Maigeanta was not unexpected, and with any luck when they finally get onto the northeast coast of Ireland, they may find themselves back on a beam reach and the knots buzzing merrily upwards. But for tonight, it's a case of known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. We wish them luck, and hope they close in on Rathlin through one of the favourable tidal windows.

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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