#RoundIreland - The 19th Round Ireland Yacht Race got off to a dramatic start from Wicklow at 1pm today. Although American maxi Rambler was prevented from making her spectacular committee boat start by smaller competitors blocking her lane, it was not long before one of the fastest monohulls in the world was streaking ahead of the fleet at Wicklow Head. See start sequence photos of Rambler 88 here.
The committee vessel was lying to the strong south going tide and as the record fleet lined up it was clear the 3–knot tide was bringing them to the line early, too early in some cases.
The large monohull fleet of 52 boats started on time at 1pm but there was a delay starting the multihulls ten minutes later because of an individual recall for boats in the main fleet who had started prematurely. Boats were recalled over the VHF radio by the race committee and were required to start again. Double race winner Cavatina from Royal Cork YC, ironically one of the slowest in the fleet, was one of three boats obliged to restart.
There was some congested waters at the committee boat end of the starting line too as boats clearing the line on starboard tack (including the maxi Rambler) and heading out to sea were confronted by spectator craft in their path.
Adelie (IRL9631) and Euro Car Parks (IRLII41) port tack the fleet at the start of the Round Ireland race 2016
As expected, the three MOD70s multihulls started ten minutes later and streaked ahead soon after the biggest boats in the record–breaking 63–boat fleet passed Wicklow Head.
Conditions were as forecast with a light southerly wind of eight to ten knots and south going tide making for one of the first upwind starts in many years.
Fleet bragging rights for the first boat to Wicklow Head was of course Rambler, second was RORC entry Katsu. It was an impressive start under the gaze of hundred of shoreside spectators and a flotilla of boats on the water but as everyone knows, this is not a sprint but a full ocean marathon race of 700–miles duration.
Rambler 88 powers by Wicklow Head
The Navy vessel LE Aisling, as the official starting vessel, sent the fleet on its way. The fastest boats could be back by Monday and a number of Round Ireland records yet could be broken but the overall winner on handicap may not be know till much later in the week, possibly as late as next Friday.
A number of boats hit hit the line at precisely the right moment, aided by a strong tide, prompting some on the shoreline to query just how many boats were over.
As forecast by Afloat.ie's Mike Broughton, a ridge of high pressure over Wicklow brought a light sea breeze off Wicklow Head, and there were near perfect sailing conditions off the Wicklow coast of 8-10-knot winds from the south bright sunshine and a relatively flat sea state.
The 64-boat fleet cleared Wicklow Bay and Wicklow Head Lighthouse under a two-knot ebb tide, pushing them down along the Wexford coastline.
J109 Euro Car Parks steered by Olympian Mark Mansfield, one of 63 boats in today's Round Ireland fleet
However, as forecast, the fleet are expected to have stronger winds tonight as they approach Tuskar Rock. South westerly winds increasing 12-17 knots by early evening, giving a beat south towards Tuskar Rock. Then we have unsettled conditions from midnight as the first of possibly seven fronts to pass the fleet over the next four days. The first warm front will bring light rain and SW winds of 9-15 knots – still giving a beat along the south coast.
The 700-mile race is anticipated to take up to five days to complete, with the biggest boats expected home sometime on Monday.
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Read WM Nixon's Round Ireland Race 2016 Preview