Day 5 1000: With Eric de Turckheim’s beautifully-sailed A13 Teasing Machine finally finished in Wicklow at 0859 this morning to retain her second overall in IRC in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 writes W M Nixon, the current outstanding feature of the race is the huge gap between the group of boats currently approaching Wicklow, and the bulk of the rest of the fleet well back to the north, sailing off the County Down and County Antrim coats.
Like it or not, tides are what it’s all about that this stage. First time Round Ireland racers sometimes find it difficult to get their heads round the fact that at the south end of the great pond which is the Irish Sea, the ebb tide runs south through St George’s Channel. But at the north end, it runs north out through the North Channel.
For anyone simply looking at an Irish Sea chart, it’s bleedingly obvious that this is the only way it can happen. But of you’ve done your early sailing years on the shores of either channel, the directions of the local flood or ebb will inscribed in your childhood mind. Yet with the narrow sea-level outlook and weather-obsessed mindset which participation in the Volvo Round Ireland Race induces, there are times when tired sailors, and sometimes even their awfully sagacious navigators too, find themselves having to make a conscious effort of memory to clarify the way the flow will be going.
However, after the fourth night of racing - much of which has seen the bulk of the fleet sailing their little hearts out between Rathlin Island on Ireland’s northeast corner and the finish line at Wicklow Harbour 150 miles away to the south - we can be reasonably sure that an awful lot of people now have the directions of relevant tidal streams centrally inscribed in their thinking. Because since about 0130hrs, the was roaring north for six hours against the fleet in the North Channel. But away to the south, those boats which had managed to get themselves to the latitude of Skerries found themselves on an increasingly positive magic carpet of south-going ebb tide which helped to overcome the adverse effects of light headwinds, and carried them down to finish at Wicklow in time for breakfast.
The result is a huge gap in the fleet still racing. Indeed. there’s only one boat to be found in the 65 miles between County Wicklow and Dundrum Bay, and that’s Joy Fitzgerald’s Class 40 Concise 2 (pictured below) about twenty miles due east of Lambay, second in Open 40 and making good better than 7 knots to windward even if the new flood tide is increasingly slowing progress towards the finish 32 miles away.
There is then a clear gap of 40 miles and more back to the next boat, Michael Boyd’s First 44.7 Lisa (pictured below). But despite the night’s foul tide which moved crewman Paddy Boyd to send us an 0400 text outlining the challenge they faced, Lisa has long since managed to break clear of the narrow bits of the North Channel, and her target now will be to get to the latitude of Skerries in time for the new south-going ebb around 1400hrs.
Meanwhile she continues to lie second in IRC 1 and fourth overall, but seventy miles away at Wickow, Teasing Machine’s race is finally finished, and a great race it has been too. Since midnight her crew had been playing a cat-and-mouse game down the Dublin and Wicklow coasts with Ross Hobson’s much-larger Open 50 Pegasus. While there’d never been any doubt that Teasing Machine would beat the much higher-rated Pegasus on handicap, the sport was such that beating her boat-for-boat became the target, and Teasing Machine confirmed herself in the on-the-water lead in the final three miles to Wicklow, crossing the line ahead of Pegasus at 0859hrs.
Admittedly it was akin to bear-baiting, as the big Pegasus is in the two-handed division, and aboard her Ross Hobson and Chris Briggs were boggle-eyed with exhaustion. But the crew of Teasing Machine had given their all as well, and if we – just for a moment – discount the celestial performance of George David’s Rambler 88 to claim what is now a fabulous new quartet which includes mono-hull line honours, course mono-hull record, open mono-hull round Ireland record, and overall win on IRC, then we see that Teasing Machine has also done something very exceptional, as the distance gap between her and next in line is big in miles if not in corrected time, so with lighter winds the likelihood is it will get bigger.
That said, maybe we shouldn’t count the Machine’s chickens just yet, as currently the second overall is Patrice Carpentier’s Jeanneau Sunfast 3200 GROUPE 5 (pictured above), which also leads the two-handed division, Clearly this is another exceptional performance in a race featuring many exceptional performances.
It has been a night of extremely challenging conditions in the dark heart of the North Channel, yet out of it GROUPE 5 had done extremely well, and she is currently off the north side of Belfast Lough, making eight knots with 115 miles to the finish with the new south-going flood tide under her. But rather painfully for Irish supporters, two miles astern and sailing at a slightly better 8.2 knots is Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks (pictured below).
The fact that Groupe 5 got through the Cullen boat during the night shows just how crazy a place the Antrim coast can be for racing in headwinds and against the tide. But otherwise things are good for Euro Car Parks, as she has got back to first place in IRC 3. Former IRC 3 leader Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins) is currently 8 miles ahead of Euro Car Parks, and getting past Mew Island as we write, but her higher rating has her lying second in IRC 3.
Overall in IRC, the placings confirm Rambler 88’s win, and it’s unlikely that Teasing Machine will be disturbed from her second place, though GROUPE 5 should not be discounted for some time yet, and her potential to upset the rankings will be of interest to the betting fraternity. But as of 0945 the rankings were 1st Rambler 88 (finished), 2nd Teasing Machine (fnished). 3rd GROUPE 5, 4th Cavatina (Ian Hickey), 5th Euro Car Parks, 6th Lisa, 7th Lambay Rule (Stephen Hyde), 8th Tockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins), 9th Bam (Conor Fogerty), 10th Sarabande (Rob Mabley).
The arrival of the extremely low-rated veteran Cavatina (pictured above) in the top ten rankings will come as no surprise to seasoned round Ireland observers – it’s the fact of simply being right here at the end of the race which has seen Cavatina record Round Ireland overall wins in times past, and while it’s impossible for her to do it this time round, she is in line for quite a respectable showing nevertheless.