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Round Ireland Race 2016 Is Seeing Final Stages Sailed In Slow Motion – If There Is Motion At All

23rd June 2016
Round Ireland Yacht Race
Kenneth Rumball with the Reflex 38 Lynx of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire has made a particularly good job of coming through the North Channel and the Irish Sea, and is now among those off the Wicklow coast facing the struggle to the pier head finish. Kenneth Rumball with the Reflex 38 Lynx of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire has made a particularly good job of coming through the North Channel and the Irish Sea, and is now among those off the Wicklow coast facing the struggle to the pier head finish. Photo: Afloat.ie

Day 5 1000 We took our leave of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 yesterday evening with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish Yacht Club aboard his First 44.7 Lisa off Dublin Bay with her racing prospects becoming rather less than rosy writes W M Nixon. Lisa may have been well placed overall in the race, but her crew – which includes such talents as Barry Hurley and the skipper’s brother Paddy Boyd – were facing the daunting prospect of getting to the finish line in Wicklow 22 miles away in a fading southerly breeze, and against a new north-going flood tide.

Through the remainder of the summer evening and the first part of the night, it was indeed difficult sailing. It forced Lisa’s crew to draw a balance between seeking less adverse tide close inshore, and the chance that a slightly fresher breeze reported well out to sea might have spread its tentacles nearer to the lovely Wicklow coast.

In the circumstances, they got the balance just about right, and approaching Wicklow itself towards midnight, they were given the well-earned reward of a local breeze which lifted their speed over the ground to above 5 knots, bringing them across the finish line at 23.38 hrs.

This put Lisa at second in IRC Class 1 behind Eric de Turckheim’s A13 Teasing Machine from France, but it also placed her at third in the virtual overall rankings, which at midnight read 1st Rambler (George David), 2nd Teasing Machine; 3rd Euro Car Parks, and 4th Lisa.

These midnight placings reflected the fact that the smaller boats still at sea between the County Down coast and Rockabill were having a very slow night of it. Earlier in the night, the plotted positions had shown Lisa at one stage at 6th overall. But as she approached the finish, the boats at sea slowed down still further, and she moved up the calculated rankings past the likes of Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 GROUPE 5 and Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules, such that by the time she finished only Dave Cullen’s Euro Car Parks had any prospect of eventually beating her.

That looked increasingly unlikely, and the still-racing Euro Car Parks may slip yet further from her current fifth behind the long-finished Alan Hannon’s Katsu in the overall rankings as the final stages drag on. Euro Car parks was one of a gaggle of boats getting down near Rockabill as Lisa finished at Wicklow, and though they were nicely placed for the turn of the tide around 0100 to help them on their way, the fickle southerly breezes – which had in fact been weaving between southeast and southwest or sometimes even west – died off almost completely.

Fast-accelerating lighter boats were able to keep some control over their course by taking advantage of every zephyr to maintain steerage way. But one of the heaviest boats in the fleet, Rob Mabley’s Swan 47 Sarabande which has led IRC 2 for most of the race, found herself drifting around until she was pointed north, and it was a long time before her crew could get her back on track. A similar fate befell Chris & Patanne Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, but they were able to remedy it more quickly.

Of the four battling boats which we looked at in detail in our previous report, it was Paul O’Higgins JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI which was first past Rockabill. She managed it around 0100hrs with her speed showing an encouraging – in the circumstances – three knots. And things were soon looking better, as Rockabill and Donal Ryan’s J/111 Team Fujitsu, which has emerged from the trailing pack to join the pace-setters, found themselves off Howth at 0400hrs enjoying speeds which hovered around 8 knots over the ground.

A clip showing the Class 40 yacht Fuji skippered by Ari Kanaskroski passing the Kish lighthouse on Dublin Bay earlier this morning

This reasonably good progress had now spread to the rest of the fleet in the Rockabill-Lambay area. But once the leaders got south of Dublin Bay the bite began to go out of the breeze, and by breakfast time purposesful sailing was a thing of the past, and the full strength of the new flood tide at 0800 hours put the kibosh on progress.

As of the 0900 position fix, Rockabill is right inshore in Kilcoole beach south of Greystones making 1.6 knots towards Wicklow, and though her rival Euro Car Parks is almost as far south, she’s four miles offshore and showing only 1.0 knots over the ground.

Traditional thinking would have it that you hold right inshore to stay out of the tide, but during the past two days the M2 weather buoy 15 miles out in St George Channel has consistently shown stronger sou’west to south breezes, so an offshore gamble may yet be on the cards.

But whatever course they take, the gallant challenge for top overall placings by our selection of four top smaller boats has now come to an end. The current light breeze and adverse tide until early afternoon means that we are now looking at the permanent position of the top four places in IRC Overall being held by 1st Rambler (George David), 2nd Teasing Machine (Eric de Turckheim), 3rd Lisa (Michael Boyd), and 4th Katsu (Alan Hannon).

For the moment, Dave Cullen’s Euro Car Parks continues to lead Class 3, while Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 leads Class 4. And despite her north-facing experiences, Sarabande holds onto the lead in Class 2. There are many private races still to be finished, and we note in particular that Kenneth Rumball with the reflex 38 Lynx of the Irish national Sailing Sschol in Dun Laoghaire has made a particularly good job of coming through the North Channel and the Irish Sea, and is now among those off the Wicklow coast facing the struggle to the pierhead finish.

However, at the very tail end of the fleet, the oldest boat in the race, Darryl Hughes 1937-vintage Tyrrell of Arklow-built ketch, is confrmed as having retired into Baltimore with mechanical problems, so our final focus on Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 is closing in on Wicklow. And as ever when light airs affect the final stage of a race round Ireland, we look to see where Ian Hickey’s Cavatina has got to, and find that she is at the South Rock making 4.8 knots in the right direction, the new south-going tide is already making and helping her along, and overall she lies 10th between Conor Fogerty’s Bam in 11th and Stephen Quinn’s Lambay Rules at 9th, with Cavatina also leading the Cruiser Division.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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