Ireland's varied sailing waters are proving a popular testing ground for the international Class 40 fleet and a burgeoning Irish Mini class too. Further evidence of this is in next Saturday's Round Ireland Race fleet where a top French double-handed sailing duo will contest the 700-mile classic. International stars Nicolas Troussel and Mini Transat Winner Ian Lipinski have teamed up to race the brand new Mach 40 'Corum'. They're not the only Class 40 on the Irish race track either as three other international entries are also lined up.
It follows a fleet of Class 40s that called to the Wexford coast late last month in the Normandy Channel Race when the fleet rounded the Tuskar Rock and not without incident.
Troussel, a former double winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, is back in Class 40 competition this year. Competing in the Volvo Round Ireland Race is the first fixture in his new campaign for transatlantic success in a major international fixture at the end of this season.
The Irish race will be a useful benchmark against some other Class 40 competition including, Ari Kaensaekoski's Fuji, Marc Lepesqueux's Sensation and Henrik Bergesen's Hydra, all slated for the Irish circuit.
Troussel expects to be in Dun Laoghaire with Corum on Monday or Tuesday after a delivery trip from Roscoff.
The Class 40 monohulls are high-performance racing boats, designed principally for single-handed or small crew offshore competition.
The Round Ireland is a stepping stone toward's October's Route du Rhum race, an event where Troussel came second in the 2010 race and is one of the favourites this year.
A growing Irish Mini fleet that raced last year in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race is now also contesting the Round Ireland.
Mini Transat boats have evolved into ocean racing machines that are frequently used (at least by European sailors) as platforms to campaigns in larger boats such as Class 40s or IMOCA 60s.
Minis are already arriving at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire in advance of next Saturday's race from Wicklow.
Irish Mini skipper Tom Dolan, says Lipinski's presence in the race is a real boost for this growing sector of the sport in Ireland.