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Spectacular Round Ireland Race Start from Wicklow Harbour

29th June 2018
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The Round Ireland Race start where Niall Dowling's Baraka GP makes a perfect start then shreds her spinnaker.... The Round Ireland Race start where Niall Dowling's Baraka GP makes a perfect start then shreds her spinnaker.... Photo: Afloat.ie

There was a stunning start to the 20th Round Ireland Yacht Race today when the Volvo race favourite blew a spinnaker moments after the 700–mile race began off Wicklow Harbour. See Race tracker here

It only added to the drama of the colourful sailing spectacle that has attracted a significant international entry and hundreds of shoreside spectators plus a flotilla of support boats for the Irish classic offshore fixture.

Round Ireland race start Baraka GP 3762Niall Dowling's crew deal with the shredded kite Photo: Afloat.ie

There were perfect north easterly breezes and choppy seas for a fast start under spinnaker for the 55–boat fleet from the LE Orla Naval vessel. The race was under the command of race officer David Lovegrove, a former Irish Sailing President.

Round Ireland start(above and below) A congested committee boat end of the start line Photo: Afloat.ie

Round Ireland race start fleet 3794

Noel Dowling’s 43-foot Baraka GP, hotly tipped for overall success, made a perfectly timed start to be placed at the favoured end of the 600-metre start line only to suffer damage to her sails seconds into the week-long race.

Round Ireland race start Rockabill 3768Paul O'Higgin's Rockabill VI (blue and yellow spinnaker) races away from the Round Ireland start line Photo: Afloat.ie

Despite the long line, there were very congested waters at the committee boat end.

Round Ireland race start phosphorous 3781Phosphorous II and Corum were early leaders off the Round Ireland startline Photo: Afloat.ie

Round Ireland race start Mach 40 Corum 3912The brand new French yacht Mach 40 Corum approaches Wicklow Head Photo: Afloat.ie

Dowling’s crew rapidly prepared an alternative sail but the French Mach 40 Corum (Nicolas Troussel and Ian Lipinski) and Jersey-based Phosphorous II (Mark Emerson) seized the opportunity to be the very early fleet leaders in this marathon race but even before the fleet passed Wicklow Head, Dowling’s Fast Ker 43 was already back in command.

"There were perfect north easterly breezes and choppy seas for a fast start under spinnaker"

Only boat lengths behind were Riff Raff, Brian McMaster’s Cookson 50 and some smaller but no less potent entries such as Paul O’Higgins on Rockabill VI, Chris Power Smith’s Aurelia and WOW George Sisk.

Round Ireland race start Aurelia 3656Chris Power Smith's J122 Aurelia Photo: Afloat.ie

As the fleet passed Wicklow lighthouse, Dowling continued on port gybe out to sea and headed due south-east, a move that the bulk of the fleet followed out to sea carried by a strong ebbing tide.

Corum, with three crew on board, on the other hand, opted for a course close to the shore and gybed along the coast towards Arklow.

At the slower end of the fleet, double race winner Cavatina from Royal Cork YC, was also making good progress under spinnaker.

Round Ireland race start Cavatina 4423Double winner Cavatina Photo: Afloat.ie

However, as forecast, the fleet is not expected to have stronger winds for over 24 hours, perhaps even after approach Tuskar Rock when northeast winds could reach double figures. North easterlies are expected to increase up to 20 knots on Monday, to hopefully give the fleet faster reaching conditions along the south coast but the real dilemma is will the underlying east to northeast gradient wind prevail over high summer night breezes off the land?

Round Ireland race start Jedi 4160The Dun Laoghaire Sailing School J109 Jedi Chartered by Michael Boyd Photo: Afloat.ie

The 700-mile race is anticipated to take up to five days to complete, with the biggest boats expected home early next week.

Follow Afloat.ie's Round Ireland Race 2018 updates all in one handy link here

Read WM Nixon's Round Ireland Race 2018 Preview

Published in Round Ireland
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The Round Ireland Yacht Race is Ireland's classic offshore yacht race that starts from Wicklow Sailing Club (WSC) and is organised jointly with the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and the Royal Irish Yacht Club (RIYC). This page details the very latest updates from the 2008 race onwards including the race schedule, yacht entries and the all-important race updates from around the 704-mile course. Keep up to date with the Round Ireland Yacht Race here on this one handy page.

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