The IRC overall lead is being tightly contested this morning in the Volvo Round Ireland race 2018 with the bulk of the fleet now to the west of County Clare, slugging to windward in a north to northeast breeze writes W M Nixon. The coveted lead position in IRC overall is being very hard-fought, and it frequently changes hands.
But at 0900hrs the top four saw Stephen Quinn’s J/97 Lambay Rules from Howth Yacht Club leading by just 15 minutes from Ian Hickey’s Noray 38 Cavatina from Cork, with the French JPK 10.10 Jaasap third and the J/109 Joker II skippered by Commandant Barry Byrne in fourth.
The emergence of Cavatina among the front-runners for the first time is an inevitable consequence of the fact that yesterday off the Kerry coast from Dursey Head northwards, the leaders were bashing to windward while significantly lower-rated boats like Cavatina further astern were still sailing fast and on course in favourable conditions. But although Cavatina is now herself making to windward just north of the Blaskets, she has found a more favourable slant, whereas the bigger overall leaders on the water spent the night making the best of the hand they’d been dealt with, which was a beat to Slyne Head in Galway.
As was expected here yesterday, the front-runners tended to keep to the east of the course. In fact, the line honours contenders Baraka GP (Niall Dowling) and the new Mach 40 Corum came right in on port tack very close on Kerry Head, at the southwest side of the Mouth of the Shannon, before making serious northing up past Loop Head and then the Aran Islands.
Navigator/tactician Ian Moore on Baraka was so certain that this was the way to go that he threw a couple of short port tacks to the westward of Inishmore in order to keep well eastward into the favoured waters in the approaches to Galway Bay.
At one stage Corum seemed to have got clear in front, but Baraka found a course that brought her in nicely on track and in front at Slyne Head while still hard on the wind. Along the Galway coast, she has been lengthening away, and with the wind off Connacht in the north and less certain of itself, she is currently laying past Inishbofin on port tack at 6.1 knots, leader on the water but 24th on IRC, with Corum a good nine miles astern.
"the emergence of Cavatina among the leaders has changed the shape of the game"
With the more marked easterly slant to the wind further back, the main part of the fleet has allowed themselves to get west of the track in anticipation of further veering of the wind. But it could well be that those who have made an effort to keep themselves more to the east - such as Paul O’Higgin’s Rockabill VI - could ultimately find it paying off.
Meanwhile the emergence of Cavatina among the leaders, somewhat earlier than had been expected, has changed the shape of the game. Today’s developments – where every gain will be down to very hard work in squeezing extra speed out of difficult windward conditions – will be fascinating to watch, although maybe not quite such a barrel of laughs to sail. The Atlantic seaboard is starting to feel like a very long piece of coastline.
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