The vigorous north to northeast winds which have given the fleet in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2018 such a tough time as they battled their way up the Atlantic seaboard have now eased and veered further as the leaders work their way around the coast of Donegal and northwest Mayo writes W M Nixon.
This means the north coast is now providing line honours leader Baraka GP (Ker 43, Niall Dowling RIYC) with yet another dead beat. And the further east she gets, the more significant becomes the role of the tides, with the new flood tide eastward into the North Channel now flowing strongly from Malin Head towards Rathlin.
When you’re beating, a favourable tide is a mixed blessing, for even in lighter winds it quickly kicks up a steep and breaking sea. But Baraka GP has shown her exceptional ability to maintain high average speeds in a wide variety of adverse sea states, and as predicted last night, she is expected to continue to improve her overall position, which has now moved up from 16th to 11th overall this morning - a significant improvement on the 24th place she was recording 24 hours ago.
The IRC Corrected Time lead has seen a slight shift, with Paul Kavanagh’s classic 45-year-old Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland now narrowly ahead (the gap is just three minutes) of Stephen Quinn’s little J/97 Lambay Rules. The main consideration here is that the Kavanagh boat is being raced in the two-handed division, which makes her current placing a great achievement, even if the long tough beat all the way from the Skelligs in Kerry and beyond has been the sort of sailing the Swans of that vintage particularly relish.
Other overnight expectations have been fulfilled, with the J/109 Joker II (currently off Broadhaven in Mayo) continuing to be raced with style by Barry Byrne and navigator Mick Liddy. Having surprised everyone yesterday by a massive flyer far west into the Atlantic which did them no harm at all, they now lie fourth overall, close behind the third-placed French JPK 10.10 Jaasap (Nicolas Pasternak).
As for the two of the pre-race Irish favourites, Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI and Chris Power Smith’s J/122 Aurelia, they too have fulfilled expectations of overnight improvement with Rockabill VI now up in 5th overall and going well midway across Donegal Bay between Broadhaven and Rathlin O’Beirne, while Aurelia is close by, and significantly moved up the rankings from 18th overall to 9th.
The fleet is now well spread at its extremities, with Baraka GP far to the furthest north approaching Malin Head, while the oldest boat in the fleet, the 81-year-old restored 43ft classic gaff ketch Maybird (Darryl Hughes) is still off Kerry, having recently experienced much lighter winds than those being “enjoyed” by the bulk of the fleet west of Clare and Connacht.
The two litle’uns, the Mini 650s Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier) and 303 Blackshell Farm, are still in the hunt with Blackshell (Louis Mulloy) off Clifden making 3.9 knots in the gentler wind, while Port of Galway is at a brisker 5.9 knots off Clew Bay.
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