After Niall Dowling’s Ker 43 Baraka had led the Volvo Round Ireland fleet by a large margin in successfully negotiating the adverse tides of Rathlin Island yesterday evening, ace navigator Ian Moore (originally of Carrickfergus) had moved his boat and shipmates into an entirely different scenario from the scattered opposition astern – some of it very far astern writes W M Nixon.
Once onto the east coast, the fleet leader on the water and in IRC handicap found smoother water and breezes which gave her sufficient speed to make a nonsense of the foul tides. And as it became a fair tide well before midnight, she was soon streaking through the North Channel in the night like an arrow at 9 knots and then 10 knots, while the second-placed Aurelia (Chris Power-Smith) struggled with headwinds in those notably disturbed waters between the most northerly coasts and islands of Ireland, and the Scottish island of Islay.
Baraka’s progress has been so good that she is now well past Rockabill, and making 8.8 knots towards the Wicklow finish just 28 miles away despite the first signs of the adverse north flowing tide as she gets into the waters of St George’s Channel. In the heat of recent days, it has been shown that the Greater Dublin area generates one of the briskest sea breezes in the country, so being becalmed in the final approaches towards the finish seems unlikely, and we could be looking at an early afternoon finish.
"Overall, the picture is not so encouraging for the rest of the fleet"
Overall, the picture is not so encouraging for the rest of the fleet, as the winds off Donegal are all over the place, but in the overnight re-shuffle of the pack, Ian Hickeys Noray 38 Cavatina from Cork – winner of two previous circuits when lower-rated boats were favoured – is now up into second overall, but she is currently almost becalmed five miles westward of Bloody Foreland in Donegal, So even though there may be nor’westers tomorrow, at the moment it requires infinite faith and patience to keep Cavatina in the hunt. But her crew have shown they have these traits in abundance, and if this race has shown anything, it is that fortunes can suddenly improve out of all recognition.
One boat which seems determined to prove this is Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI. Yesterday morning at 1100 hrs, she and Chris Power Smith’s Aurelia were on the wind in close proximity to each other, on starboard tack about eight miles off Rossan Point at the most rugged area of the Donegal coast. Then for the first time in many miles, they split. Aurelia continued to head north, but Rockabill took a stab in towards the shore.
It was a fatal error. For much of the day, she was virtually becalmed off Loughros More Bay, while Aurelia sailed merrily along in a private breeze, beating efficiently past Bloody Foreland and Tory Island and doing so well that at times she was showing as leader overall on IRC.
But having finally found a breeze again, Rockabill VI is now on the attack, and is currently approaching Malin Head – admittedly at just 5.6 knots – with the tide soon to turn in her favour. Aurelia meanwhile has been doing some rather desperate tacking against the foul tide well out at sea, midway between the entrance to Lough Foyle and the southwest coast of Islay, and equally anticipating the favourable turn of the tide with hope.
But it is inevitably all rather messy by comparison with the clinical performance which has been put in during the past 24 hours by Baraka GP. Admittedly the beautifully-prepared Ker 43 is crewed entirely by top professionals. But when we remember that 36 hours ago she was shown as being back in 24th place in IRC overall, it’s fascinating to see what real pros can do when they seem to have been dealt a very challenging hand.
"Baraka GP has a clear lead on Corrected Time of seven hours over second-placed Cavatina"
By this afternoon, they’ll be in the Wicklow waiting game. But for now, as she sweeps past Lambay in a very sunny easterly breeze at 8.6 knots over the ground, Baraka GP has a clear lead on Corrected Time of seven hours over second-placed Cavatina.
Third is the Swan 44 CoOperation Ireland (Paul Kavanagh), 4th is the JPK 10.10 Jaasap (Nicolas Pasternak), which like the Kavanagh boat, is being sailed two-handed, fifth is Aurelia and sixth is the Barry Byrne-skippered J/109 Joker II.
But while there’s less than two hours’ difference between the corrected times of Cavatina and Joker II, Baraka GP has that very clear seven-hour margin. Now, approaching the finish, she is indeed very much in a race of her own.
Race tracker and leaderboard HERE
Afloat.ie Round Ireland updates in this one handy link HERE