The fair winds from the northwest, which late last night and early this morning were spreading slowly through the latter half of the Round Ireland fleet off Donegal and then Antrim, now cover the entire remaining race area writes W M Nixon. The best of the breeze is in the North Channel, but with the tides ebbing north there until late morning, progress is unspectacular but it is at least progress, in contrast to the total frustration of the earlier part of last night.
Meanwhile, up front and among those already finished, we gladly make a thorough re-appraisal of our assessment of Niall Dowling’s all-conquering Ker 43 Baraka GP – line honours and likely overall IRC winner - as having been a thoroughly professional job. Not so.
Yet when you remember that on Tuesday night the Volvo 60 Libertalia Team Jolokia had got to within a dozen miles of Baraka in the northern part of the North Channel, yet by Wednesday lunchtime Baraka was in Wicklow and well finished with Line Honours with 90 miles now between her and Jolokia, it’s understandable that the whole performance shone through as being professional levels of the highest standards.
And certainly navigator/tactician Ian Moore is one of the world’s very best professionals. But aboard Baraka GP, his shipmates included three total amateurs including skipper Niall Dowling, and while the boat was an impressive performer, her mixed crew had to deal with at least as many sail and gear problems as anyone else.
They’d also to cope with the fact that at one stage off the North Coast of Mayo, they were shown as being in a seemingly irredeemable 24th overall. And while she may indeed have been set up for maximum performance in hyper-close reaching conditions as she came in past the Kish yesterday morning, the crew photos show a somewhat motley bunch without that unmistakable professional sheen, as do their line honours celebrations in Wicklow.
So we very happily re-instate Baraka GP with honour as being in the “Real” Round Ireland Race as much as everyone else, and now we watch with interest to see if her huge theoretical IRC Handicap lead is going to withstand the fact that Nicolas Pasternak’s two-handed JPK 10.10 Jaasap is coming down the Irish Sea in purposeful style, and for a while was back in second place overall on the IRC progress sheets.
However, with the stronger area of wind moving away to the east in the Irish Sea, Jaasap is shown at only 5.4 knots and still has 64 miles to sail, whereas Chris Power Smith’s Aurelia is back into provisional second at 5.9 knots with 12 miles to the finish, so she should be well finished by lunchtime in company with the British army entrant, the X41 team Fujitsu skippered by Donal Ryan of Howth. But this still leaves Baraka GP with a very comfortable margin for the overall win.
Yet these IRC provisional timings are sometimes about as useful as opinion polls in assessing the outcome of a General Election. In other words, the only timings that will really matter are the final and official results.
Towards the back end of the fleet the two little Mini 6.5s Port of Galway (Yannick Lemonnier) and the Mayo boat Blackshell Farm (Louis Mulloy) were having a close race of it last night as the new wind brought them bustling in round Malin Head.
But a cheerful phone call last night from Cathal Clarke who’s with Yannick aboard Port of Galway appears to have de-activated their Yellowbrick Tracker, so all we know for now is that Blackshell has got past Fair Head against the last of the adverse tide, and as of 11am her speed shot up to 10 knots as the new fair tide started to do its stuff. The between the two of them is crucial, as the first to finish will be the smallest boat ever to have sailed round Ireland non-stop.
And just as this update is being posted, a call from Cathal Clarke tells us that Port of Galway is 13 miles ahead of Blackshell, but they have work to do as she is only making good 7.6 knots.
Race Tracker and leaderboard here