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Tides and Times of North Channel are Dictating the Current State of the Round Ireland Race

21st June 2022
Robert Rendell’s Grand Soleil 44 Samatom has done remarkable things to come south from Rathlin now clearly ahead of Michael Boyd’s J/121 Darkwood
Robert Rendell’s Grand Soleil 44 Samatom has done remarkable things to come south from Rathlin now clearly ahead of Michael Boyd’s J/121 Darkwood Credit: Afloat

Round Ireland Race Day four (Tuesday) 2100 With the tides of the North Channel running favourably southwards for the Round Ireland fleet from around 16:30hrs today, the state of play for the leaders in the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race has been akin to windless riding on a roller-coaster that terminates at the South Rock Light off the County Down coast, where the flood tide loses speed and power as it dissipates into the Irish Sea

This is all-too-vividly illustrated by the progress of line honours leader Kuka3, the Swiss Cookson 50, which at 1730 was merrily making her way southward at 7.3 knots, yet an hour later with the South Rock astern, it was all she could do to keep the needle pushing towards 4 knots.

But her closest contender, the Volvo 70 Green Dragon, was having an even less agreeable time of it off Belfast Lough, so we learn yet again that anyone who thinks they understand the effect of the tides of the North Channel may never have been there, while being there only adds to the bewilderment.

Green Dragon - second in line honoursGreen Dragon - second in line honours Photo: Afloat

That said, away to the north Robert Rendell’s Grand Soleil 44 Samatom – having re-found her mojo once the navigator Richie Fearon was back in his home waters around Inishowen and Malin Head – has done remarkable things to come south from Rathlin now clearly ahead of Michael Boyd’s J/121 Darkwood.

It gets stranger than that. The American Class40 Kite has been sailing an exemplary race for the past 24 hours, and was well ahead coming into the North Channel. But now her Italian rival Influence has thrown caution to the winds (such as they are) and has been making her way south at 9.6 knots close west of the Mull of Kintyre.

Meanwhile, the emerging French star, the J/111 SL Energies (Laurent Charmy) has continued to make significant dents in what had seemed the pre-ordained order of things, and is close east of Rathlin making 6.7 knots in a light following breeze. But this has been good enough to put her into the overall lead in IRC, where second is held by Darkwood while Rockabill VI (Paul O’Higgins) stays in contention in third.

The current charts indicate an almost complete absence of wind between the South Rock and the finish at Wicklow, but a new nor’easter seems to be filling into the North Channel, and it may in time spread further along the course. Nevertheless, Maritime Mystic Meg’s most recent statement is that currently it’s a lottery, so we’ll leave it at that for tonight and see how things have been going first thing tomorrow morning.

Race tracker and data below

Published in Round Ireland

Round Ireland Yacht Race Live Tracker 2022

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WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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Round Ireland Yacht Race Information

The Round Ireland Yacht Race is Ireland's classic offshore yacht race 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 reference page.

2020 Round Ireland Race

The 2020 race, the 21st edition, was the first race to be rescheduled then cancelled.

Following Government restrictions over COVID-19, a decision on the whether or not the 2020 race can be held was made on April 9 2020 to reschedule the race to Saturday, August 22nd. On July 27th, the race was regrettably cancelled due to ongoing concerns about COVID-19.

Because of COVID-19, the race had to have a virtual launch party at the Royal Irish Yacht Club for its 21st edition

In spite of the pandemic, however, a record entry was in prospect for 2020 with 50 boats entered with four weeks to go to the race start. The race was also going big on size and variety to make good on a pre-race prediction that the fleet could reach 60. An Irish offshore selection trial also looked set to be a component part of the 2020 race.

The rescheduling of the race to a news date emphasises the race's national significance, according to Afloat here


704 nautical miles, 810 miles or 1304 kilometres

3171 kilometres is the estimate of Ireland's coastline by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.

SSE Renewables are the sponsors of the 2020 Round Ireland Race.

Wicklow Sailing Club in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club in London and The Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dublin.

Off Wicklow Harbour on Saturday, August 22nd 2020

Monohulls 1300 hrs and Multihulls 13.10 hrs

Leave Ireland and all its islands (excluding Rockall) to starboard.

It depends on the boat. The elapsed record time for the race is under 40 hours but most boats take five or six days to complete the course.

The Race Tracker is

The idea of a race around Ireland began in 1975 with a double-handed race starting and finishing in Bangor organised by Ballyholme Yacht Club with stopovers in Crosshaven and Killybegs. That race only had four entries. In 1980 Michael Jones put forward the idea of a non-stop race and was held in that year from Wicklow Sailing Club. Sixteen pioneers entered that race with Brian Coad’s Raasay of Melfort returning home after six days at sea to win the inaugural race. Read the first Round Ireland Yacht Race 1980 Sailing Instructions here


The Round Ireland race record of 38 h 37 min 7 s is held by MOD-70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail and was set in June 2016.

George David’s Rambler 88 (USA) holds the fastest monohull race time of two days two hours 24 minutes and 9 seconds set in the 2016 race.

William Power's 45ft Olivia undertook a round Ireland cruise in September 1860


Richard Hayes completed his solo epic round Ireland voyage in September 2018 in a 14-foot Laser dinghy. The voyage had seen him log a total of 1,324 sea miles (2,452 kilometres) in 54 sailing days. in 1961, the Belfast Lough Waverly Durward crewed by Kevin and Colm MacLaverty and Mick Clarke went around Ireland in three-and-a-half weeks becoming the smallest keelboat ever to go round. While neither of these achievements occurred as part of the race they are part of Round Ireland sailing history

© Afloat 2020

At A Glance – Round Ireland Yacht Race 2022

Race start: Off Wicklow Harbour date to be announced, June 18 2022

There will be separate starts for monohulls and multihulls.

Race course:  leave Ireland and all its islands (excluding Rockall) to starboard.

Race distance: is approximately 704 nautical miles or 1304 kilometres.

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