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Female Two-handed Round Ireland Speed Record: The Iarracht Maigeanta Two-Handed Round Ireland Record Challenge by Pamela Lee and Cat Hunt of Greystones Harbour Sailing Club just got better and better through yesterday evening and last night as they swept – with impressively consistent speed - through the final hundred miles southward from the Antrim coast to a new record in Dublin Bay, riding on a potent combination of good sailing in a very workable mostly east to southeast breeze, and a fortuitously timed combination of favourable tides to finish at 0327 hrs this (Saturday) morning.

Yet at 1600hrs yesterday afternoon, as their Figaro 3 sat off the Antrim coast between Glenarm and Larne, virtually becalmed and locked in an adverse tide, few would have thought that such a magnificent performance could have been achieved following a frustating afternoon in which expected winds had failed to materialize.

But the transformation of their prospects was already complete by 1800 hrs yesterday evening. With the wind back again from the east and a strong new flood tide pushing them south along the Count Down coast with speeds soon getting into double figures, the possible time for their arrival at the World Sailing Speed Records Committee line in Dublin Bay from the Kish Lighthouse to Dun Laoghaire's East Pier in Dublin Bay just kept getting better and better.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

Yesterday afternoon, the hope of making it round within four days – that is, finishing before 0745 hrs on Saturday - was starting to look like a long shot. Yet by 2200 hrs last night, the continuing combination of favourable conditions was such that the four day circuit seemed well within sight and it was a question of by how much, with a finish time between 0400 and 0500 looking increasingly likely.

Well, they did even better than that again. In due course the very deliberative workings of the WSSRC will come up with their final figure. But according to the Yellowbrick Tracker loaned for the Iarracht Maigeanta/RL Sailing challenge by the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association, Iarracht Maigeanta and her tired but very happy crew were home and dry around 0327 hrs.

For temporary convenience, let's conservatively call it 0330hrs. Thus Pam Lee and Cat Hunt have completed the circuit in 3 days 19 hours and 45 minutes. It's a fabulous performance, as the previous best two-hander by Aodhan Fitzgerald and Yannick Lemonnier in a Figaro 2 in the 2004 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow was 4 days and 6 hours, and that has long been thought an impressive figure.

We'll be doing a more detailed analysis of it all in the fullness of time. But just to give it further perspective and its proper historic position, the much-admired record established by Denis Doyle in the fully-crewed Frers 51 Moonduster in 1984 stood at 3 days 16 hours and 15 minutes. That a much smaller Figaro 3 sailed double-handed should get within three and a half hours of that monumental time is really very exceptional indeed, and the mood in Greystones, where Iarrache Maigeanta is now serenely home in her marina berth, is very rightly on a high as Pamela Lee and Cat Hunt take their well-earned chance to do a bit of serious sleeping for Ireland.

Read all of Afloat's coverage of this Round Ireland speed record in one handy link here

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Four 2100hrs: The situation became transformed. It was like the clicking of a switch. Or so it seemed to those on the edge of their seats ashore, as they watched on screen as the Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigenta struggled with little wind against the last of the ebb tide off the Antrim coast at Glenarm. First, there came the breath of a fresher breeze from between southeast and east to bring the boat to life. And then by 1800hrs, the new flood tide was surging them on their way, zapping two-handed crew Pam Lee and Cat Hunt south across Belfast Lough and past Mew Island in jig time, such that they were tearing along the County Down coast with their speed over the ground comfortably into the double digits.

Admittedly the pace slowed a little as they swept past the South Rock at 2000 hrs and began to get away from the most powerful stream of tide. But they'll still have something of it in their favour until St John's Point is abeam, provided the breeze keeps up.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

On the present rate of going, St John's will be there - though well to the west – around 2130, and this is where things start to get extra-interesting. If they can keep up their beam reaching speed around the 8 knots mark through the water, they can then make the classic hop of going from the last of the south-going flood as it peters out east of the entrance to Carlingford Lough, and make the leap across slack water for an hour or so until they then begin to feel the very first of the ebb in the new tidal system where the flood goes north, but the ebb is favourably going south.

It will be doing so with real determination as it accelerates south past Rockabill. As of 2100, Rockabill is still 48 miles away, while the finish line is 63 miles distant. You do the maths. If this good easterly breeze keeps up and they can be hovering between 7 and 8 knots through the water, the four day circuit is a distinct possibility, as to do it they've to be past the Kish by 0745 hrs tomorrow (Saturday) morning, and the current rate of progress allows them a bit of leeway on that.

But as we've seen, the winds today are in a capricious mood, even if a proper southeaster is in the offing. The tension in this project will be maintained right to the end.

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Four 0900hrs: When Pam Lee and Cat Hunt entered Day 3 of their Magenta Project Round Ireland Challenge at 0745 hrs this morning (Friday), they were nearer the Scottish coast than they were to the northern shores of Ireland. But they were reaping the benefit of the new favourable flood tide, after a difficult night spent beating to windward into the Sea of Moyle, the appropriate-sounding ancient name for the tide-riven area between the north of Ireland and the large Scottish southern Hebridean island of Islay.

Back at midnight, they'd got to Inishtrahull. But with the barometer rising, there was every chance that the calm which was settling over central Ireland for the night would spread northward over the sea. Thus any notion of short-tacking inshore along the north Irish Coast, in search of slacker water as the ebb tide ran west at full blast, was abandoned in favour of shaping a course well offshore where southeast to east wind was still to be found, even if there was little or no relenting of the adverse tides.

Rathlin Island, Ireland's supreme tidal gateRathlin Island, Ireland's supreme tidal gate
They were around 5 miles from Islay's southwest headland as they tacked with the new flood starting make properly at 0640 hrs, with speed in a local tidal hot-spot at one stage getting up to 10 knots. And now, at 0840 and out in the less excitable waters getting rapidly clear of the Islay coast with a crisp passage past the supreme tidal gate of Rathlin Island in prospect, they are around 9.4 knots and rising, making the best of a light easterly and a surging fair tide.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

The conditions and their course are such that the tide will help to sharpen the apparent wind strength without making the sea unduly rough, so conditions are maximised for smooth progress by a tired crew brought back to life by real progress after an exceptionally difficult and wearing night.

After they've passed Fair Head and Tor Head on Ireland's northeast corner, they're clear of the worst of the tidal blackspot, and though a favourable tide right through the North Channel to the South Rock Light would be a bonus, as the new ebb begins to start running north again around noon that would be too much to hope for.

But with moderate mainly easterly winds forecast today for the North Channel, and with east to southeast wind indicated for the final leg from the South Rock to the official record line at the Kish Light off Dublin Bay, they've a good chance of continuing in a leading wind and overcoming any unfavourable tides for the rest of the day after the mighty hurdle of Rathlin has been cleared.

Next Magenta update on will be early this afternoon, but meanwhile, at 0900 hrs they've 136 miles to the finish, and SOG is 10 knots.


Published in Offshore

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Three 2000hrs: When the going is good, the good get going - and they get going fast. This has been the mantra of Pam Lee and Cat Hunt, who brought their Beneteau Figaro 3 in past Tory Island and on to Ireland's North Coast at 1745 this evening (Thursday), just 34 hours after departing Dublin Bay with very focused use of favourable conditions in a clockwise circuit of Ireland, their mission being - as the Commissioner for Ireland for the World Sailing Speeds Record Committee has officially informed us today – the creation of "The Initial Women's Double-handed Around Ireland Record".

The semantics of it all can be resolved in the fullness of time. Right now, it's pay-up time. After hundreds of miles of favourable winds, they have the much more immediate problem of the southeasterly wind having a bit too much east in it, while lacking real oomph – the North Coast is proving to be hard work. Thus our hopes that they'd be just about able to lay Inishtrahull from Tory have been frustrated, as they're now hard on the wind and about 20 degrees below the required course. But at least the Figaro 3 is a performer, and at 1930hrs they were making 7.2 knots.

Regardless of its direction, so long as there's wind of some sort they can make progress, or can until they get into the seriously big tides east of Inishtrahull, and especially along and around Rathlin Island, which is not so much a tidal gate as more of a brutally uncompromising tidal drawbridge.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

East of Inishtrahull, it'll be a dead beat towards Rathlin, and as the tide will start running against them towards midnight, they may find it advantageous to tack inshore in slacker tides by Portrush, close past the spot where, in another life and about a million years ago, Shane Lowry was carving triumph for us all out of the Open Golf Championship.

Just as everyone was with Shane 15 months ago, so now the entire Irish sailing community is with the crew of Iarracht Maugeanta as the Date with Destiny at Rathlin draws nearer. Roughly speaking for the next two or three tides, the stream will be with them between 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock, so peak No-Go Time at Rathlin will be between one o'clock and 5 o'clock, regardless of day or night.

Admittedly the mighty tides at Rathlin are so weird that close in along the north cliffs, the stream is always running to the eastward. But to take advantage of that you have to be so close inshore that the cliffs play merry hell with the wind. One upon a time we were doing the Round Ireland Race in an ancient 83ft Maxi with a huge battered old mainsail which looked like it merited a tillage grant. With the ebb roaring outside, we were clawing along in daylight right inshore at Rathlin, and the cliff-nesting seabirds became so confused with this monster mainsail that some of them tried to alight on it. That's the kind of thing that happens racing past Rathlin - it's an otherworldly sort of place, not really part of Planet Earth at all.

The beating along the north coast by Iarracht Maigeanta was not unexpected, and with any luck when they finally get onto the northeast coast of Ireland, they may find themselves back on a beam reach and the knots buzzing merrily upwards. But for tonight, it's a case of known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. We wish them luck, and hope they close in on Rathlin through one of the favourable tidal windows.

Published in Offshore

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Two 1800hrs: As Pam Lee and Cat Hunt continue to make good progress on Ireland's west coast northwards towards Connacht with light to moderate winds in the easterly sector, the developing weather for their Round Ireland Female Two-Handed Challenge could well produce a really remarkable time in any context, and not just in their basic ambition - under the auspices of the World Sailing Speed Record Committee – of setting an indisputable time for a Two-Handed Female Crew.

For sure, they're the first to do it in this way, and whatever time they eventually set will immediately have a special status. But nobody sails round Ireland in a vacuum. There are many who have made the circuit before in various crewing configurations, and the complexity of the story first became evident after the late Steve Fossett, Con Murphy & Cathy MacAleavey and others set a seemingly unbeatable record with the 60ft trimaran Lakota in September 1993.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

It was reckoned that a significant peak had been reached - and it had, as the record stood for a clear 23 years. To mark its establishment, the National Yacht Club – Con and Cathy's home club – staged a gala dinner to which everyone who had ever achieved a significant round Ireland sailing time was invited, and a historic list was compiled which traced circuiteers as far back as 1889.

At the time it was reckoned there must have been some intrepid voyagers before 1889, but nobody knew of them until determined maritime researcher Wally McGuirk came up with a special book published in 1983 which was based on the logs of a mid-19th Century Dublin Bay sailing man called William Power. The collection included incontrovertible proof that he sailed his 25-ton cutter Olivia round Ireland in 1864, just four years after the great "Kingstown to Queenstown Race" from Dublin Bay to Cork Harbour in 1860 had seen the first indications of modern offshore racing.

Yet there's something about sailing round Ireland which makes those who do it for the first time feel like complete pioneers, while those who have done it more times than we can remember – whether racing, cruising or record-setting – never fail to be delighted by its apparent novelty each time round.

Thus it's something very special. And as we contemplate the determination of Pam Lee and Cath Hunt as they face into their second night at sea, knowing that once Slyne Head is abaft the beam they're past the halfway mark and already in the homeward leg with a record inside four days within sight, it's surely timely to respond to readers who have requested that we outline vaguely comparable performances which have emerged from the forty years of the Round Ireland Race.

Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood with their trusty vintage X332 Pyxis, with which they've done the Round Ireland Race in the two-handed division four times Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood with their trusty vintage X332 Pyxis, with which they've done the Round Ireland Race in the two-handed division four times

Kirsteen Donaldson & Judith Eastwood

In particular, readers have drawn attention to Kirsteen Donaldson and Judith Eastwood from Hampshire, who have done no less than four Round Irelands in the two-handed division in Kirsteen's X332 Pyxis. They've also done several Fastnets and other offshore races, and in general they're the kind of quiet enthusiasts who are the backbone of the RORC programme. But while they've been in the frame in several other races, the sheer challenge of Round Ireland is revealed by the fact that their best elapsed time, achieved in 2018, was 5 days 20 hours 5 minutes and 3 seconds.

Yannick Lemonnier & Aodhan Fitzgerald

A more pointed two-handed performance was achieved with the special doublehanded division's introduction in 2004, when Yannick Lemonnier and Aodhan Fitzgerald with the new Figaro 2 Do Dingle went round in 4 days and 6 hours.

Young tearaways – Aodhan FitzGerald and Yannick Lemonnier, kitted out in 2004 to race the Figaro 2 Do Dingle in the Round Ireland in the Race's first staging with a two-handed division, in which they set a record time that still stands.Young tearaways – Aodhan FitzGerald and Yannick Lemonnier, kitted out in 2004 to race the Figaro 2 Do Dingle in the Round Ireland in the Race's first staging with a two-handed division, in which they set a record time that still stands.

It still stands as the two-handed record for the Round Ireland Race. And much and all as it's invidious to make comparisons between a race at a pre-set time and a carefully-planned record attempt, it gives us an impressive time to consider as we admiringly monitor the remarkable progress of Iarracht Maigeanta around our eternally fascinating coastline.

Published in Offshore

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Two 1400hrs: The Great Foze Rock has come and gone well to starboard at 12.15hrs today in the lengthening litany of marks of the course as Pam Lee and Cat Hunt continue their impressive campaign to set up a Two-Handed Female Crew Round Ireland Record. The most westerly outlier of the Blasket Islands and therefore the most westerly point of the orthodox circuit course, the Great Foze is completely unmarked by any navigational aid for day or night, and has been the bane of many a Round Ireland Race navigator's life as he or she tries to keep clear of it in the dark, while not causing the crewmates to sail one inch further than is necessary.

As it's not specifically named in the circuit specifications, when Lloyd Thornburg's Mod 70 Phaedo was setting up a new record in an anti-clockwise direction in 2016, they went inside the Great Foze as it provided their helicopter crew with fantastic footage through mixing it a bit more with the dramatic scenery of the magnificent Blasket Islands.

Subsequently, in order to preserve the sanctity of Phaedo 3's new record, on April 1st 2017 declared that the rock had become Grande Ilheu de Foze, and was now officially not Irish at all, but had become part of Portugal's Arquipelago dos Acores (Azores Archipelago).

Way way far back in the day, however, the lonely rock was treated as being very Irish indeed by the late Chieftain of Inishvickillaune Charlie Haughey. On one exceptionally calm summer's day with the Atlantic like glass, he and his family and guests on Inishvickillaune ventured out to the Great Foze, where they managed to get ashore and have a party, and in departing they thoughtfully left behind a bottle of Cork Dry Gin and several glasses to enable the next visitors to do the same.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

Such thoughts will have been far from the minds of Pam Lee and Cat Hunt as they sail north with the wind well forward of the starboard beam and making between 7 and 8 knots, but with things looking good for a further veering of the now moderate breeze to give them more pressure and a better slant to make faster progress towards the coast of Connacht.

But before leaving the Great Foze altogether, let's hear it for Pippa Hare who, in the stormy Round Britain & Ireland race of 2018, actually remembered to take a selfie with that loneliest of rocks in the background. It really is there, folks, and all you navigators who sweated blood making sure you avoided it weren't wasting your time.

Pippa Hare and the Great Foze Rock in 2018Pippa Hare and the Great Foze Rock in 2018

Published in Offshore

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day One 2000 hrs: The Round Ireland two-handed record challenge by Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt, which started from the Kish in Dublin Bay at 0745 this morning, had been accelerating westward well out to sea off the East Cork coast, putting them due south of Capel Island at 1930hrs and making 12.5 knots. Their Beneteau Figaro 3 was beginning to feel the effects as the strong north to northeast winds - 25 knots and more in the Irish Sea and St George's Channel all afternoon - start spreading vigorously into the Atlantic.

Not that the Magenta team need more pressure power, as they've had a very handy favourable breeze all day. But through the early part of the night they've been having to handle this extra challenge of keeping up speed without sustaining any damage before the blast of extra wind has gone through, and at 1910hrs a problem arose and they peeled off for twenty minutes on a downwind course, but still sailing at 8.3 knots. Yet now (1940 hours) they're back up to 12.4 knots and it seems to be all systems go again.

Ironically, although they're on a record-establishing mission, they don't want to arrive down at the Fastnet Rock too early, as on the current setup, it gets very bumpy thereafter. From The Rock northwestwards, the wind has been more then fresh from the north along the Kerry and West Cork coasts through today, and as any Round Ireland and indeed Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race veteran can affirm, slugging into a strong northerly off Kerry is no cakewalk.

But fortunately for the two co-skippers, the wind is expected to veer markedly and ease as it draws from the east, helping them round the corner and past Ireland's most westerly point, the unmarked Great Foze Rock west of the Blaskets, a lonely and mysterious place which is best avoided by night or day.

For now, however, that's in the future as supporters ashore wait to hear what caused the sudden alteration of course at 1910hrs, hoping that it was only a blip rather than the loss of an important sail or some rigging damage.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Record Tracker

Published in Offshore

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day One 1400: Kish Lighthouse for breakfast. Tuskar Rock for lunch. That's the way it is for Pam Lee and Cat Hunt as they've scorched down Ireland's East Coast in a fine fair wind with a sluicing ebb tide in the Beneteau Figaro Magenta Project, intent on establishing a significant female two-handed Round Ireland record

Eight o'clock this morning saw them sweeping away from Dublin Bay in gathering sunshine and brisk northwest to north winds. But at this early stage of the challenge, we haven't seen any incredible speed bursts, as the secret is to avoid damage to the boat in general and sails in particular as they take advantage of a wind and tide system which is panning out very nicely, and will get them on to the south coast and west of the Coningbeg by mid-afternoon.

Magenta Sailing Round Ireland TrackerA significant female two-handed Round Ireland record in the making - see live tracker below

In doing so, they're achieving a steady and more-than-respectable average speed of upwards of 11 knots, and in closing in on the Tuskar with the favourable tide doing some serious work, they're showing better than 13 knots over the ground.

Visibility is currently good at that often misty corner of Ireland, but they'll be so busy they'll scarcely have time to appreciate the views, or the irony of the crowded wind farm of giant turbines on Carnsore Point. It was there that people camped out for months in protest against the possible sitting on the point of a nuclear power plant, so now instead the locals are left with giant turbines whirling in sinister style all about them.

However, Magenta Project's ship's company will be busy at other work, optimising their sail plan for a speedy reach along the south coast, which may well see them thinking in terms of dinner a la main as they zoom on past the Old head of Kinsale.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Record Tracker


Published in Offshore

Ballyholme Yacht Club on Belfast Lough has hosted a keelboat coaching event as part of the Magenta Project, with 34 female sailors taking to the water.

The Club is just one of five clubs across the UK to become successful in their bid for the event.

Supported by three coaches from the RYA Magenta Project, the group sailed from Bangor Marina in six yachts from the Belfast Lough Quarter Ton Class and Sigma Class.

"The Magenta Project is a collective of passionate sailors who are committed to creating equal access and opportunities for women in sailing"

The owners from Ballyholme Yacht Club (BYC) had kindly lent their boats to participants for the event. The sailors' race rigged the craft under the supervision of the coaches – Abby Ehler, Storm Nuttal and Nikki Henderson – and took to the water for four hours of coaching in testing conditions with winds gusting up to 28.7kts.

The Magenta Project is a collective of passionate sailors who are committed to creating equal access and opportunities for women in sailing. It was started up in 2015 by members of the all-female ‘Team SCA’ who successfully competed in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race campaign.

Since then, the sailors have been working to create opportunities for women in performance sailing through on water training, learning and development opportunities.

They also support career/skills development schemes and events and STEM activities in the marine industry, building networks and relationships that connect individuals and organisations. This enables sailing knowledge, experience and opportunities to be shared, raising awareness of women in sailing and celebrating their successes and achievement.

The Magenta Project has now teamed up with the RYA to help promote more women racing keelboats at club level through tailored coaching sessions at clubs up and down the country, run by RYA qualified Magenta Project coaches, to get more female club members on the water racing, more often.

Aidan Pounder from Ballyholme Yacht Club commented: “This was the first time that the Magenta Project had come to Northern Ireland, and the ladies who participated found the experience truly remarkable, albeit a little exhausting. BYC hopes that this is not the last, but the start of many more Magenta Days to come in the future, helping to inspire more women into keelboat sailing.”

Wave Regatta provides Howth Yacht Club and the community on the Howth peninsula in County Dublin with a biennial keelboat racing event that aims to be the most attractive sailing event in Ireland.

Maximising many of the local natural resources and involving allied Howth businesses and services, it attracted competitors, visitors and others on its first staging in 2018 with a weekend-long spectacle establishing Howth as a destination of choice for sailors, visitors and allied marine tourism.

Read Afloat's preview and review of the first staging of Wave Regatta.

At A Glance - Wave Regatta 2022

Howth Yacht Club's 2022 WAVE Regatta will be sailed from 3rd-5th June

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