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A Round Ireland Preview from the Offshore Racing Academy Plus Roscoff Delivery Woes & Allmer Cup at Le Havre

10th June 2022
Kenny Rumball racing in the Allmer Cup
Kenny Rumball racing in the Allmer Cup Credit: Alexis Courcoux

Here's a May update from the Offshore Academy, it's been a bumper month so let’s get you caught up! This month was primarily focused around the Allmer Cup in Le Havre but that’s not to mention, there were plenty of adventures along the way! Feel free to send on our adventures to others that may be interested!

Offshore racing is all about the racing, well yes but what can be lost behind the fanfare, flags and most reports is the logistical challenges that are there behind these projects…. For the Le Havre Allmer Cup this year, we were faced with the necessity to move the boat, van trailer and assist three other Figaros to get from Port La Foret, our home port, up around North Western France, across the Cherbourg peninsula and to Le Havre, a 300nm delivery, 5 hours by road or nearly 3 days on the boat, not ideal rest before a solo offshore event.

Faced with light winds for the delivery, it was obvious we would be spending a lot of time under the engine so with extra diesel cans on board, we left Port La Foret in the early hours of the morning with the intention of heading directly to Le Havre, with the potential to stop in Roscoff or Cherbourg for a pit stop. We had a convoy of myself, Conor Fogerty of Ireland on his boat RAW, Tiphaine and Ahmad on Pier Cophams boat, Voile Des Agnes and Sanni Beucke would be joining us along the way as she was coming from Lorient, about 30 miles south of Port La Foret.

Those who sail regularly will know the potential risk of lots of time under engine due to light and fickle winds, there is the huge risk of runner over and getting fouled in Lobster pot markers, this risk is increased ten fold when at night when it is impossible to see the markers. As our delivery had seen little to no wind, we had as a group decided to make a pit stop in Roscoff to get some rest and top up on diesel. About midnight in the pitch-black dark of night, thankfully only 2 miles from Roscoff but very close to the island of Ile De Batz the engine came to a very sudden and abrupt stop! Being in the dead of night it was very hard to see how badly the propellor was wrapped but worryingly there were two narrow aluminium, staffs running out from the back of the propellor, this was no simple wrap! Here we were in the dead of night, disabled in no wind but close to Roscoff but in notoriously fast-flowing and dangerous tides. My training group from La Rochelle had pulled into Roscoff a day earlier so thankfully Alexi Thomas and Swann answered my desperate phone call for help and came out in a RIB to tow me into the safe haven of Roscoff. Tired, relieved, frustrated but most importantly in a safe haven it quickly became apparent that the best course of action was to get some sleep and deal with it in the morning…

The Allmer Cup at Le Havre marinaThe Allmer Cup at Le Havre marina

What came next is just the pinnacle display of kindness and help to a solo sailor in need. Tired and urgently looking to get on the way to Le Havre, I wandered up to the Captainerie (Harbour Master) to explain my plight and look for help. The lady behind the counter immediately understood the situation I was in, faster than I could think, there was a RIB alongside my boat towing me over to the travel hoist to lift the boat out where the staff of the marina and yard were on hand, tools at the ready to free my propellor, before I knew, it, my baot was back in the water on a berth alongside my friends and fellow Figarists, propellor free an dready to continue my delivery when I chose. Somehow I had managed to mow over the flag staff of a lobster pot marker wrapping the aluminium staff of the lobster pot, the equivalent of an Optimist sprit, around my propellor shaft 3 times…. I cannot thank the staff of marina in Roscoff for their immediate help and gratuity to a foreign solo sailor. I was bowled over when I went into pay for everything and they waived all the bills!!! Tahnkyou!

After all this drama, I quickly came to the realisation it would be best to forgo continuing my delivery that day and spend a night on the marina, have a good meal with my friends from La Rochelle and leave as part of a bigger convoy the next day. A great decision as the rest of the delivery was painless and we arrived in Le Havre incident free 28 hours later. We arrived on the 18th of May, with plenty of time to rest ahead of the Le Havre Allmer Cup.

The Le Havre Allmer Cup is a challenging event with a long offshore stage and two coastal races mixing offshore strategy and sailing with inshore boat handling and intensity. Due to weather complexities and the potential of the Royal Navy practising live firing off the south coast of the UK, our offshore course was subject to change. Yann Chateau was our director of racing and is one the best, he is the model of race director who is totally on top of his game, in touch with competitors and spectators alike and someone I would place full trust in for any offshore race management. Yann gave us an excellent course that would take us out of Le Havre, North to the Needles fairway buoy off the Solent, westerly to Eddystone Lighthouse and the south to a buoy in the channel of the entrance to Roscoff before heading east, through the challengine tides in the channel islands, up over the Cherbourg peninsula and back to le Havre, some 450 miles! The weather forecast was relatively stable which would see light in fickle winds as far as the Needles fairway buoy before and building upwind leg to Eddystone followed by largely downwind reaching and running conditions back to home.

We started the race well rounding in light conditions the first top mark in the top 10 before having a disastrous downwind leg and getting clear to head towards the UK in the bottom 10!!!! In light winds, it became a speed test in reaching conditions with lots of peeling (sail changing) between the gennaker (Code 0) and big spinnaker with no sleep to cross the English Channel north to the Needles Fairway buoy just west of the entrance to the Needles. Despite my best efforts in fleet where there was a lot of expansion and compression of the fleet, I rounded the fleet in the bottom end ahead of a long beat westwards to the Eddystone lighthouse.

Our upwind slog Westwards was long with the complexities of the tide on the South Coast of the UK and the fact that we managed to hit almost every headland against the tide which made the best long, very long, almost 24 hours to the minute to get from the Needles Fairway to the Eddystone lighthouse. There is very little to report on this leg, inshore to get out of the tide, then offshore to get into the tide when preferable to make way west along our route, there was a change to the sailing instructions forcing us to go south of a line between two waypoints as the Royal Navy were using the area for some target practise which caused some fun and amusement along the way.

Finally around 0800 French time after short tacking in off Start Point through the night, we rounded Eddystone lighthouse to be able to make our way south towards what was originally supposed to be a mark off Roscoff but a change in the course meant we were heading slightly further East to a mark called La Jument des Héaux which is about 30 miles east of Roscoff and a mark I remember well from rounding during the Solitaire 2 years ago on the legs in and out of St Breuic! Downwind sailing, sun out, 12-15kts of steady wind allowed time to dry the boat, get some rest and eat some food…. The leg was very straight forward, 145 True Wind Angle the whole way to the mark. Despite the simplicity of the leg, by the bottom mark I had regained 4 places!

A gybe at the mark and then it was a tighter reach along the French coast towards Guernsey, where we thankfully were fighting tide as we approached the channel islands but the good news is that we were then to have the notorious tides around the Cherbourg peninsula with us as we crossed the top of the peninsula, to head back towards le Havre!

The remainder of the race was very straight forward after this with a few gybes over the top of Cherbourg, reaching and running all the way home! In this race I finished up 20th which I was reasonably happy about. The placing was not the most important thing, what was more important was to prove to myself that I had the speed in the relevant areas to be able to sail with the pack and pick off a few places from time to time! Bed time was followed the next day by a Pro-Am day where the two Irish skippers Tom Dolan and Kenny Rumball took some winners or a radio competition racing in J80s off Le Havre, great fun and a fantastic opportunity to get sailing in a relaxed environment!

A Pro-Am day where the two Irish skippers Tom Dolan (second from right) and Kenny Rumball (left)A Pro-Am day where the two Irish skippers Tom Dolan (second from right) and Kenny Rumball (left)

Friday and Saturday were coastal race days, a race a day of about 30 miles. Race one was. A simple loop around the end of the shipping channel in Le Havre and back to a finish line similar to where we finished the offshore. This race was in 15kts of wind mostly, dying to 12kts at the end. A silly mistake at the first windward mark cost a lot of places, however a solid 18th kept me content despite losing a lot of places initially! The final coastal day race on Saturday started with a windy reach and then a long tactical challenging upwind to the nearby port entrance of Antifer before a long run home. I sailed well in this race to post my best result of the series, with a great result of 9th which I was content with but my coach stated that it was about time I sailed to my potential.

With no time to spare, as soon as we hit the dock, it was time to swap sails and get the boat delivered to Ireland for the Round Ireland Race. Luzerne Under 25 team from Ireland had arrived to bring the boat back to Dublin. This is a key component of the Academy. Here we are supporting four U25s in their ques to compete in the SSE Renewables Round Ireland race. The Academy is supporting the team in terms of boat charter, coaching on the water, navigation preparation, food selection etc, exactly what the Academy was setup to do.

A final shakedown race on the J121 DarkwoodA final shakedown race on the J121 Darkwood

No rest for Kenny, I was home for a only a short few days before it was off to the UK for a final shakedown race on Darkwood the J121 which I will be onboard for the Round Ireland this year!

Published in INSS
Kenneth Rumball

About The Author

Kenneth Rumball

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Kenny Rumball is the Principal of the Irish National Sailing School in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. He is a multi dinghy champion and offshore sailor. In 2018 he was awarded the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Seamanship Trophy for a Man Overboard Rescue in the Round Ireland Race. In May 2020 he embarked on a mixed offshore doublehanded keelboat campaign with Pamela Lee.

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The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School is based on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier on Dublin Bay and in the heart of Ireland's marine leisure capital.

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