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Spirits High As Conor Fogerty Leads Ostar Fleet Out of Plymouth

30th May 2017
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Howth's Conor Fogerty prepares to start OSTAR 2017 on Monday from Plymouth. The Royal Naval Supply Vessel, 'Wave Ruler' seen here in the background acted as Race Committee Boat Howth's Conor Fogerty prepares to start OSTAR 2017 on Monday from Plymouth. The Royal Naval Supply Vessel, 'Wave Ruler' seen here in the background acted as Race Committee Boat

Following the OSTAR skipper's Briefing on Saturday 27th, thoughts turned to weather routing and decisions on which of the main routes to take writes John Forde who is supporting solo Irish entry Conor Fogerty in the Jeanneau Sunfast 3600. It was interesting to see the dynamic at play between the competitors, some being extremely guarded and others more happy to discuss plans and share information for this gruelling sea marathon.

Of course besides OSTAR and TWOSTAR race prep, the weekend in Plymouth was dominated by the arrival of Gypsy Moth IV, to her home Port and Yacht Club, The Royal Western. Fifty years ago today or more precisely the 28th May 1967, Sir Francis Chichester arrived back, following the first solo circumnavigation of the globe to an extraordinary reception.

This was commemorated by all the attending skippers with a series of dinners on Saturday and Sunday which simply added to the feeling of history attaching to this pioneering Transatlantic race. Chichester was one of the original founding members of the Race and its first winner in 1960. He took 40 days and 12 hours whereas Conor Fogerty of Howth Yacht Club, 'Captain Fogers' to his friends, amongst other names, all complimentary...is hoping for a circa 21–day crossing.

There was much to do during the day to fully ensure that all the boats were all well prepared as they could be. Sails out and dried, checked re–stowed in order of use or intended use. Winches serviced ,halyards lines and all blocks checked. A full inspection of the rig from aloft and of course the all important Electronic systems on board. The important matter of victualling for the race could not be left to chance. One stalwart English Skipper Neil Payter of Portsmouth has supplies for three months on his Yamaha 33, that's a boat not a bike, to include four cases of red wine! This is some character to meet, hugely entertaining and of course experienced. I should also mention Mervyn Wheatley who according to Conor has a bath on board!! ( He would later arrive at the start line on his Formosa 42 blasting out rousing military tunes, to include the Dambusters at full volume prior to the 10 minute gun). Colourful is the word.

The deadline for work completion was 17.00 each day as the hosting RWYC had thoughtfully arranged all dinners to commence at 18.00 preceeded by a drinks reception.The obvious thinking being this would allow the skippers plenty of time to eat , drink and socialise and still be home in bed by ten to cram as much sleep in, prior to the weeks of sleep deprivation which await.

Conor Fogerty Gipsy MothNew friends and old on the Gipsy Moth IV

However nobody told the Irish Two, a slew of French, Bretons in the main, and the crew of Gypsy Moth IV who all bonded over good food, wines, Guinness, and some seriously entertaining sing songs. There was no language barrier between the Brits, Irish and French, despite very few of the French having good English and vice versa. 'Bonjour', 'chanson', 'un autre biere' and 'bonne nuit' was as much as we needed, falling back on long forgotten school French like experts, hmmm.

War stories were swapped with past French class winners ,whom had brought a large and raucous fan club. The French along with the British had the most entries with six and five respectfully. Their boats in the main, all heavier older models, tried and trusted. The two Italian entries, the Open 50 Vento di Sardegna of Andrea Mura, the 2013 overall winner, the Class 950 Illumia 12 of Michele Zambelli, and the Portuguese Open 60 Taylor 325 had also come heavily supported.

BAM YB Tracker A well known restaurant from Fogerty's home port of Howth adorns the side of the Irish Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 for the transatlantic voyage

Whilst the Irish numbers may have been low the spirits most certainly were not. Conor has legions of tales to tell of his sailing adventures having completed two Circumnavigations, once as skipper of the Clipper Cardiff in 2006/2007 series, 31 TransAtlantic crossings and a log which at 350,000 sea miles he stopped personally recording, some years back. However, it is the tales from ashore in all manner of far flung places that are most entertaining. The Gypsy Moth crew which included the lovely Skipper Emily Caruso and First Officer Anna Kastanias Kirton and a slew of nationalities are also tied up with Clipper training and many previous Clipper races and legs. None of their English, Scots, Welsh or American crew however had ventured into the Solo realm unlike our Howth YC hero.

So after a fantastic weekend of hard work and play, to include meeting Tony Bullimore and countless veteran past participants including an 86 year old from the first race of 1960 ... race day arrived , Monday the 29th. Or perhaps we should say we think it arrived, as we were unable to see more than a boat length or two, with dense fog blanketing Plymouth Sound.

The Port was closed, extra time taken over last minute jobs and coffee and a postponment for one hour, until a 13.00 start.

The fog lifted at about 11.00 and Race Office declared boats could head to the start line at 11.30. A large flotilla of all types of floating craft, including yachts, power boats, racing dinghies, RIBs and large jam packed passenger ferries headed out at the same time to a fantastic spectacle , as the sun made an appearance and the wind freshened from the South West. After hoisting the main and tidying away fenders and warps I was struck by the thought that the next time the warps are uncoiled will be in Newport, 3,000 miles away. All going well.

Last farewells to the Skipper before jumping ship into a collecting Rib where up close photos could be taken for sponsors and friends. 

We moved to the Committee Boat end which consisted of Royal Naval Supply Vessel, Wave Ruler to await the starting sequence.

Conor had advised he was in no rush to the start giving the marathon nature of the race, particularly given a competitor put himself out of the 2013 race after a start line collision. Ouch.... that could only be described as seriously painful and embarrasing after months of preparation. Watch Conor Fogerty Live at the OSTAR Start HERE!

Of course there were some eager beavers who got to the line early and than had to run down away from the pin and favourable end of the line. Conors Bam came in all the way to the line on starboard , timed beautifully , cutting the line towards the pin not having to ease off. He was closely followed by the Aussie 3600 Mr Lucky, helmed by Mark Hipgrove.

Conor rounded the first mark to starboard, the Eddystone Light in first place although some had him in third. When we first checked YB shortly after the rounding he was first boat on the water, leading the far quicker competitors in the GM / Gpysy Moth, fleet for the highest rated boats.

This must have felt great and a huge confidence boost. Keep up with Conor across the Atlantic via the Tracker here.

BAM YB TrackerFogerty makes his mark after the first night at sea

This morning Conor had kept up the pace as he had intended, whilst coming down the Channel until clearing Lands End and the Scilly Isles.Yellow Brick had him first in GM class and first in Ostar line honours which is fantastic sailing.

Hopefully this is an omen for the rest of the race and the wind Gods smile down. Latest update sees Bam heading north towards the South Coast of Ireland to catch the fresher breeze.

A weekly satelite call to Cafe East in Howth, Thursday Evenings, time to be announced.

Published in Solo Sailing

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