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In an exceptional week for Irish international offshore sailors, the Michael Boyd-skippered Lisa has been confirmed as both the RORC Points Champion and the Boat of the Year, while the Damian Foxall-crewed Vestas 11th Hour Racing has emerged as the convincing winner of the first stage of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18. And at home, Nicholas “Nin” O’Leary has appeared with a newly-acquired IMOCA 60, his own first command in this extreme class for which the Vendee Globe Non-stop Solo Round the World Race is the ultimate objective. W M Nixon takes a look at a high-powered scene which has many facets, and outlines how one Mayo sailor hopes to progress her own career in it.

International offshore racing is a universe unto itself, a place where superhuman skills have to be allied with exceptional organisational ability. Needless to say, the presence of straightforward courage is taken as read. For many of us as we consider the year’s past achievements, which moved up a gear early in the season when Conor Fogerty won the prized Gipsy Moth Trophy in the Single-handed Transatlantic Race, it is at a level which we can barely grasp, let alone expect to emulate.

So how can you hope to get a foot on the ladder? Well, it depends on whether you want offshore racing to be your recreational sport, or perhaps even just one of several personal sports in a busy life with a day job, or whether you want it to be a fulltime career.

Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School

Here on Sailing on Saturday we have twice interviewed skippers who have won the Roger Justice Trophy (the sailing schools’ prize) for Ireland in the Fastnet Race, Ronan O Siochru of Irish Offshore Sailing with the Sunfast 37 Desert Star in 2015, and Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing & Powerboat School with the J/109 Jedi this year. Both gave considerable insight into what is involved in learning and training towards an acceptable level of competence with genuine race-winning potential.

irish offshore justice2Ronan O Siochru (third from right) with his crew from Irish Offshore Sailing after their success in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race

jedi fastnet start3Another successful Irish challenge for the Roger Justice Trophy gets under way – the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi (left foreground) at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Another route was shown by Michael Boyd skippering Lisa in the complete RORC programme. As Commodore of the club, he gives priority to encouraging youth sailors with the RORC into Lisa’s crew, and with his inspirational leadership, they blossom into capable offshore seamen. He was developing this way of doing things in 2016, when Lisa enabled him to be the top-placed Irish skipper in the Round Ireland Race, and by 2017 it had become so much a part of the boat’s campaigning that they could arguably have entered for the Roger Justice Trophy in the Fastnet Race themselves.

Royal Ocean Racing Club

However, the Royal Ocean Racing Club is a substantial and long-established organisation, with a large international membership and professional headquarters staff, thus the structures to channel would-be offshore sailors into the sport can function smoothly. And in the end, the “graduates” will tend to see themselves as Corinthians rather than fulltime sailors.

theo and michael4Successful administrators. Theo Phelan (left) organizer of the Volvo Round Ireland Race, with RORC Commodore Michael Boyd after the latter had finished the race at Wicklow as top-placed Irish skipper in 2016

Damian Foxall

But for hopeful young Irish sailors seeking to get into the fulltime offshore racing professional world, the promised land is France. That certainly was the route taken by Damian Foxall, who worked his way through France’s Figaro solo and two-handed scene and on into the exalted heights of Volvo racing, the Barcelona World Race, and massive multi-hull global record challenges, until now at the age of 48, with much achieved and busier than ever, his advice as dispensed on this week's Afloat.ie podcast is pure gold.

To succeed, Foxall says that basically you’ve to be a one-person business corporation. It’s not remotely enough just to be an ace helm, and handy on the foredeck with it. You have to truly know yourself, and realize the depths of dedication and sacrifice required, but at the same time you have to know everything – but everything - about boats, their rigs, their sails and the suppliers – and that’s before you even think about meteorology and strategy and tactics and effective handling of the media plus a zillion other things. And don’t forget to be an extremely efficient accountant too……

It may all seem a very long way from the dream of speeding across the blue ocean on a sunny day without a care in the world, with the winning line in sight and the rest of the fleet tucked in comfortably astern. But that’s the harsh reality which has been the lot of an extraordinary range of Irish sailing characters.

In the offshore sailing jungle angled towards France, you’re tangling with big beasts afloat and ashore, and the politics of it all are fraught. When we mention key names, it is merely a list, for it’s such a fluid world that link-ups are changing and being taken in completely new directions all the time. If you don’t know who we’re talking about in mentioning Enda O’Coineen, Marcus Hutchinson, Tom Dolan, David Kenefick, Stewart Hosford, Damian Foxall and Nin O’Leary – to name only seven – then you’re blissfully unaware of the rarefied heights where only the bravest will tread.

conor and charlie5Conor Fogerty finally receives the Gipsy Moth Trophy at the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth last weekend from RWYC Commodore Charlie Thompson

Conor Fogerty

Somewhere in an outer orbit is the incredible Conor Fogerty, winner in June of the roughest Single-handed Transatlantic Race ever with his Sunfast 3600 Bam!. Fogerty is keeping his longterm cards very close to his chest, but for now he has recently sailed Bam! from the OSTAR finish port of Newport Rhode Island down to Antigua for the RORC Caribbean 600 in February. He’d a class win in it in 2016, and he has a dream crew pencilled in for next February’s race, a mixture of fulltime and top Corinthian with David Kenefick, Tom Dolan, Simon Knowles and Paddy Gregory going into the mix.

With the Gipsy Moth trophy collected at a convivial awards ceremony in the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth last weekend, the re-location of Bam! back to the Caribbean has everything set up for a last hurrah with the successful Sunfast 3600 in the Caribbean 600, as Fogerty is another sailor keen for the really serious stuff, and is definitely in orbit round the IMOCA 60s.

But meanwhile, with a young family, he likes to have a handy little “cruising” boat at home in Howth. So just recently he bought the ultimate Ron Holland-designed 30ft Shamrock, Silver Shamrock herself, with which Harold Cudmore won the World Championship in 1976. She has been beautifully up-graded by Stewart Greenfield at Cowes, and as Conor’s partner is Suzanne Ennis whose sister Steph Ennis with Windsor Laudan successfully campaign the classic Club Shamrock Demelza (once raced for several seasons in Cork by a very young Mark Mansfield), then clearly with the Ennis approval of Shamrocks, acquiring Silver Shamrock was a no-brainer for someone who wants to maintain domestic harmony at home while pursuing grand designs on the high seas.

silver shamrock6The Ron Holland-designed Silver Shamrock, Half Ton World Champion at Trieste in 1976 under Harold Cudmore’s command, has been brought to Howth “as a useful little family sailer” by Conor Fogerty. Photo W M Nixon

There are many starting points for getting started towards the serious offshore game. But at the moment all roads lead ultimately to France, even if those whose hearts are in Ireland hope to see this country providing more substantial shore bases where our our top sailors can be prepared to head forth for the big time events.

After all, if the Irish horse racing industry can provide tens of thousands of jobs for dedicated staff at every level, and ultimately produce the world’s greatest trainer in Aidan O’Brien with his record tally of major trophies won in every continent, then is it so unreasonable for these top offshore racing people we have listed to hope that Ireland – with immediate access to some of the best training water for offshore racing in the world – cannot do something similar for offshore sailing, albeit on a much more modest scale?

Joan Mulloy

Their dream would be to provide a structure whereby young sailors of exceptional promise can be fast-tracked to offshore racing achievement. The French system has produced the crop of young sailors in their 20s who are among the pace-setters in the Mini-Transat Class, most notably Erwan Le Draoulec who is only 21, while top woman star Clarisse Cremer was “only another competent solo sailor” until she underwent the intensive French training and coaching which turns good sailors into race winners, with the Fastnet Race 2017’s top results being dominated by French boats.

figaro racing7The 30ft Figaro Solo boats provide another introduction to top level offshore racing.

The larger boat used in the Figaro Solo fleet likewise provides French and international wannabees with another route to the top, and both classes and the organisations around them now draw in solo racing hopefuls from all over Europe. But the pace is hectic, the standards are rising every year, and this makes it all more of a challenge for a sailor from Mayo who interest in the offshore racing game has now become central to her way of life.

mulloy figaro boat8The logo location on the topsides of Joan Mulloy’s Figaro Solo will become available to any major sponsor

When you journey to Westport, you feel you’re headed for somewhere remote. But once you’re there in this handsome town at the head of majestic Clew Bay, it’s the rest of the world which seems remote, indeed almost irrelevant. Joan Mulloy is Westport and the Western Ocean through and through, from a marine-oriented seafood-harvesting background in which a history including Grace O’Malley may well make West Mayo the most naturally maritime part of Ireland.

She started her sailing with a Mirror Dinghy with Mayo Sailing Club at Rosmoney, and had her first Laser by the age of 14, though her first experience of dinghy sailing at national level was crewing a GP14 for Blair Stanaway, currently Commodore of MSC.

Yet at the same time she had acquired another interest which well matches sailing - at the age of 12, she started rock climbing. By her late teens this was her dominant interest, so much so that after getting her Leaving Cert, she took two gap years to base herself in Sheffield, working for an online outdoor equipment company, and availing of the wide opportunities provided in the north of England to be trained in rock climbing to the most demanding standards.

But having reached the ultimate heights in every sense, she realized just how much she missed the sea, and returned to the west of Ireland and NUI Galway, where she took an honours degree in Civil Engineering while becoming much involved in the sailing club. Even before going off for the rock climbing period, she’d realised her true sailing interest was in offshore racing, so she was a natural for the NUI Galway SC crew skippered by Cathal Clarke which raced the Reflex 38 Lynx in the 2012 Round Ireland Race, in which they were second for much of the time, and still were a good sixth at the finish.

lynx round ireland9The Galway students with Lynx put Wicklow Head astern shortly after the start of the 2012 Round Ireland Race

She worked for a while in civil engineering, but although the company was involved at the forefront of offshore engineering work, she found herself at a computer calculating the requirements for key structures. In some ways it was useful training for someone who would eventually be much involved with developing offshore racers, but more active involvement with the sea called, and she became a crewmember on the Volvo 70 Monster Project, logging thousands of offshore miles including Round Britain and Ireland, the Round Ireland of 2014, a Fastnet and a Middle Sea Race.

But in time, the draw was towards the Figaro Solo scene in France, and she became involved as a “preparateur”, one of the teams sorting the boats for the stars to race. The comparison with the horse racing industry is not inappropriate, and Joan Mulloy very much wanted to be a jockey rather than stable staff, so when a German owner offered her the loan of his well-used Figaro, No 77, she took it up. She based herself at Cowes, and she and her former skipper in the Round Ireland, Cathal Clarke, raced in the two-handed division in the Rolex Fastnet 2017, and came a respectable 17th in a class of sixty boats.

joan mulloy cathal clarke10Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke racing Figaro 77 in the Rolex Fastnet 2017

Enda O'Coineen

But before that, she’d met Enda O Coineen at the WIORA Championship in the Aran Islands in July, and he encouraged her to think that the setup in Ireland for people on her chosen career path was improving all the time, while in Cowes there was a distinct winding-down of activity. Whether it was the prospect of Brexit is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that there’s a new buzz in Ireland to strengthen links with France and the Continent generally, and by September, Joan Mulloy had re-located her Figaro to Lorient, and returned to Ireland under the umbrella of Enda O’Coineen’s Team Ireland, while continuing to establish her own identity as a solo campaigner with Joan Mulloy Racing

It’s a busy time, with presentations to potential sponsors and then last night (Friday) she and Enda flew out to New Zealand to re-position the IMOCA 60 Kilcullen Voyager from Christchurch to Auckland as part of the preparation for the completion of his dismasting-interrupted solo Vendee Globe race, which will see him depart Auckland in January, complete a circuit of New Zealand to the point where he was dismasted at the very end of 2016, and then head on east for Cape Horn and the finish.

As for Joan Mulloy, her plan for January is to be right in the depths of solo sailing’s ultimate Boot Camp. She’s a very good sailor, she enjoys life, she’s great in boats, but as we pompously informed her at a meeting this week, she’s much too nice for her own good in top-level competitive sport.

She needs to be given a real racing edge. So the man to do that for her is the legendary coach/trainer/life-changer Tanguy Leglatin of Lorient. It’s said that a week at his Academy can transform a competent club racer into a potential world beater. Quite what it’s like providing a hothouse atmosphere in mid-January over a longer period we can only guess, but Joan Mulloy is determined to find out in the most thorough way possible. After all, it is Leglatin who brought forth the boy wonder Erwan Le Draoulec. Being under his tutelage is performance-transforming.

joan mulloy winter12Winter training. January will provide the training and testing for Joan Mulloy

So we wish Joan Mulloy the very best of luck. For there’s something about this high-powered offshore scene that appeals in a special way. We were chatting yesterday with our man in Lisbon, who had in turn been talking with the manager of the Turn the Tide on Plastics crew. Apparently they’re a wonderful bunch to work with, as they all realize they’re on a near-vertical learning curve. And that healthy shared attitude is fully embraced by our own Silver Medallist, Annalise Murphy. She may be the Queen of Rio, but there are none of the usual prima donnas in the crew of Turn the ide on Plastics. Yet they’re all entranced by the special world of ultimate offshore racing. As is Joan Mulloy.

Published in W M Nixon

Alex Pella, the world-record breaking sailor, said today (Wednesday) that the Transat Jacques Vabre offshore 2017 will mark the emergence of a new future for multihulls. With all eyes on just how fast the latest 30-metre Ultime to launch is – Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will be making its debut in Le Havre, Normandy on the start line on Sunday - Pella, co-skipper of the Multi 50 Arkema, believes the class will shine in this 13th edition of the "Route du Café".

“When we arrived last Friday and I saw the fleet, I said ‘wow’ because for me it’s the first time that there’s such a fleet in this class,” Pella said. “Normally, when I’ve been here in another class, I’ve seen only two or three good boats. But now I think this race can change the future of the class. Now, the future of the multihulls is the Ultime class and Multi 50 because there’s a really big difference between them.”

Pella knows a thing or two about multihulls - he was part of the incredible team on IDEC 3 that smashed the Jules Verne round-the-world record in January. He is not campaigning for the class either - this is his first race in a Multi 50 and he was a last minute replacement in August after Karine Fauconnier was injured in training. It is more the view of an experienced sailor – Pella, from Barcelona, turns 45 on Thursday – who can cast an eye across all four classes and 38 boats here. Another crowning glory was becoming the first Spaniard to win a transoceanic single-handed race when he won the Route du Rhum Class40 in 2014.

His co-skipper, the equally experienced, Lalou Roucayrol agreed. “There has been a big change within the Multi 50 class,” he said. “We wanted to get professional and the class introduced not just foils but rules on materials that mean all the boats have to be modern and competitive now.”

Skippers presentation by Serge Herbin, Multi 50 Arkema, skippers Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella, during pre-start of the Transat Jacques Vabre 2017, duo sailing race from Le Havre (FRA) to Salvador de Bahia (BRA) in Le Havre on October 28th, 2017 - Photo Jean-Marie Liot / ALeA / TJV17
There are six Multi 50s here, five competitive and four with foils all vying for victory. At just over 15 metres - half the length of Ultime - have a budget that is more accessible to those starting out in multihulls. Roucayrol revealed that Arkema spent €1.5 million to build the boat he launched in 2013, and spend €800,000 a year on the campaign, of which €200,000 has gone on their Mini 6.50 boat this year. The Ultime is a big step up, with budgets around six times that.

But those extra Euros may be felt in the first few days of racing, which are already promising to typically bracing North Atlantic weather in November. The weather and routing chatter on the pontoons began in earnest yesterday and 35-40 knots was being predicted after the start on Sunday.

“I think we’re going to have to cross a big front there’s going to be potentially 35-40 knots downwind the other side of that,” Britain's Phil Sharp (Imerys, Class40) said. “That’s what when we get really offshore west of Ireland - and it looks like we’re going to have to head west to look for this northerly wind, to avoid headwinds. When we hit that we can escape south - and we’ll be escaping very fast. We can surf at up to 25 knots and that’s fast enough when you’re on a boat like this.”

Pella at first affected to say that such pontoon chatter is “pollution” - “I haven’t been looking at the forecast all the time,” he said. “There are two people on the team checking. We haven’t done a real briefing. The other thing is that in these kind of races, North Atlantic (strong wind) starts are as usual, as these sounds of the pontoon, for me it’s pollution, people are nervous. This is the race where you have the Channel, the point of Brittany, the front, traffic and cold.” But he did concede that the Multi 50 are more vulnerable in these conditions, even with the foils – “by comparison IDEC 3 it passes over the waves very well,” he said.

Later he admitted that it might be better for them to push out of the starting blocks to get ahead of the front. “To win the race, you have to finish the race and to break things at the start is stupid,” he said. “But if you see the forecast it looks like it’s better to be in the top positions at the beginning because the front is coming from behind. You can makes plans, but you have to take the decision when you’re there.” It is hard to keep a sailor from his routing.

Published in Offshore

Over 500 boats took part in the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship, with teams flying the flags of 30 different nations from Canada to Russia and Chile to New Zealand. Well over 4,000 sailors took part, and whilst the majority of the races were in the English Channel, the Championship included the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Celtic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea. The 13-race series, which this year included the Fastnet Race, is truly international and it is the largest offshore series by participation, anywhere in the world. For the serious offshore sailor, winning the championship is a real challenge.

Lisa - Overall winner - 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship 
The overall winner of the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship is Nick & Suzi Jones' British First 44.7 Lisa, skippered by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd. The corinthian team retained the title from 2016; the only yacht to achieve the double since Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens (2011-12). Gilles Fournier & Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia was second overall and Thomas Kneen's JPK 1080 Sunrise was third.

Lisa - 2017 RORC Yacht of the Year 

Lisa has also been awarded the RORC Yacht of the Year, winning the Somerset Memorial Trophy for an outstanding racing achievement by a yacht owned or sailed by a RORC member, as voted for by the RORC Committee.

"This has been a tough season, winning the championship in a Fastnet year makes it even more of a challenge," commented Lisa's Nick Jones. "Our goal was to defend our win in 2016 and to be awarded RORC Yacht of the Year is beyond our dreams. Michael (Boyd) has been an inspiration, especially to the young crew, whose energy and tenacity has been fundamental to our success. The youth sailors at the RORC are the future of offshore sailing and we will be using our contacts and experience to help them. Lisa will not be racing next year so it is great to finish the adventure on such a high. Next season, Suzi and I will spend our time with our children; Charlie, Freddie and Toby, teaching them the joys of sailing in Chichester Harbour."

Lisa PW The future of RORC offshore sailing: Tom Needham wins the Duncan Munro Kerr Youth Challenge Trophy and both he and Neil Morton win the Keith Ludlow Trophy for best Navigator of the IRC Overall Yacht, Lisa Photo: Paul Wyeth

The impressive fleet for the RORC Season's Points Championship is separated into six classes racing under IRC, a Class40 Division and a Multihull Class. Two outstanding results from this year's Championship were in IRC Two Handed and IRC Four.

Bellino - IRC Two Handed & Mixed Two Handed

Rob Craigie's racing Sun Fast 3600 Bellino with Deb Fish, was the winner of the IRC Two Handed Class. Racing in a fleet of 78 teams, Bellino fended off a strong challenge from Ian Hoddle's Game On, and Ed Fishwick's Redshift Reloaded.

"Game On and Redshift were always at our heels; we couldn't relax at any moment, in any race," commented Craigie. "Whilst all three boats are Sun Fast 3600s, there are different keels and rigs, so we all have strengths and weaknesses in different conditions. Deb Fish has been my sailing partner all season. She is very good at the analysis, whilst I am the more experienced seaman, and in terms of boat speed, we are an equal match, so it is a great synergy."

BellinoRob Craigie and Deb Fish win the IRC Two Handed Class and the Boyd Trophy for Mixed Two Handed Division in their Sun Fast 3600 Bellino, seen here rounding the Fastnet Rock Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

 

Foggy Dew - IRC Four

Noel Racine's French JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew has been in scintillating form, securing the class win in IRC Four in a fleet of 116 boats, with two races to spare. Foggy Dew's winning streak in the Championship dates back to 2013.

"Every year we have to start as new; we have changes to the crew and the competitors are different," commented Racine. "Winning is not about doing one thing well, it is about attention to detail. Preparing the boat, the sails and the equipment, and reacting to changes on the race course. In IRC Four, we race against all different types of boat, but I believe that Foggy Dew is a good all-round performer."

The Annual Dinner and Prize Giving for the 2017 RORC Season's Points Championship is a spectacular event where prize winners, competitors, crews, RORC members and guests will celebrate the achievements of 2017. 

The full list of 2017 winners can be found below or HERE 

Results can be found here

Published in RORC

Ireland Ocean Racing, the team behind Nicholas O'Leary's 2020 Vendee Globe Challenge, are back in Dun Laoghaire, this time with their own IMOCA 60 racing yacht.

The team tweeted this morning 'We are super excited to announce that we have our own Ireland Ocean Racing IMOCA 60! Come and visit us at Dun Laoghaire Marina'

O'Leary has just completed the Rolex Middle Sea Race where with Alex Thomson in the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss they have turned in a virtuoso offshore performance to be third home across the line, bested only by the significantly larger Rambler and the 100ft Leopard.

The new boat for O'Leary is the former Great American IV, an Owen Clarke designed boat from 2006 aboard which Dominique Wavre took part twice in the Vendée Globe (retired in 2008/2009, 7th in 2012/2013). This 60-footer has clocked up an impressive number of miles. She has taken part in two Barcelona World Races, the double-handed round the world race and one Route du Rhum.

Bought by the American solo sailor Rich Wilson in 2013, the boat underwent an important refit in late 2014-early 2015 after being struck by lightning.

For his debut Vendée Globe, the young Irish skipper has a boat which has shown herself to be reliable if he intends doing the race in her or just using her for a training boat. Aboard this very same boat, Dominique Wavre completed the race in 90 days in 2013.

Listen to ‘Nin’ O’Leary on the podcast here and to Stewart Hosford, CEO of ‘Ireland Ocean Racing,’ formally launched in Cork this summer to “increase the profile of competitive Irish ocean sailing and racing, inspire a new generation of competitors and deliver future Irish champions in the sport.”

Hosford managed the Hugo Boss Alex Thomson campaign of which he has been CEO, so brings to the Irish campaign significant experience and expertise. “This is the start of a journey,” . “It will need sponsors and investors. What can be achieved is huge.”, Hosford said during this Summer's launch.

Only 100 sailors have succeeded in sailing single-handed non-stop around the world and no Irish sailor has yet completed the Vendée Globe. 

Team statement:

Ireland Ocean Racing (IOR) has acquired their first IMOCA 60 racing yacht, confirming their intention and commitment to competing in the IMOCA circuit, the pinnacle of solo offshore sailing.

The yacht is due to arrive in Dublin this morning (Wednesday) skippered by Cork sailor Nin O’Leary. O’Leary, an Irish sailing champion and IOR skipper, is particularly excited about the 60-foot monohull, as it demonstrates the momentum within IOR and provides a great platform to showcase Ireland’s sailing prowess internationally. “Ireland Ocean Racing is a great new sailing initiative, and I am excited about the opportunity to represent Ireland and compete in the IMOCA circuit with this boat” said O’Leary, who will be sailing the yacht into the Royal Irish Yacht Club at Dun Laoghaire from Brittany, France, on Wednesday 1st November. O’Leary, who has ambitions to compete in the 2020 Vendee Globe, and become the first Irish sailor to complete the 26,000 mile race, has established himself as a competitive skipper within the IMOCA class.

This year O’Leary has completed both the Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race onboard Alex Thomson’s IMOCA 60 HUGO BOSS.

The IOR IMOCA 60 was designed by leading naval architect Owen Clarke, and was originally constructed in New Zealand in 2006. The yacht has successfully competed in the last two editions of the Vendee Globe, most recently with American sailor Rich Wilson. IOR CEO Stewart Hosford said, “Following the launch of Ireland Ocean Racing, we have had fantastic support for the team and Nin’s offshore campaign.

The acquisition of IOR’s IMOCA 60 is a sign of our confidence in our team and our investors. We are fully confident we can produce great success both with Nin, and new up and coming Irish sailing talent, putting Ireland Ocean Racing at the forefront of offshore sailing.” The public are welcome to visit and view the new Ireland Ocean Racing IMOCA 60 at the Dun Laoghaire Marina from Wednesday 1st November.

Published in Vendee Globe
Tagged under

#VOR - Leg 1 winners Vestas 11th Hour Racing weren’t the only Volvo Ocean Race team to have an excruciating finish experience en route to Lisbon yesterday (Saturday 28 October).

When MAPFRE was within 1.5 miles of the line, they too ran out of wind and had to watch Dongfeng Race Team rush into the river behind them. With only a small lead as a buffer, the tension for Spanish fans was rising fast.

But as Vestas did before them, the MAPFRE crew found a little zephyr of wind to finish 15-minutes ahead of the Chinese team at 5.42pm Irish time.

“Very pleased with the result. It’s a solid start, exactly what we wanted. We’re very happy,” said MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández immediately after finishing. “We have to say Vestas did very well early on and we didn’t see them again… But then we had a strong 12-hours after Gibraltar and we stepped it up there.”

Dongfeng Racing Team skipper Charles Caudrelier made an excellent recovery on Leg 1 after falling to the back of the fleet on the approach to Gibraltar.

And fight they did, slowly reeling in the fleet and finally recovering to pass Team AkzoNobel with only 220 miles to go, to complete the podium at 5.57pm Irish time.

“The first 24 hours was bad,” Caudrelier said. “After that we sailed very well with good speed and good decisions and finally we managed to pass AkzoNobel to finish in third so it was a good effort by the team.”

The drama didn’t end with the podium places decided. Just over an hour later, Team AzkoNobel were forced to fend off a late charge from Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, who attempted to make the pass by sailing slightly closer to the coast. It nearly worked, too.

But in the end, Simeon Tienpont and his team grabbed fourth (finish at 7:11pm Irish time), with SHK/Scallywag settling for fifth (7:57pm Irish time).

“I’m unbelievably proud of the guys and girls on board,” Tienpont said. “I couldn’t say it enough during the leg to them… We went out with a full ‘street fight’ mentality and my compliments to all the sailors. The team morale was high and we sailed our socks off!”

“I’ve never finished like that before,” said Scallywag skipper David Witt. “We tried to get AkzoNobel by coming down the shore. It was pretty close… then we got stuck on the bottom… we had to swim an anchor out to get us off the rocks so we could drift across the finish line!

“[But] we’re really happy. We were right in there for most of it... We’re on the up. We’re getting better. Look out in a couple of legs time.”

The race for the final two positions was as intense as any that came before. Although it was a battle for sixth and seventh place, both Team Brunel and Turn The Tide on Plastic pushed as hard as possible to earn the extra point.

As with the boats in front, it was a slow-motion dance to the finish line, with Brunel gliding across in the dark, guided by America’s Cup star Peter Burling, to secure sixth place (9:29pm Irish time).

“We’re a bit frustrated,” said Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking. “We weren’t very fast. We never reached out target speeds… but we’ve been fighting hard and it was actually an enjoyable leg … The boys and the girls sailed the boat nicely right to the end.”

That left seventh place for Dee Caffari’s Turn The Tide on Plastic, with Annalise Murphy among the crew, which crossed the line a few minutes later at 9.36pm Irish time.

“I’m gutted, we came last,” Caffari laughed at the dock after the finish, when it was suggested she'd be pleased with the result. “We just had the greatest two-boat testing with Team Brunel for 200 miles, so it was fantastic.”

Leg 1 – Results – Saturday 28 October (Day 7):

  1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing -- FINISHED -- 14:08.45 UTC
  2. MAPFRE -- FINISHED -- 16:42.30 UTC
  3. Dongfeng Race Team -- FINISHED -- 16:57:48 UTC
  4. Team AkzoNobel -- FINISHED -- 18:11:56 UTC
  5. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag -- FINISHED -- 18:57:44 UTC
  6. Team Brunel -- FINISHED -- 20:29:00 UTC
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – FINISHED – 20:36:52 UTC

Volvo Ocean Race – Standings following Leg 1:

  1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing -- FINISHED -- 8 points
  2. MAPFRE -- FINISHED -- 6 points
  3. Dongfeng Race Team -- FINISHED -- 5 points
  4. Team AkzoNobel -- FINISHED -- 4 points
  5. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag -- FINISHED -- 3 points
  6. Team Brunel – 2 points
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 1 point
Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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As Afloat.ie reported, Irish sailor Damian Foxall and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing crossed the finish line in Lisbon at 1408 UTC ahead of their competitors by a few hours earning 8 points and are now the leaders of the Volvo Ocean Race. They led the 7-day race since the first night staying ahead of the other seven boats through the Strait of Gibraltar, around the island of Porto Santo, and north to Lisbon via a virtual waypoint added by the Race Committee mid-leg.

“Can’t argue with the results,” said skipper, Charlie Enright upon finishing in Lisbon. “For us, it has always been the process and improving every day. We prioritized getting the right people and this provides us with a lot of confidence. I can’t say enough about the squad on the boat and the ones on the shore.”

“To kick it off this way is a strong sentiment to the team,” added Team Director and Co-Founder, Mark Towill. “We have a long way to go for sure, and this is a great way to start the event.”

This is technically back-to-back ocean leg wins for the American duo, Enright and Towill. The pair along with their fellow US sailor, Nick Dana, won the final leg of the last edition onboard Team Alvimedica. This is the first leg win for Vestas, and for a Danish flagged boat in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The team is now in Lisbon for one week participating in outreach events with the local community, an In-Port Race, Pro-Am racing, and preparing for the 7000-mile leg to Cape Town, South Africa that starts on November 6th.

vestas tagusAfter frustration by light airs and an ebbing tide, Vestas 11th Hour Racing finally gets the power to carry her to the finish line at Lisbon, and victory in Leg 1. Photo: John Duggan

The Race to Win
Vestas 11th Hour Racing led for the majority of the 1650 nm course that took the seven teams from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal.

"We had a good leg. And that’s due to the strong shore team preparation with Chris Bedford, our meteorologist, Anderson Reggio for navigation support, and Vestas’ meteorology team. We had a plan and could be proactive instead of reactive," said Simon Fisher (SiFi), winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race as navigator.

The first night the crew took a risk by sailing close to the shoreline of southern Spain hoping for wind coming off the mountains not seen on weather forecasts. The gamble paid off as they were the first in and out of the Strait of Gibraltar, an area known for high winds, shipping traffic, and a narrow path for maneuvers.

According to SiFi, "we then got fired out of Gibraltar at 30 knots. We saw as high as 35 knots and we gybed back and forth quite a few times to stay in the pressure which is definitely exhausting for the team."

By Day 2, the sailors extended their lead 25 miles from the second place boat, but it was short-lived as it shrank to 6 miles in just a few hours, as they were the first to sail into a lighter pressure system.

"We had good scheds and bad scheds," said Charlie Enright, referring the position reports delivered to the team every six hours. "It's frustrating to see the others take a bite out of your lead."

The vexations started to wane as the crew rounded the island of Porto Santo still in the lead, and a downwind drag race ensued north to a virtual mark 250nm away. The race committee added the mark after Day 2 to extend the course to align with the intention of a 7-day leg.

After turning the virtual mark, the team continued to extend attributing their speed to the sail choice and crew work. While all the teams have the same sails onboard, it is up to the individual crews to decide which of the seven headsails are the optimal combination for varying conditions.

"We are fortunate enough to have a well-rounded crew who can jump into any position on the boat, whether that is driving, grinding, or trimming," said Team Director, Mark Towill. "That allows everyone to stay fresh and execute our navigation plan." 

"We are not talking about the finish onboard yet," said young Australian sailor, Tom Johnson just 24 hours before the finish. "No one is taking a back seat, we are just all doing our job."

The last 24 hours were tough as the crew faced shifting light winds, a traffic separation scheme that limited their navigation, and 4 miles of upwind sailing in a narrow river to the finish, but in the end the crew recognizes this is only beginning of a longer race that will take them around the world over the next 9 months.

Vestas lisbonTeam Vestas celebrate leg one victory, Damian Foxall is fourth from right Photo: Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race

Life Onboard
The first leg of the race was an exhausting all-out sprint for the team. Executing multiple maneuvers in the initial 36 hours means there little sleep for the crew. Then in the light air, the monotony of waiting for wind is a mental game the teams must push through to be ready for the next situation.

When not keeping the boat going fast, preparing food, washing dishes, and maintenance are tasks the sailors share onboard. Fresh food only lasts for the first few days; then they switch to freeze-dried meals. The crew partook in Meatless Monday, an international campaign to reduce the impact the meat industry has on the environment on the first day out at sea. "We are enjoying Mediterranean veggie pasta," said Mark Towill, "it is one simple way of lowering our carbon footprint and is part of our commitment to sustainability."

The boat also had to overcome a few systems failures onboard during the leg. A broken water pump the first day left the crew without fresh water until boat captain, Nick Dana, was able to fix the issue. He explains, "it's not like we can go out and get a new one, everything must be fixed onboard, but that's the Volvo Ocean Race." Repair and reuse is another key element of sustainable living.

Then on the evening of Day 4, skipper Charlie Enright, felt the performance of the boat "just wasn't right" so he went below only to discover a disconnected water ballast hose filled the yacht with 800 liters of water. The crew bailed the water and repaired the hose, luckily, not losing too much speed in the process.

It’s not all work onboard a Volvo Ocean 65. On the morning of Day 6, race rookie and British sailor, Hannah Diamond took a moment to soak it all in: "It's been a really nice sunrise and had a couple of pods of dolphins come past, so couldn't ask for more really."

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

Royal Cork's Mark Mansfield, the four time Olympic helmsman, dropped in on Tom Dolan in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria ahead of today's prologue in the second leg of the Mini Transat.

Regular readers will know that solo sailor Dolan, who led the first leg of the race before discovering he had made a course error, has given a sincere account of his first leg trials to Afloat.ie readers here.

Full–time sailor Mansfield, who featured on Afloat.ie recently, says 'Tom's in good form and raring to get back out there and show what he can do'. 

The race itself restarts on Wednesday with the transatlantic leg.

Published in Solo Sailing

The favourable east to southeast winds which carried the seven Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018 contenders so positively through the Straits of Gibralter and into the Atlantic are already a fading memory writes W M Nixon.

The leaders – with Vestas 11th Hour Racing still the pathfinder, and Damian Foxall in a senior crew role - are dealing this morning with the here-and-now of light headwinds, and a large area of calm which is threateningly near to their track southwestwards to the first turn at the island of Porto Santo in the Madeira group.

After that, they can head northeast to the finish of Leg 1 at Lisbon, by which time 1,450 miles will seem much longer than most crew had anticipated. Vestas’ closest challenger is the pre-race favourite Mapfre, but her challenge comes from far away as she tacks westward some distance to the northwest, with the boat actually closest on the water to the leader being AkzoNobel.

The other four boats, including Turn the Tide on Plastic with Annalise Murphy on board, are in a closely-backed group northeast of Vestas, all making between 9.5 and 10.5 knots. In her weekly diary in the Irish Times this morning, Annalise reports on her relief in finding she hasn’t been affected by seasickness, her joy in achieving even two hours of uninterrupted sleep, and the fascination of racing so closely with the other three boats nearby, thereby greatly speeding her growing awareness of what gives a Volvo Ocean 65 an extra knot or two of vital speed.

And of course she alludes to that crazy start sequence on Sunday which we featured here on Afloat.ie, when a fleet of racing boats which have cost tens of millions of Euros to build, tune and crew, found themselves making their start through a spectator fleet of mini-liners which seemed determined to risk everything by closing vital gaps in order to give their paying passengers an even more intimate view of the proceedings.

Race tracker here

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

There has been a touch of déjà vu for Round Ireland Race aficionados in watching the unfolding results of the current Rolex Middle Sea Race writes W M Nixon. As the middle part of the very depleted offshore fleet approached Valetta today, still sailing fast in a harsh nor’west wind, the names which were coming up towards the head of the leaderboard at the main markers of the course such as Pantellaria and then Lampedusa included Eric de Turkheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine III, and the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen.

We all remember Tonnere de Glen as Piet Vroon’s Tonnerre de Breskens in Wicklow, while Teasing Machine II was one of the stars of the 2016 Wicklow show. But now the new Teasing Machine III (which we previewed as one to watch on Saturday) has leapt to fame, for although the Cookson 50 Kuka 3 was in front of her coming into Valetta, the 4ft longer Teasing Machine somehow rates only 1.327 to the 1.373 of the Cookson.

kuka three2The Cookson 50 Kuka 3 (Franco Niggeler) was ahead of Teasing Machine II coming into the finish, but with her higher rating, she is now back on second overall. Kurt Arrigo

Canting keels - such as they have on Kuka 3 - should of course cause an adverse effect on rating. But Teasing Machine seems to have the rating edge on just about everything comparable. Messrs Nivelt and Muratet clearly know their stuff, for this is some new boat, to have come through what even the toughies have described as a “seriously gnarly race”, and now she’s sitting this evening on a 36 minute overall lead.

Boats still at sea could yet topple her, including the 2012 Swan 53 Music from South Africa and the X44p XP-ACT aboard which Barry Hurley and Shane Diviney are sailing fast for the finish. But with night now well down in Malta, things are looking quite good for the popular Baron de Turkheim’s new boat.

Meanwhile, Dominique Tien’s Tonnerre de Glen shows up on the tracker as being snug in Valetta too. But her name doesn’t appear anywhere - not anywhere at all - on the current results list. That’s something for the morning.

leopard maxi3“A seriously gnarly race” – if it was like this for the hundred foot Leopard, it boggles the mind to imagine the situation for the smallest boats. Photo: Kurt Arrigo

Published in Offshore

Tom Dolan has had a good rest and recharge after ten and a half tough days at sea during the first stage of the 2017 Mini–Transat. Here he gives a short rundown of how things went with some video from his onboard camera too.

I'm still a bit guilt ridden about making such a stupid mistake at the beginning. Some of you may be wondering exactly what happened: They set up a gate for us to sail through before heading out to sea just to regroup the fleet one last time for photo's, sponsors etc. As the weather for the start was forecast to be foggy they moved the gate at the last minute. They did not tell us in the briefing but simply added it to the amendment to the racing instructions and in the rush of the start and my head being elsewhere I never noticed the line about the start gate.

An hour after the start my buddy Pierre called me on the vhf to say I hadn't passed the gate. This threw me into a daze of confusion as the GPS was telling me that the gate was another 2 miles ahead. As there was very thick fog I hadn't seen the two black buoys that everyone had passed. I knew I was very far left, but had planned it to catch the outgoing tide around Ile d'Oileron, so I actually thought I was doing very well. Once I rushed below and pulled out the amendment to the race instructions I read the line stating it had been moved and my stomach sank.

After two years of preparing for this, the months spent working on the boat, the hours spent on trains to Paris and planes to Dublin, the miles of deliveries between Lorient and Concarneau and the long nights spent squinting in front of the computer screen preparing presentations and proposals and it only took me one hour and one line on a piece of paper to mess it all up.

I then had to sail back towards La Rochelle under spinnaker while the others where en route towards Cape Finistere. Once I had rounded the way-point of where the gate had been (the gate wasn't even there any more!) there were 10 miles between me and the lead group. For the next two days I struggled to sleep due to the guilt mixed with the urge to catch up to the lead group, with whom I have battled all season.,

I thought a lot about everyone who has helped me with this project and about all of those who had made the trip to La Rochelle just for me, how I had let them down and how I wanted to do well for them. The intensity of these first days allowed me to work quickly back up the fleet, but also threw my routine completely off. The important part of this leg was to arrive at Cape Finistere fresh and rested, I had made a good comeback but at a price.

By the time the wind and sea picked up and we passed the TSS, the lack of sleep meant I was completely "In the red" as we say, I didn't know where I was and I started seeing things, I usually manage my sleep very well, but this had thrown it completely off kilter. The fatigue resulted in me taking my foot off the throttle, I struggled to make decisions and it cost me miles.

The first sleep came after the Traffic Separation Scheme, in about 25 + knots screaming down waves at up to 15 knots, I think it was the relief of being away from the coast, clear of the TSS and on flatter sea which allowed me sleep. The boat screamed along as I snored in symphony! Once I woke things started to go better, I had created a massive lateral split taking quite a risk but it paid off, the wind shifted 20° to the right to NE and as I was the furthest west it was Christmas!

The middle part of the race went quite well. We enjoyed typical trade wind sailing, without the squalls and I had managed to work myself from last place up to the top ten. I was back in the match and it was fun, I aimed for a western route as the forecasts were telling us that there would be more wind in the west, as we would round a weak low pressure system over Portugal and have a good angle for the weak NE winds forecast over the Canaries, generated by a Low pressure system over the West African continent.

However the weather for the final part of the race wasn't to be so simple. Two huge but very weak areas of low pressure descended over the Canaries and it was a lottery about who they let through. I found myself in the lead of a group of 5 or 6 boats and things looked good for finishing at least in the top ten, and perhaps not too far from the podium. Two nights in a row we played lottery in the flukey winds and two nights in a row I lost.

The first of these nights I sailed into a hole with no wind, and the following boats just sailed around me (they could see on the AIS that I was stopped.) That night I lost 4 places. Then the next night was the most heart breaking. The same group who had managed to pass me and were just 3 miles to the west of me sailed off at 4 knots while I was stuck at zero, drifting with the current for 6 hours. That night cost me 15 miles. If everyone is stuck in a whole it's okay but when your the only one stuck and your competitors gently sail away it becomes unbearable.

The western route that we had taken meant that we had more ground to cover in what we have named the "Mistoufle", the newly created maritime word for a windless lottery. In the end those who played the eastern card won the gamble.

This is an intense sport, we deal with more highs and more lows, more moments of desolation and elation in three days at sea than we would in a year on land. We must assume our mistakes in their entirety without having anyone to turn to, anyone but ourselves to blame. We all live around a motto to which we turn to in the most difficult of times, "ne rien lacher", or "never give up". It may sound cringey and to be honest it is but the simple fact is that you are on your own, in the middle of the ocean and you have no choice but to continue. And when the time comes that things turn in your favor it is all the more rewarding, and this is the beauty of this sport.

So now it is time to put my brain into goldfish mode, like tennis players do, and to think only of the second leg. To think of it as a new start, a new race and hopefully at the end I will manage to scrape back enough time on the others to achieve the correct result that I hope so much for and I owe to so many of you,

Thank you so much again for the support, I am back in county Meath for a few days rest then back to the Canaries on the 25th.

Published in Solo Sailing
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