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Day 4 2100: The lonely island of Inishtrahull beyond Malin Head marks the most northerly point of the Volvo Round Ireland Race writes W M Nixon. Or rather, some unmarked rocks strung out beyond Inishtrahull are the ultimate marks of the course. It’s a messy tide-riven sort of place where you wouldn’t want to linger unless visiting Inishtrahull itself. So it’s always a source of satisfaction to put the rocks of Inihstrahull astern as fast as possible when racing towards that distant finish line in Wicklow.

Yet despite its exposed nature, it’s surprising how often Inishtrahull has served up an unexpected little area of calm during the biennial circuit of Ireland. Or maybe because it’s so unexpected that the times it has occurred loomed unnaturally large in the memory. But Inishtrahull did very definitely serve up a little bit of local calm, and then some, this evening.

To the westward, boats were sailing merrily along towards Inishtrahull, well pleased with having put Tory Island and the west coast astern. And to the eastward, other boats were likewise sailing briskly, in their case towards Rathlin Island and the many imponderables of the North Channel beyond it. But at Inishtrahull, there were two or three boats going nowhere.

And one of those registering just about zero knots was Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 1080 Rockabill, at the time carrying Ireland’s best hopes for an overall podium place. Having been moving along very satisfactorily with a 40 mile gap ahead of the next boat in Class 3, Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks, suddenly Rockabill’s fine lead was evaporating fast. Lines of communication buzzed, and it was assumed she’d got hooked up on the lobster pot line. Indeed, there were reflections on just how hooked up a twin-rudder boat could get in twisting and turning to get free. But as it became clear that other boats were running into the Great Glass Wall of Inishtrahull and coming to a stop, it became a matter of waiting on tenterhooks until Ireland’s best hope got moving again.

It was more than a little calm, for when those Rockabill numbers started to go up again, Euro Car Parks had knocked almost twenty miles off the Rockabill lead. But despite the JPK rating 1.046 to the 1.016 of the J/109, Rockabill continues to lead Class 3, but her place on the podium has slipped for now, she’s back in fifth overall.

Beneteau Lisa

However, it’s still Ireland at third overall, as RORC Commodore Michael Boyd’s First 44.7 Lisa (above) has sailed into the breach, while fourth place is now held by Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 Groupe 5, though only by a small margin ahead of Rockabill.

So there’s all to play for as they close in to the North Channel with the tide sluicing in their favour until the small hours. And out at the other southeast end of that same perverse bit of water, Eric de Turckheim’s A13 Teasing Machine is continuing to give a Master’s course in tactics as she deal with the challenge of beating all the 90 miles from the South Rock Light to Wicklow with a wind which is forecast to veer a little, but then back again.

In anticipation of the veer, de Turckheim’s crew have been slugging along to the southwest, and are currently about three miles off the little port of Annalong in the Mourne Mountains, making 7.4 knots on a heading of 224.05. Or at least that’s how it was with the 2030 fix. We might expect a tack before the 2100 position check. But you never know, maybe there is a reason why she’s called Teasing Machine after all.

Regardless of when she tacks, tomorrow will have dawned and be well on its way by the time Teasing Machine gets to Wicklow. So Rambler 88’s overall win is increasingly secure.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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Day 4 2000: The latest retiral from the 64–boat Volvo Round Ireland Race fleet is the two handed Foynes Yacht Club entry Big Deal. The Father and son team of Derek and Conor Dillon retired in to port of Fenit in County Kerry this morning after issues with sails on their Dehler 34 sponsored by Union Chandlery. The sole Foynes entry was the Class 4 leader last Saturday night. The 14 retirals confirmed to date are as follows:

  • Sun 12.30 Trilogic retired and returning to Dunlaoghaire – Gear sail problems
  • Sun 15.33 Xanadu retired to Kinsale – reason not specified
  • Sun 16,26 Medicare First Aid retired to Ballycotton – reason not specified
  • Sun 17.08 Andante retired to Dunmore East – reason not specified
  • Sun 17.07 Port of Galway retired to Crosshaven – Crew ill but nothing serious.
  • Sun 18.01 Applegreen Sail for Kids retired to Crosshaven – Gear problems
  • Sun 18.10 Denebola retired to Waterford – Autohelm damage
  • Sun 18.14 Desperado of Cowes retiring to Kinsale – Sail damage
  • Sun 18.40 Concise8 retiring to Crosshaven – reason not stated
  • Sun 20.27 May Contain Nuts retiring to Crosshaven – reason not stated
  • Sun 20.46 Fulmar Fever retiring to Dunmore East – reason not stated.
  • Mon 04:40 Tanit retiring to Cork - nothing serious
  • Mon 08:20 Quid Non retiring gear failure inner forestay- gone to Kinsale
  • Tue 07:40 Big Deal retiring to Fenit - Sails issues

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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Irish sailing was well represented in the sprint of the MOD 70s to new records yesterday in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016, with Damian Foxall on board the first-to-finish Musandam-Oman, while Justin Slattery was only minutes away aboard Phaedo 3 writes W M Nixon. Yet oddly enough, as they have made their careers on the international stage, both of them were Round Ireland newbies. There’s nothing like starting at the top…

Admittedly the green jersey was absent from the new mono-hull record setter, the American Rambler 88, but we can take great encouragement from the showing by our boats in most of the IRC Divisions, with Class 3 in particular currently seeing a clean sweep as they race along the north coast.

Leading the class in some style – and lying third overall behind Rambler 88 and Eric de Turckheim’s Teasing Machine – is Paul O’Higgins’ very new JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI (RIYC), which was passing Inishtrahull at today’s 1630hrs position fix. This remarkable twin-rudder French design is proving to be such a consistently good performer in major events that she poses a problem for potential owners. Put bluntly, if you get a JPK 10.80 and don’t win races, then where are you going wrong?

Be that as it may, with a crew of all the talents built around Mark Pettit and Brian Mathews, Rockabill VI is going almost embarrassingly well, as any other boats around her are significantly larger, and the second-placed boat in Class 3 – Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks – is well astern off the east end of Tory Island. Nevertheless the Cullen boat has a massive lead on all the other J/109s, so her distant second in class is not so much a reflection on her own performance, rather it’s a reinforcement of the impression that the JPK 10.80 is in a league of her own.

IMG 1055

Third in IRC 3 is Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam!, (pictured above) which has certainly had her ups and downs in this tough race, but as we write she is sweeping past Bloody Foreland at a crisp 8 knots, shaping up to gybe for the west end of Tory Island.

In the overall rankings for Irish contenders, RORC Commodore Michael Boyd (RIYC) is next best after Rockabill VI, as his First 44.7 Lisa is fourth overall and second in Class 1 behind Teasing Machine, while Euro Car Parks is sixth OA, and Alan Hannon’s Reichel Pugh 45 Katsu is 7th.

Next up on the overall leaderboard for Ireland is Stephen Quinn’s little J/97 Lambay Rules at 10th, and she also lies second in Class 4 behind Patrice Carpentier’s Sunfast 3200 Groupe 5 from France. Carpentier is putting in a fantastic showing, as he is in the Two-Handed Division, which he now leads from Michel Kleinjan’s Open 40 Roaring Forty 2, with Ireland’s top representatives being Liam Coyne and Brian Flahive in the First 36.7 Lula Belle at fifth (pictured below).


All of these boats are still sailing in the lee of the land in southerly breezes along the north coast, although as anyone who has done the Round Ireland will readily affirm, being in the lee of the land does not necessarily prevent the North Coast from being one very restless bit of water.

But the larger leaders of the main pack of boats are now bashing their way into the Irish Sea, after battling with a foul ebb tide in the North Channel for the last five hours. Admittedly when the new flood starts to make at around 1900hrs, it will kick up a steep sea if the southerly wind stays at its current fresh level, but meanwhile during the north-going ebb, it has been a joy to watch the tactics of Eric de Turckheim’s Teasing Machine as she rock-hopped her way close inshore down the County Down coast to minimize the effects of the adverse stream.

On Saturday evening in the early stages of the race, she did exactly the same thing successfully along the Wexford coast from Cahore Point southwards. So having observed this latest bit of neat tide dodging, we can only assume that the French navigator aboard the de Turckheim boat once upon a time cruised the Irish coast in a very small boat, and learned that getting in out of the worst of the tide can make a great difference to progress.

Whatever way these skills were learned, Teasing Machine had just passed the South Rock Light at the 1700hrs position fix, and she now has less than 90 miles to go to the finish, whioe her neresty challenger, the Open 50 Pegasus, is over towards the isle of Man and a mile or two further from the finish.

But unlike Rambler 88 which was able to lay the course, today’s backing of the wind makes it almost inevitable that Teasing Machine and Pegasus are going to have to beat every inch of the way to Wicklow. As we wait for that arrival, there seems to be one inescapable message which boat owners can draw from the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016. If you want to do well in the big time offshore races these days, get a second rudder.

IRC overall leader Rambler 88 is twin rudder configuration. So too is Teasing Machine in second overall. And it’s just the same with Rockabill VI in third.

There it is, folks. Old-fashioned single centre-line rudders are just sooooo yesterday…

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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Day four noon: They talk of tidal gates at various stages of the Volvo Round Ireland Race, but in those narrow seas between Ireland and Scotland which are the North Channel, for smaller craft the tides can be a complete four hour barrier during the peak periods of the adverse stream.

High Water Belfast today is 1233 hrs, and with the “Strawberry Moon” of the Summer Solstice, it’s quite a big tide which will start ebbing northward with increasing vigour through lunchtime.

North Channel

The battle for first on the water among the “real” fleet went on between Teasing Machine and the two-handed Open 50 Pegasus of Northumberland right through the night and morning, with the larger Pegasus finally getting ahead as they came past Inishtrahull. As of now off Belfast Lough in a south to southwest breeze, the pair of them have to face the imminent bigger challenge of uphill sailing against the tide for the next 20 miles to the South Rock Light off the County Down Coast, where they start to get into the open and less tidal waters of the Irish Sea.

The 12 noon positions from Yellowbrick show that after a stab southwestward which hinted at eventual tide-dodging in Belfast Lough, Teasing Machine is back on starboard and making 6.7 knots, while Ross Hobson and Chris Briggs on Pegasus are taking it on the chin by slugging along southeastwadrs on port tack at mid-Channel. They’re now a dozen miles seaward of Portpatrick on the Scottish coast and making 8.7knots, and though they’re only a mile nearer the finish at Wicklow, that’s a mile which could be crucial as the adverse tidal heave gains full power.

Roaring Forty 2

A dozen miles astern of the two leaders, Michel Kleinjans Open 40 Roaring Forty 2 (pictured above) has taken the option of inclining to the east towards the broad mouth of the lower Firth of Clyde, and her current speed of 8.1 knots is encouraging, while back towards the northeast turn at Rathlin Island, Alan Hannon’s Reichel-Pugh 45 Katsu has taken full advantage of the fierce flood tide past Tor Head while it was still in full flow, and as of noon she was still in almost full benefit of it with 9.6 knots over the ground, keeping her third in IRC 1 and 5th in IRC Overall.

On down the line, Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill IV was four miles past Tory Island at noon, and she may make gains on those ahead, as she won’t start to feel the adverse tide until she gets to Inishtrahull, when she’ll already be anticipating new new favourable flood. She continues first in IRC 3, is third in IRC Overall, and is now a remarkable 42 miles ahead of Euro Car Parks which continues second in IRC 3.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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Day3 2030 Today has seen surfeit of drama at Wicklow writes W M Nixon, and all of it with a happy ending. The new day dawned to find the three MOD 70s had finished the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 in record time within minutes of each other. And then in mid-afternoon there came the almost clinical arrival of Rambler 88, with another new record and a chance of the monohull treble.

In the circumstances, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking the steam has gone out of the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016. But a casual observer has never experienced the true enthusiasm which racing round Ireland in any boat large or small, famous or unknown, can engender in its addicts.

For sure, the many boats now racing along our magnificent Atlantic seaboard will be well aware that the MOD 70s and Rambler 88 are home and dry. Yet far from seeing these as the central stage events, with themselves on the periphery, they see it absolutely the other way around. For them, today’s events at Wicklow are interesting but incidental. The real scene of the action is aboard their own boat, and any other closely competing boats in the same area. What really matters is when they get to Wicklow, not who is already there.

Open 50 Pegasus of Northumberland

With a fleet of this size, there are races a-plenty, and one of the most interesting is off the coast of Donegal at the front of the main portion of the fleet. There, Eric de Turckheim’s A13 Teasing Machine continues to stave off the challenge to lead the fleet against the larger Open 50 Pegasus of Northumberland (Ross Hobson) pictured above, a canting-keel machine of enormous potential, but she needs an awful lot of sailing.

So too does Teasing Machine, but her crew know her inside out, and they have major trophies from events as diverse as the Fastnet and Sydney-Hobart to prove it. Thus they have been at peak performance since the very start of the race, whereas with other crews it has been evident that it is only as the race progresses that they get to grips with their boat’s true potential.

One of the boats which has emerged from the pack as this process continues is Alan Hannon’s Reichel-Pugh 45 Katsu, which has a strong Lough Swilly YC element in her crew, so maybe it was the prospect of nearing home waters in Donegal which has spurred them on. But whatever it is, through today Katsu has been notably lengthening away from boats with which she had been merely pacing in the early stages of the race.


Another boat improving by leaps and bounds is Paul O’Higgins’ brand new JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI pictured above. She’s barely out of the wrappers, but with a fresh crew of such talents as Mark Pettit and Brian Mathews aboard, Rockabill VI is a boat whose performance is being transformed before our very eyes, and she is giving her classmates a hard time.


In fact, there’s quite a battle developing off the coast of Connacht tonight, as the talent aboard Rockabill VI has been taking it out to the extent of 12 miles on Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks, where the rock stars include Mark Mansfield and Maurice “Prof” O’Connell (pictured above). For true Round Ireland aficionados, this duel for the honour of Class 3 is every bit as absorbing as the likes of Rambler 88 and Musandam-Oman doing their thing.


With the bulk of the fleet now sailing with sheets freed, boats of downwind renown are starting to put their heads above the parapet, and Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam!, (above) class winner in the RORC Caribbean back in February, is figuring more frequently towards the top of the leaderboards.

Roaring Forty 2

As for remarkable perfornances, one of the most startling of all is being put in by Belgium’s Michael Kleinjans with his Open 40 Roaring Forty 2 pictured above. Quite a few years ago now, he set the round Ireland single-handed record. Today, however, that achievement is only talked of furtively, for it was barely legal at the time, and isn’t at all legal now. But with Ian Witteverongel as crew, he’s on the right side of the law, and Roaring Forty 2 seems to be on the right side of everything else, for even with just the two of them on board, they’re third overall on IRC, and of course they’re out of sight at the head of the Two-handed Division, while also leading the Open 40s.

As of 2030 hours this Monday night, this Mid-summer Night, Roaring Forty 2 and her gallant duo still have 290 miles to race to Wicklow. But they’re keeping at it, snapping at the heels of Teasing Machine and Pegasus as they close in on Tory Island.

They’re racing as though getting Roaring Forty 2 to Wicklow just as quickly as possible is currently the most important thing in the world.

Which, for her crew of two, it is.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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The progress of George David’s Rambler 88 down the North Channel and the Irish Sea today has been remorseless, with the big silver boat ticking off waypoints like an express train closely on schedule writes W M Nixon. With the ebb tide helping her for the final stages, she was registered as crossing the finish line at 15-24-09, which means she has gone round Ireland in 2 days 2 hours 24 minutes and 9 seconds, which is one beautiful bit of sailing.

It means she has wiped out both the 2 days 17 hours race record of Mike Slade’s 100ft Leopard from 2008, and the open record of 2 days and 9 hours time set by Jean-Philippe Chomette’s CityJet/Solene in 2006. While the former had always been seen as eminently beatable, the latter was seen as pitching it a bit high. But with around 7 hours chopped off it, there’s just no questioning the quality of this showing.

The performance potential of the new generation of big canting keeled boats means everyone will have to re-configure their notions of what’s possible, as the fact that Rambler was beating virtually the whole way from Wicklow to the Fastnet Rock was comfortably offset by finding that once she’d freed sheets beyond the Fastnet, she was away like an express train.


Then too, the wind held up, and as the vid shot by Ryan Wilson off Larne at 0630 this morning shows, so long as it’s not verging on flat calm, Rambler 88 is capable of more-than-respectable speeds in modest breezes. But even so, the skills required to keep a boat of this calibre at peak performance are way beyond the imagination of most sailors. Yet from the moment Rambler 88 made that utterly brilliant start on Saturday, finding her way through a melee of confused smaller boats, we knew we were looking at something very exceptional.

But now, the south to west winds have been blowing for two days and more. And despite yesterday’s vile weather, it is still definitely June – indeed, tonight is the shortest night of the year. Thus the chances of prolonged periods of calm are increasing with every passing hour. All of which means that though the rest of the monohull fleet are still bustling along the west coast, the chances of them getting hung up by tidal gates and windless areas between Tory Island and Wicklow are growing all the time. Which in turn means that the chances of Rambler 88 taking the mighty mono-hull treble of a new record, line honours, and the overall win on IRC are increasing by the hour. Sailing history might well be in the making.

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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Day 3 15.30: The smaller boats in the Volvo Round Ireland had a stressful time last night and through this morning off the southwest coast writes W M Nixon. With the veering and fading wind around them putting the bigger boats even further ahead in their stronger westerly breeze, the little ’uns, having had quite a struggle to get past the Fastnet, found themselves getting headed off into the mighty bays of the West Cork and Kerry coastlines.

To add to their woes, they were having the greatest difficulty making reasonable knots to windward in the leftover sea from Sunday’s blow. Two examples perfectly illustrate the divisions of fortune. At 0400 hours this morning, Eric de Turckheim’s splendid A13 Teasing Machine (below) was far north of the Dingle Peninsula, on track and making a steady 10.8 knots towards Connacht.

teasing machine

But at the same time, as daylight came on, Dave Cullen’s J/109 Euro Car Parks, formerly in the top three overall on IRC behind Rambler 88 and Teasing Machine, had been headed into the mouth of Bantry Bay. She found herself coming in on the coast of Beara well east of Dursey Head, and there was nothing for it but to take a tack and beat west at a paltry 3.8 knots.

IMG 1188

One small consolation for the Euro Car Parks crew is that regardless of how they’re doing relative to the bigger boats, they still lead the significant flotilla of J/109s, the next in line being Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox). But when you’ve been part of the big picture for a significant part of the race, this is small consolation indeed.

Fast forward to 1530hrs, and Euro Car Parks and those about her have struggled free of the clutches of the great rias of the southwest, the Blaskets are now astern and they’re on course. A further veering of the winds from the westerly arc means they’re happy enough to be logging 7.7 knots in the right direction, but after the frustrations of the night and morning, they’re starting to pick up places again, having in the past few minutes moved back up to 7th overall and 2nd in IRC 3.

IMG 1020

But by now, and very far ahead, Teasing Machine has freed her course 15 degrees after putting Eagle Island at the northwest tip of Mayo astern astern, and as of 1530 she was logging 11.5 knots. She went so well through the night and morning in improving weather that she still leads on the water from boats like the nearby Open 50 Pegasus of Northumberland (Ross Hobson) and the winning Open 40 Roaring Forty 2 (Michel Kleinjans) above, which is back at Black Rock.

IMG 1004

Nevertheless Roaring Forty 2’s performance relative to the fleet and her near-sisters means that she lies third overall on IRC, behind only Rambler and Teasing Machine. And those bigger boats which managed to get away that little bit earlier from the clutches of Beara have also done well, as Michael Boyd’s First 44.7 Lisa (above) lies fourth overall while Alan Hannon’s Reichel-Pugh 45 Katsu (below) is fifth.

IMG 0930

The JPK 10.80 is such a unique boat that we still can’t decide whether she’s one of the smaller boats, or really comes under a bigger category. Whatever, Paul O’Higgins new Rockabill VI, skippered by Mark Pettit, has been going well, as she lies sixth overall.

With the mighty Rambler 88 finishing at Wicklow as we write this, it’s clear there’s going to be a prodigious spread of times, corrected or otherwise. Current class placings are now:

Overall: 1st Rambler 88, 2nd Teasing Machine, 3rd Roaring Forty 2, 4th Lisa, 5th Katsu, 6th Rockabill VI.

IRC 1: 1st Teasing Machine, 2nd Lisa, 3rd Katsu

IRC 2: 1st Sarabande (Robert Mabley), 2nd Aurelia (Chris & Patanne Power Smith), 3rd Team Fujitsu (Donal Ryan)

IRC 3 1st Rockabill VI, 2nd Euro Car Parks, 3rd Mojito

IRC 4 1st Groupe 5 (Patrice Carpentier), 2nd Lambay Rules (Stephen Quinn), 3rd Adelie (Peter Hall & Noel Butler)

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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#RNLI - Wicklow RNLI's all-weather lifeboat launched yesterday afternoon (Sunday 19 June) to a solo sailor in distress six miles off the Wicklow coast.

A marine VHF radio distress signal was received by the Irish Coast Guard from the French sailor on passage from France to Norway, when the twin rudder of his yacht suffered damaged and he was unable to steer the vessel.

The lifeboat was alongside the casualty 30 minutes after launch. Rescue 116, the Dublin-based coastguard helicopter was also tasked to the incident, remaining overhead while lifeboat volunteer Ciaran Doyle was transferred onto the yacht to assist the sailor with hauling an anchor and preparing a towline.

Weather conditions at the time had a rough sea state with a southerly Force 5-6 wind and good visibility.

With a towline established, the 10m yacht was taken back to Wicklow Harbour. Due to the conditions at the time, the journey took over 90 minutes as the line parted on three occasions.

The yacht was safely alongside the south quay at 5pm on Sunday evening.

Speaking after the callout, Wicklow RNLI lifeboat press officer Tommy Dover said: "Our coxswain Nick Keogh displayed great boat handling skills this afternoon in challenging conditions, while safely transferring a crewmember onto the yacht to assist the lone sailor."

This was the second callout over the weekend. On Saturday morning (18 June), during the Round Ireland Yacht Race, Wicklow RNLI helm Vinnie Mulvihill was busy preparing the inshore lifeboat for exercise when he heard shouts that someone was in the water near the East Pier.

Quick-thinking Mulvihill left the boat and entered the water to assist the woman after she slipped and fell in while going ashore from a moored boat.

Wicklow RNLI VinnieMulvihill19062016

Woman rescued by Wicklow RNLI after she slipped into the harbour (Photo: RNLI/Milo Vanbeck)

He brought the women alongside a nearby boat and with the help of the occupants, she was taken out of the water and assessed at the lifeboat station by first aider Carol Flahive.

No further medical assistance was required and the woman left the station none the worse from her ordeal after a cup of tea and changing into dry clothes.

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Day 3 1200hrs You lose a major record on one side of the Atlantic one day, so you simply establish a new one on the other side of the ocean the next afternoon. That’s the way it is with the irrepressible George David of Rambler 88 writes W M Nixon

Yesterday in Bermuda, Jim and Kristy Clark’s 100ft Comanche, skippered by Kenny Read with the legendary Stan Honey calling the tactical and weather shots, knocked a clear five hours off the course record for the classic biennial Newport-Bermuda Race. That record had been established in the race of 2012 by George David with his veteran 90ft Rambler, to which he had returned for his campaigning after his newer Rambler 100 had exited the David racing scene when her keel broke off in the 2011 Fastnet Race.

Rambler 100 has since re-appeared under new ownership as Investec Loyal in Australia. But even while he was campaigning again in Rambler 90, George David and designer Juan K were planning the perfect boat, Rambler 88, and for two years and more now, she has been an adornment and a force to be reckoned with on the international offshore racing scene.

But with the keel crunch of 2011, George David felt he still had issues for his new Rambler 88 both with the Fastnet Race itself – which he duly completed in 2015, but it wasn’t a big boat race – and with Ireland too, issues which could best be dealt with by a full-hearted participation in the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016.

Full-hearted with George David makes most other efforts look faint-hearted. For as of 1215hrs today, Rambler 88 is coming down the Irish Sea with just 46 miles to go to the finish at Wicklow, she’s on course in a moderate westerly breeze with 15 knots on the clock, and with the south-going ebb starting to make early in the afternoon from Rockabill southwards, she is well on track to beat Jean-Philippe Chomette’s 2006 open mono-hull record of 2 days 9 hrs and 41 minutes, while at the same time completely blowing away Mike Slade’s race course of 2 days 17 hours and 48 minutes set in the Round Ireland Race of 2008 by the 100ft Leopard.

The only thing missed is the two day record, which will expire with Rambler still at sea at 1300hrs today. But in the bigger picture, Rambler’s achievement is put into an even grander perspective when it’s remembered that she is also currently leading IRC overall in the Volvo Round Ireland Race. While they may make spectacular appearance to take line honours in major events it’s extremely unusual for the stratospherically-rated canting keel maxis to win on IRC handicap, so if Rambler 88 manages it this time round, we’ll have history made at least three times over.

Meanwhile in Bermuda Kenny Read has been enthusing how it was Stan Honey’s advice which enabled Caomanche to show her full potential and establish this new Bermuda Race record in what had been “champagne sailing” throughout. Quite. “Champagne sailing” is not a term which would spring readily to mind in describing conditions in the Volvo Round Ireland 2016. On the contrary, “Guinness sailing” might be more appropriate, as it has been often dark and murky with inevitable froth on top.

In an hour or so, we’ll be having a roundup of how it is for the rest of the fleet still off the west and southwest coasts. But for now – go Rambler!

See Round Ireland tracker here and keep to up to date with the fleet's progress with Afloat's regular Round Ireland 2016 updates here

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Arriving back in Wicklow Bay, after a thrilling contest with the other MOD70s, Phaedo and Concise, for most of the 700 nautical Volvo Round Ireland mile course, Sidney Gavignet’s crew were exhausted but exhilarated by their victory and the new record, which they had set themselves last year beating Steve Fossett’s longstanding Lakota record from 1993.

They crossed the finish line at 03:47 local time as dawn was breaking after setting a new time of 38 hours 37 minutes and 7 seconds, which was more than two hours faster than their previous time of 40 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds set last year.

Racing with just six crew, including Oman’s three leading offshore sailors Fahad Al Hasni, Yasir Al Rahbi and Sami Al Shukaili, Musandam-Oman Sail claimed line honours while Phaedo 3 were hot on their heels and arrived six minutes later with the third MOD70, Concise 10 trailing by a single minute.

The final few moments turned their race upside down, said Gavignet, since for most of the time, they had been chasing the other boats until an opportunity came up to take the lead less than a mile from the end.

“It feels fantastic because at times we were slower than the other boats and I was thinking we might finish last and lose our record but a few minutes before the finish we had a bit of luck and were close enough to the others to take advantage.

“The guys showed real commitment – we had no watch system so didn’t sleep much and didn’t use the bunks to keep more weight at the back so they were sleeping on the floor and on wet sail bags. They have been grinding a lot and worked really hard so they are exhausted but happy.”

It had been without question the most demanding race he had ever done, added Irishman Damian Foxall as he stepped off the boat, but coming out on top represented a new high in his long career. See Damian's pre–race video interview here.

“I have done a few round the world races but this was up there as one of the best,” he said.

“Racing with six meant one or two less than the other boats so we only had one hours sleep each at the most but being so close to the other boats was so motivating and intense.

“We knew at times we were off the pace but we kept pushing hard and found opportunities to come back into the race. There was a reasonable chance we were going to lose our record so Sidney was fairly tight-lipped coming down the east coast but it is very satisfying to win AND set a new record because this race is not for the faint hearted.”

Al Hasni, who shared helming duties with Gavignet and Foxall agreed it had been tiring but rewarding.

“We are really happy with this result; it makes me very proud to raise the Omani flag in Ireland for the second time with this world record - we dedicate our win to the Sultanate of Oman.

"In the last few miles, we were aware that there were potential passing lanes near the coast so we moved into position which worked and we were able to gain the advantage when it mattered most.

“It was really hard and we thought we had missed our opportunity but those last few minutes turned it round so we are very happy.”

David Graham, Oman Sail CEO, was delighted with the team's performance: "This was one of the most difficult challenges that the guys on Musandam-Oman Sail have faced, I could hear the smile on Fahad's face when he answered the satellite phone when I called them as they crossed the finish line to congratulate the team on both the victory and the record.

"We are especially pleased that Fahad, Yasir and Sami are an integral part of the race crew for a second Round Ireland Record - the team has been working hard and it is great to see their efforts pay off. This experience and success is key to their pathway. They had world class mentors on board with Sidney, Damian and Jean Luc [Nelias] and it all worked to deliver our desired result."

The crew will return to training immediately after food and sleep in preparation for the delivery to Quebec, Canada, where they will set off on the Transat Quebec – St Malo Race across the Atlantic on July 10, returning to Europe for an action-packed summer season of events.

Published in Round Ireland
Tagged under
Page 7 of 22

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