Criterion Round Britain and Ireland Race - Day 3

Wednesday 23 August 2000, 1700

Wednesday August 23rd 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The attention in the Criterion Round Britain and Ireland is finally switching to the racing, as the spate of early retirements has halted. To bring you up-to-date on those boats whose fate we were unsure of at the last report, Predator of Wight has reached Kinsale and is understood to have retired. But Water Music IV, the Nicholson 49 being sailed double-handed by Chris Preston and Rob Gray, has managed to continue. They have a steering failure and have reverted to the emergency system.

At the last set of position reports Water Music IV was in a group of three boats off the south-west tip of Ireland, centred around the entrance to Dingle Bay. With her is Aquadance, the Sigma 38 of John Oldland, and Stealth, the Diva 39 of Tim Wright. Detached from this group and on her own in the Irish Sea is the Hustler SJ35 of Richard Houghton, Act of Defiance.

For a map of the latest positions, click here.

Meanwhile, the front of the fleet is now racing up the west coast of Ireland, and at the latest reports, there was a group of three boats all on the same track, storming up past Erris Head. Alex Thomson and his Open 50 crew are just trailing Mike Butterfield’s 15 metre Dazcat. Behind them but holding her own is the Corby 45, Incisor of Wight. Chris Bull and his crew aboard the Prima 38, Primadonna were also putting in a strong performance, being half-way between the leading and the second groups.

It’s Emma Richards and Miranda Merron aboard Pindar that have chosen an alternative route, and they are some distance offshore, and just a little further south than the other leaders. They have reported quite an eventful night, although the breeze did ease in the early morning as they got to the west of Ireland and into some shelter from the easterly gale. They had previously dropped the mainsail in the 40 knot breeze, having recorded three Chinese gybes and four broaches before deciding enough was enough. But having the mainsail on the deck gave them the chance to repair a couple of battens. By 07.06 this morning, the wind was all the way down to 15-18 knots, and there’s more of this to come.

The low pressure that has been driving the race weather pattern since the start has subsided to the south of the racing fleet, and is now slowly filling. Ahead of them, between the tip of Ireland and the tip of Scotland, is a ridge of high pressure that stretches all the way from the mid-Atlantic to Britain. This is forecast to form itself into a high pressure centred over Scotland during the next 24 hours. That means much lighter, shiftier breeze, down to five-to-eight knots, and a tactically demanding section until they get north of Scotland. Once up there, the fleet should meet the low pressure system that the maxi-cat, PlayStation, is using to try and break the west-to-east Atlantic record.

The strategic requirement is to cross the high pressure ridge and get to the new breeze coming from the west, which will be shifted round to blow from the south-west. It looks like this is why Richards and Merron have headed offshore, to pick up the breeze first, and stay out of the worst of the light conditions in the high pressure. We’ll see if they stick with the plan, despite the increasing separation between them and the other leaders, tomorrow. And then we’ll see if it works.

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