Criterion Round Britain and Ireland Race – Day 11

Thursday 31st August 2000, 1130 by Mark Chisnell

Thursday August 31st 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
Pipped at the post - a cliché, but still one that describes the experience of Alex Thomson and his crew aboard the Open 50. Having led virtually the whole way round, they were run down by the fast improving Dazzler in the final miles to the finish.

For a map of the latest positions, click here.

It was dawn yesterday morning that Thomson realised he had a real fight on his hands. Run down by the chasing pack - who have benefited from stronger winds to the north for the last couple of days - the bright red and yellow hull of the 15m Daz Cat was now visible in the early morning light.

To add insult to injury, in the ensuing ditch-crawling contest, the shallow drafted cat crept past them inshore against a foul tide. Thomson’s co-skipper, Adrian Faiers, described the experience in an overnight email, "We have been in as close as we can stomach, some times with a meter under the yacht as we plane at 10-12 knots. If we touch the bottom at these speeds would come to an abrupt halt. Unfortunately, the mast and sails would continue on their way and the race would be over for us. All watch systems and sleep have been cancelled until further notice, as we try and gain every ounce of speed to gain back the advantage."

Line honours winner, Dazzler

It wasn’t enough, Dazzler led the Open 50 all the way to the finish, crossing the line at the Royal Yacht Squadron and grabbing line honours at 03.41 this morning. They were helped along by the last of the ebb tide through the Solent. That then started to turn against Alex Thomson (just to wind the screw a little more), and they finished 1 hour and 25 minutes behind, at 05.07.

It was a happy Dazzler crew that arrived back at the dock to be met with champagne. The early retirement of Mollymawk had left them the only multi-hull in the fleet - with no one else in their class, line honours was their only real goal. Skipper Mike Butterfield was very happy with the performance of the new boat, and felt they had learned a great deal about how to sail her on the way round.

Thomson and his crew must swallow their disappointment and wait to see how the handicap times turn out. Their elapsed time was ten days, 18 hours, 27 minutes and 23 seconds, which corrects to 15 days, 5 hours, 42 minutes and 57 seconds - the time to beat.

Next to finish should be Incisor, at 11.20 they were off Ryde, in the Solent and just a handful of miles from the line. Behind her was Pindar, and then Primadonna with about 80 nm to North Foreland. After that it’s the big gap back to Aquadanca, who were in the North Sea with 421 nm to go to North Foreland at 06.10. Water Music IV was just under a 120 nm behind her.

We’re very pleased to report that Stealth has ‘decloaked’ and come back up on the ‘radar’. The crew responded to a radio call from the Shetland coastguard yesterday afternoon, when they were 30 nm from Muckle Flugga. They too, will now be around and headed south. That just leaves Richard Houghton’s Hustler SJ35, Act of Defiance, with eight miles to go at 06.34.

Pindar reported at 09.25 this morning that they were 60 nm from the line - Emma Richards telling of a long frustrating night trying to keep the boat moving in light air. Help is on its way, and Thomson will do well to win a race that’s about to advantage the slower boats.

The weather buoys off North Foreland and Brighton show that the north-easterly has been veering all night. It’s been swinging earliest further to the north. So at 0800 this morning it was east-south-east off Brighton, south-east off North Foreland and south-west off the Wash. But it’s been very light overnight, down from 14 knots before midnight, to six to eight knots at sunrise.

That’s all due to the high pressure moving past. We can see from the fact that the wind veered rather than backed, that the high pressure went through to the north of the front group - pushed out of the way by that low approaching from the Atlantic. It’s bringing plenty of breeze with it.

We’ve just heard that the RS, 49er and B14 dinghy fleets have 25-30 knots at their championships in Pwllheli and Abersoch in North Wales, and are waiting on the beach under a postponement. The Round Britain fleet can expect the breeze to complete its swing to the south-west and start increasing through the afternoon. There’s everything to play for in the handicap prizes.

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