Criterion Round Britain and Ireland Race – Day 4

Thursday 24 August 2000, 1700

Thursday August 24th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
The high pressure ridge clamped down on the fleet last night, and Richards and Merron aboard Pindar found themselves almost becalmed. These conditions were in marked contrast to the torrid time everyone had a couple of nights ago. But in this tricky breeze the other Open 50, fully crewed under skipper Alex Thomson, has opened up a substantial lead.

For a map of the latest positions, click here.

At the last set of position reports, Thomson was reaching across the top of the Western Isles, towards the next waypoint at the Flanna Isles, about 60 nm away. In his wake, almost due south and about 40 nm behind, was Incisor of Wight, the Corby 45 skippered by Derek Saunders. Then comes Mike Butterfield’s 15 metre Dazcat another thirty miles back, and slightly to the west of Incisor’s line. And at the back of this leading group are Pindar and the Prima 38 Primadonna, both further offshore at around 12 degrees west, compared to the two leaders at just under 9 degrees west. They have 185 and 219 nm to the Flanna Isles respectively.

The second group is still off the west coast of Ireland, approaching the waypoint at Black Rock and led by those redoubtable steering system repairers aboard Water Music IV, the Nicholson 49 being sailed double-handed by Chris Preston and Rob Gray. Just a few miles behind her is Aquadanca, the Sigma 38 of John Oldland, and a few more miles behind them is Stealth, the Diva 39 of Tim Wright. This is a tight bunch, enjoying some close racing, but Stealth certainly has the advantage at the moment, with the lowest handicap rating. Still on her own, but only just off the back of this group is the smallest boat left in the race, the Hustler SJ35 of Richard Houghton, Act of Defiance.

The fleet is now in a band of westerly breeze, generated by the high pressure that we talked about forming over Britain yesterday. The fleet is above the center, which with the clockwise rotation of the wind around a high pressure is giving them the westerly breeze.

There are some solid low pressure systems lined up to cross the North Atlantic in the next few days, but they will be held to a northern route until that high pressure sags south a little. Nevertheless, I think we can expect the wind to strengthen and firm up, the leaders should certainly have a pretty decent 15 to 20 knot south-westerly by this time tomorrow. It looks like being a ‘rich get richer’ deal. The better pressure being mostly to the north as the first low approaches, coming across the Atlantic from Newfoundland, and therefore benefiting the leaders.

Pindar’s move offshore might have got them a gain, but only if they didn’t lose distance to the north, by going west. They now have, and the likely gains in the next 24 hours will be to Thomson and his crew. However, the picture will change once again, as soon as they have to turn the corner and start heading south. If that high pressure is still hanging around, it could create a wall in the North Sea for the leaders to run into – it’s a long race.

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