Criterion Round Britain and Ireland Race
For a map of the latest positions, click here.
Still to reach the northern turning mark are Aquadanca, Water Music IV and Stealth - and as far as we know (there’s no recent report for Stealth) they are still in a tight bunch. Just after midday Water Music IV and Aquadanca were about ten miles short of the Flannan Isles. Richard Houghton and Act of Defiance having apparently closed the gap to this group, down to less than 30 nm.
We know more about the pair of boats in second and third, Incisor and Dazzler, as Derek Saunders’ Corby 45 reported some details of their battle with Mike Butterfield’s catamaran by phone this afternoon. Incisor told us that they had been hard on the wind in a southerly for most of the previous 24 hours, battling against 25 to 30 knots of breeze and big seas. Dazzler had gone past them this morning, but with the wind easing and veering - it was 290 and 11 knots when they called at 15.00 - they were about to hoist their reaching spinnaker and hoped to claw back the loss. Both boats had just over 400 nm to go to North Foreland at 13.30 this afternoon.
In front of them are Alex Thomson and crew in their Open 50 - around 45 nm ahead but by some rather approximate measurement, as the latest position report times don’t coincide. If that distance is accurate, it would mean a substantial gain to the two boats chasing Thomson - the gap was 90 nm two days ago. Perhaps that move by Dazzler and Incisor to stay close to the coast of the Shetlands yesterday has created the gain. It looks from the present tracks shown on the position report maps, that Thomson came across to get back directly in front of them.
Any regular readers of this commentary will have also noticed that the wind direction reported by Incisor is completely different to that phoned in by Alex Thomson yesterday - he reported a northerly after rounding Muckle Flugga. I’ve tried to contact Alex this afternoon to clarify what’s happening out there, but haven’t managed to get hold of him.
What I can tell you is that both the Incisor and Thomson's reports could be accurate. There’s a weather buoy to the east and slightly north of the Shetlands which is reporting a southerly at 25 knots at 15.00 this afternoon. While a second buoy further south, east of Aberdeen, is recording a northerly at seven knots, at the same time.
This variability over quite a small distance is being created by two areas of weak low pressure, one drifting north from south-east Ireland, the other drifting north from northern France to the North Sea, where it will fill. The big low pressure that dragged the front across the fleet yesterday has moved north and is no longer a feature. The next one is steaming in from the Atlantic (providing more juice for PlayStation’s trans-Atlantic record attempt), and will probably bring strengthening southerly winds late on Monday. Until then, expect it to remain a tricky tactical situation out there in the North Sea - snakes and ladders aplenty.