Criterion Round Britain and Ireland Race - Day 9

Tuesday 29th August 2000 1200 - by Mark Chisnell

Tuesday August 29th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
It’s one of those rich getting positively-obscenely-filthy-richer kind of days out in the North Sea. With two days now elapsed since the fifth placed boat, Primadonna, went around Muckle Flugga at the northern tip of the Shetlands, and no one else had got within a hundred miles of it when the sun came up this morning.

The group of four boats still struggling north - Aquadanca, Water Music IV, Stealth (we assume) and Act of Defiance - have remained trapped under the high pressure that’s formed to the north of Scotland. Progress is slow, and may well be until they can claw their way a hundred miles to the east. Aquadanca is gradually eking out a lead from Water Music IV, and was about 20 nm in front at 06.00 this morning. Act of Defiance is hanging on grimly and, only about 10 nm behind Water Music IV, looking smug on handicap - at least in relation to this group. There’s still no recent position for Stealth.
For a map of the latest positions, click here.

So life is still better for the leaders - or more specifically, the back of the leading bunch of five. Although yesterday the prospects for the North Sea didn’t look much better than for the North Atlantic, things have changed (I bet you’ve heard that about a weather forecast before).

A low has started to form over Scandinavia which, in combination with the high pressure to the west, is setting up a very decent north-north-westerly gradient breeze down the North Sea. This morning there was between 15 and 20 knots all the way from the Shetlands to Edinburgh. After that it starts to lighten and back more to the north-west as you move south, which is compressing this front half of the fleet.

Alex Thomson called in yesterday afternoon and reported that the light north-westerly breeze through yesterday morning had switched around to an east-south-easterly sea breeze. Thomson was all the way inshore, off Whitby and just short of Flamborough Head.

The weather buoys show that just as that sea breeze would have started to exhaust itself in the early evening, the north, north-westerly gradient began to strengthen, and Thomson was forced to struggle through both transitions. This morning at 10.00, Alex reported a ten knot north-westerly, though it was ‘up and down a little’. They’ve switched their strategy, and were headed offshore on port gybe, with 136 nm to go to North Foreland at 09.00.

The sunrise round of position reports shows the fleet compressing, with Dazzler now only about 30 nm behind Thomson. While Dazzler’s a catamaran and Thomson's sailing a mono-hull Open 50, both skippers will be anxious to score line honours - and we now have the makings of a race. Incisor has also made gains overnight, and is now about 15 nm behind Dazzler, with Primadonna about another 150 nm back. Somewhere in between is Pindar - where we know not, as with Stealth, the position reporting unit is still refusing to give up its secret.

The forecast has this north to north-west gradient breeze staying in the North Sea until overnight Wednesday to Thursday, when that approaching low pressure coming in from the Atlantic will ring the changes.

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