Criterion Round Britain and Ireland Race - Day 6

Saturday 26th August 2000 1700 - by Mark Chisnell

Sunday August 27th 2000, Author: Mark Chisnell, Location: United Kingdom
This afternoon sees the front of the fleet around the Shetlands and headed south. Alex Thomson was first in the early hours of the morning, and described a vicious tide and 20 knots of northerly wind at the turn at Muckle Flugga. The breeze had picked up after some light air overnight had them only covering 32 miles in six hours.

A weather buoy due west of the Shetlands, out in the Atlantic, recorded a windshift from south-south-east to north-west at about 0600 this morning. That marked the passage of the front that we talked about yesterday. But it looks from Thomson’s report as though it moved pretty swiftly from there across the fleet.

For a map of the latest positions, click here.

There wasn’t much breeze behind the front according to the weather buoy - only about six to ten knots - and that could correspond with Thomson’s report of light air. But it’s kicked in for him now, and he could hardly ask for better breeze than 20 knots from the north, for his south-south-easterly course down the North Sea.

So it looks like the front of the fleet got lucky, and didn’t have to spend any time going upwind once they were round Muckle Flugga. Apart from switching through the sail changes and dealing with the unreliable breeze that accompanied the front, there haven’t been too many tough choices (apart, of course, from the tricky evening meal selection from the impressive menu aboard Water Music IV).

No big changes then, in the fleet order in the last 24 hours - though it’s difficult to be sure today as the timing of the latest position reports from the individual boats doesn’t coincide. Certainly Thomson is still leading, with Incisor and Dazzler impossible to call - they were close enough to see each other at Muckle Flugga, if the visibility had allowed.

There does appear to be some lateral separation (east to west) between Dazzler and Thomson at the moment, with Dazzler in on the Shetlands coast and Thomson much further offshore. They may well be on opposite gybes - we’ll see how that resolves itself tomorrow.

Behind these three is the Richards and Merron team aboard Pindar. The last position report had them 50 nm short of Muckle Flugga at midday, they should be close to going round now. Primadonna is next, about a 120 nm behind Pindar, on her own but still way ahead of the next group.

That’s Aquadanca, Water Music IV and Stealth - in a tight bunch, racing up towards the Western Isles at midday, with around 115 nm to go to the waypoint at the Flannan Isles. All alone, but still doing a solid job on handicap, is the Hustler SJ35 of Richard Houghton, now about 60 nm behind the bunch. A northerly would punish these boats, putting them close to upwind as they head for the Flannan Isles. But both the forecast and the buoy reports have a much more westerly breeze in this area - so they should still be reaching. Kind weather gods indeed, we’ll see if their luck holds tomorrow.

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