Water plough winner
First into the penultimate stopover of Lowestoft was Ross Hobson and Andrew Newman in the 40ft trimaran Mollymawk. The duo finished at 10:28:30 this morning into the Suffolk port and by late afternoon the French Open 50 Branec III of Roger Langevin and Henriette LeMay, the leader into the previous stoppover in Lerwick had still not arrived.
" Branec started 4.5 hours ahead of us and we didn't see them at all," Ross Hobson told madfor sailing. "And she still hasn't arrived. So we've gone from 4.5 hours behind to 7 hours ahead as we speak. I hope there's nothing wrong. It has been a bit of destruction derby this race".
Hobson said that in Plymouth at the start the race was lining up to be a good competition between his Nic Bailey-designed 40ft trimaran, William Foster and Robin Knox-Johnston on Spirit and the Robin Herbert and Graham Goff on Gleam. "We thought we were going to have a terrific race with Spirit and Gleam. We having a good ding-dong with them down to the Lizard. We tore a headsail though and thought we were going to be 4-5 hours behind at Cork. but when we got there we found no Spirit or Gleam and we were in fourth." The race leader that this time was the 30ft trimaran Meridian, but she was dismasted on the previous leg to Lerwick. "It has been an amazing race of attrition," Hobson added.
Their race from Lerwick to Lowestoft was not without incident. After the battering they had received sailing up to St Kilda on the previous leg, the Lerwick start was inevitably in light breeze and it looks like it was all going to turn pear-shaped when Mollymawk fell into a hole off Sumburgh Head anbd were left drifting around for 3-4 hours.
"The the breeze filled in from the west southwest," Hobson takes up the story. "Then it built - we started off nicely with everything up, main and ful jib. Then we went to hull and screecher (genniker) and that was when the fun started. We though a tack and the top of the sacrifical bow - in other words the front two foot of the boat - were torn off by the bowsprit. We put a tack line through the chain plate and kept the genniker up for abit longer, but we had to drop it. Eventually we ended up under staysail and two reefs, with it blowing force 6-7. Then the rest of the bow went. So we're two shorter on the main hull than when we started!
The sacrifical bow formed out of sculpted block foam, backing on to the crash bulkhead, has simply come adrift and going along at any speed caused torrents of water to come flying back at them in the cockpit. "It looks like someone took a knife and chopped the front of the boat off," said Hobson. "There was so much spray you couldn't see where you were going."
Fortunately the wind easied ended up and they resumed sailing under full main and jib, until 0300 this morning, when for the last 20 miles they went up to genniker as they took the inside passage past Yarmouth. Hobson says they were lucky because their big genniker is being repaired and the smaller one they had available fitted perfectly from the forestay chainplate back aft without interferring with the shrouds.
Because of the lead they have established, Hobson says they are not going to haul the boat but will instead make a temporary repair to the bow that will hopefully see them through to Plymouth. The club in Lowestoft have a crain capable of lifting the bow of the boat out of the water. "We've got tools and glue and materials coming from all over the country. My wife is sending a supply of carbon and glass down by Securicor. But we'll probably do all the repairs in Plymouth."
Hobson says that despite the bow the boat (which won the last Round Britain and Ireland Race) is still fantastic. "The boat is bomb proof - she's loving every minute of it - crashing along at 17 knots. With no bow you would think she should be trying to slow down, but instead she keeps speeding up." He has no idea of what has happened to Branec III. "Maybe we got through the hole better than the rest of them," he says.
With a seven hour lead that is grown, their position in the Round Britain and Ireland Race is started to look unassailble. "We're looking in embarrassingly good shape, but we're touching wood," says Hobson.
As has been proven, anything can happen in this race.