Storm bound in Scotland

Two handed Round Britain Race grinds to a temporary halt

Monday June 17th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
At present the remaining fleet in the Royal Western Yacht Club's two handed Round Britain and Ireland fleet are storm bound in Castle Bay on the remote Outer Hebridean island of Barra. The leading boats were due to depart on the third leg of the race around the top of the British Isles to the Shetlands and the capital Lerwick, but none have left yet and according to race leader Roger Barber none are likely to until tomorrow morning.

Last night conditions were quite benign, but the forecast was showing an intense depression off Iceland which was due to bring winds of force 9-10 for the next leg. Just before midnight it blew up intensely and a boat from the RNLI was shuttling skippers and crews back to their boats (all thankfully on moorings) to keep watch on mooring line and fender chafe. Donald McHardy's trimaran Fiery Cross is believed to have suffered from serious on her bow which may need to be repaired before she continues the race.

At the conclusion of the race's second leg up to Barra, Roger Barber and Malcolm Whitehead on the 30ft trimaran Meridian were still leading the race, although Ross Hobson's larger trimaran Mollymawk had recovered some time from them (the Round Britain is measured on elapsed time and you stop for exactly 48 hours on the race's four stopovers).

Barber told madforsailing that the second leg had been a mixture of frustation and exhilaration. First they had had a beat out to round the Fastnet Rock. Then the wind had gone light and the visibility had dropped off to around one quarter of a mile. At one point they were becalmed within spitting distance of Mizzen Head without steerage. Once round the islands off the southwesternmost tip of Ireland they headed north and the wind duly swung south, forcing them to gybe downwind.

During this period they experienced 22 knot winds and under main and spinnaker they were surfing at up to 19 knots. "There almost too much wind for the spinnaker...but not quite..." reported Barber, who is taking a sabbatical from his regular job creating lighting rig hoists. The more experienced helm on board, he remained on the tiller from 5am until 10pm - 17 hours! "It came quite naturally towards the end" he commented.

"It was pretty exciting stuff down the waves," Barber continued. "When the end of the pole touched the surface of the water it produced this huge plumb of spray. On an inshore race you do this type of sailing for half an hour and you think 'I'd like to do some more that' - Then you do 17 hours of it straight."

Approaching the finish line the wind again went light and Meridian finally crossed the line in the early hours of Saturday morning.

"I think it's going to blow its nuts off tonight," commented Barber on what lies in store from them, "Then it will go down to force 6-8. I don't think I will until after first light."

By delaying their departure the lead boats have lost any lead they may have gained. Second placed Mollymawk currently have moisture in their outboard which may prevent them getting out to the start line, unless they can get a tow. Barber thinks it is more likely that the monohull Branac - currently lying third, is more likely to leave early if anyone is going to. "It'll slowly decrease, but the next leg's going to be lumpy for everybody".

Times of lead boats from Crosshaven to Barra.

1. Meridian 02:05:14
2. Mollymawk 02:02:41
3. Branec III 02:09:17

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