Under starter's orders
For the 28 boats competing in this gruelling event over a racecourse distance of approximately 1760 miles it’s all eyes on the weather and their charts as they plot their best escape westwards along England’s south coast and into the Celtic Sea. A weather briefing this morning from meteorologist Mike Broughton suggested that the fleet will experience northeasterly gradient breezes that will increase to around 25 knots by the end of the week as two low pressure systems filter in from the Atlantic and that the wind will stay mainly in the north (ie a long beat up the west coast of Ireland).
For one team, the Ker 11.3 MoonraKer of Cowes, just getting to the start will be a major achievement as at midday on Monday she was still out of the water far down the Medina River with her crew of Royal Engineers battling against the clock to get the boat race ready! Skipper Richard Williams was offering a stiff upper military lip however to the situation saying: “We’re hoping that a bit of brawn will sort the situation out. It will be a bit of a rush to the start but we’re very confident that everything will get done and that we’ll have a great ride around Britain and Ireland.”
The front-runners meanwhile are undergoing last minute checks while relaxing ahead of the start and it looks like being a fascinating tussle between the big guns as the race unfolds. The Owen-Clarke designed Open 60 Artemis Ocean Racing is to be skippered by Cowes' finest Jonny Malbon after Brian Thompson chose to stand down due to a family tragedy. Last Thursday, his wife’s mother died and Brian has decided to stay at home to support his grieving wife. Malbon is Artemis' boat captain and will a team including Nick 'Nobbers' Black, Will Oxley, Jonathan McKee and Mark Thomas. Yes that would be former Mini sailor, 49er medallist and Luna Rossa trimmer McKee.
The Open 60 is the highest rated boat competing and will be certainly looking to lead the fleet out of the Solent, around the back of the Isle of Wight and into the Channel while Jean-Philippe Chomette’s Nacira 60 Solune, a boat already familiar with this course having set a new monohull record on it back in 2004, will be pushing hard and hoping to capitalise on any of the Artemis's mistakes. These two will be closely monitored by the Volvo 60 of Robert Lutener and Martin Elwood Cutting Edge on Venom and the Lutra 56 of Piet Vroon Formidable 3. One of the surprise packages among the big boats could come in the form of Ger O’Rourke’s canting keel Cookson 50 Kingspan-Chieftain.
Another boat to look out for is Harry Heijst’s beautiful Sparkman & Stephens designed 41ft one-off Winsome that is fresh from a very dominant performance in last week’s Skandia Cowes Week. Heijst is also a Director of race sponsor Sevenstar who specialise in global yacht transportation and will be a hot contender for the overall corrected time victory. So with all to play for, the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race could prove to be one of the most interesting to date and there’s certainly a very good feeling on the dockside ahead of tonight’s start that we could be in for a classic.
As the afternoon wore on, the supermarkets of Cowes were rapidly being drained of supplies as crews dashed around to collect essential last minute items with chocolates, nuts and fresh fruit being among the most popular purchases. However for the crew of Clem Jones’ Jeu d’Esprit it will be a rather different sailing experience as they have unofficially renamed their boat Gourmet Sailing Jeu d’Esprit on account of the quite exquisite supplies they have on board. This afternoon the crew were tucking into pork off the bone ahead of tonight’s Moroccan lamb curry and were to be found on the dockside busily chopping onions ahead of the start.
“It was a love of cruising that first got us into eating well onboard,” says crew member Hans van Well, “and we saw no reason to change our eating habits just because we decided to go racing!” The gourmet supplies will see the Jeu d’Esprit crew well provisioned for up to 18 days with the onboard fridges stuffed to capacity alongside two boxes of oranges, a further two boxes of apples and a very large bag of onions stowed deep in the bowels of this immaculate J/160. “We have made one concession to racing,” says skipper Jones, “we’re leaving the bimini ashore!”
|Alice 2||GBR2045R||U.K.||Mike Henning||Farr 45|
|Aquis Granus||GER1375||GER||Robert Rohde||Lutra 52|
|Artemis||GBR10||U.K.||Johnny Malbon||Owen Clarke Open 60|
|Changeling||IRL8331||IRE||Kieran Jameson/Aidan McManus||Sigma 38|
|Cutting Edge on Venom||BER2000||U.K.||Robert Lutener/Martin Elwood||Volvo 60|
|Formidable 3||NED56||NED||Piet Vroon||Lutra 56|
|Global Yacht Racing EH01||GBR4778R||U.K.||Emily Pearson||First 47.7|
|Global Yacht Racing Incisor||GBR8248||U.K||Andy Middleton||Corby 45|
|Ilex of Upnor||GBR7253T||U.K.||5 girls in a boat||X-332|
|Jaguar Logic||GBR7382R||U.K||Sailing Logic (Peter Summers)||Reflex 38|
|Jeu d'Esprit||GBR1601R||U.K||Clem Jones||J 160|
|Kingspan - Chieftain||IRL5005||IRE||Gerard O'Rourke||Cookson 50|
|Magnum II||GBR39R||U.K.||Andrew Pearce||IMX 40|
|Minnie the Moocher||GBR1105L||U.K.||Anthony Richards||Ker 11.3|
|MoonraKer of Cowes||GBR1111L||U.K.||Richard Williams||Ker 11.3|
|Mostly Harmless||GBR1381||U.K.||Tom Hayhoe||Prima 38|
|needasponsor.co.uk||4||U.K.||Phil Sharp||Pogo 40|
|Night Owl||GBR6506N||U.K.||Ed Hall||Prima 38|
|Noonmark VI||1998||UK||Mike Gilburt||Swan 56|
|Norddeutsche Vermogen Hamburg||GER5500||GER||Volker Linzer||Andrews 56|
|Predator of Wight||GBR9640R||U.K.||Penny Pariso||Murray 41|
|Puma Logic||GBR7383R||U.K.||Philippe Falle)||Reflex 38|
|Sidney||GBR6942R||U.K||Hayling Sea School||Bavaria Match 42|
|Solune||FRA9||FRA||Jean-Philippe Chomette||Nacira 60|
|Talisman||GBR6504N||U.K.||Simon Harwood||Prima 38|
|Team Eberspacher||30||U.K.||Ben Goodland||Raider 302|
|Unlimited Sailing - John Merricks||GBR5955T||U.K.||Volvo RYA Keelboat Programme||Farr 45|
|Winsome||NED118||NED||Harry Heijst||S & S 41|