The other round the island raceCan Team Tonic add to her Cervantes Trophy and Morgan Cup victories?
Just after lunchtime on Saturday, when the winners of the Round the Island race will be propping up a bar in Cowes, 30 teams will be just starting their circumnavigation of a much bigger Ireland. At 700 miles, 14 times the distance of the Isle of Wight dash, the bi-annual Round Ireland is a much bigger challenge in every respect.
"It's one of the worlds best offshore races," says Irishman Jamie Boag, a two-time winner. "The way it differs from other races like the Fastnet is that although you are going from and finishing at the same point, you don't retrace your steps.
"There is constantly something to be up for and it's always different. From Wicklow [the start] to the Fastnet Rock is what you would be used to if you sailed around the Cornish coast. The Rock all the way up Western Ireland is wild, big swells and pretty rough. Across the top you have Solent-type tides and between the top and Wicklow it's tricky winds. There is almost a series of eight small races."
In 1996 Jamie - now husband to Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson - sailed on a J35, winning on handicap. Two years later he went back as crew on a chartered Volvo Ocean 60, the former Toshiba, and set a new monohull course record. The breeze died behind them and slowed up the pursing fleet, handing them the corrected time double.
Remarkably, Toshiba set a spinnaker off Wicklow and then picked up a shift off the south coast that allowed them to carry their kite in a dramatic sleigh ride up the west coast to complete the trip in an astonishing three days, seven hours and 23 minutes.
The Wicklow Yacht Club have been running the race since its inception in 1980 and are highly regarded, although by modern day standards it is akin to a club like Gurnard SC running the Fastnet. "It's a big undertaking for a small club, but we handle is fairly well," says Race Organiser Dennis Noonam.
The race takes in two of the most treacherous stretches of water around the British Isles, the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean - both of which have recently pummelled a number of famous racing yachts. Safety is paramount and not taken lightly by the organisers.
"We have eight check-in points right around the coast which the boats must check-in to, it's mandatory. Everytime they go past a Coastguard Station they must check-in and we have the air core and our own air-sea rescue," explains Noonam. The standards on the yachts are set to 'ISAF offshore special regulations for cat 2, with Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) prescriptions'. About as good as it gets basically.
The RORC lend their support in various ways and have sent their safety inspection team to run spot checks on the yachts before the start. They will be paying careful attention to this year's event as a similar race will form part of the new Admiral's Cup for 2003 and some of sailors in Wicklow are obviously using this as an opportunity to suss out the subtleties of the course.
The Farr 52 Team Tonic could be one such instance. Owner Nick Hewson opted out of the English Commodores' Cup trials and an almost certain place in one of the two teams, although they are keeping mum if their longer term plans are towards an Admiral's Cup slot.
"We had our entry in before that was announced," insists Tonic skipper Jeremy Robinson. Tonic has been the hottest yacht on the Solent this season and has won both the RORC Cervantes Trophy and Morgan Cup. Robinson, who also squeezed in a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on News Corp, is hoping to continue that winning streak around Ireland.
"We stand a good chance of winning," he told madfor sailing. "It just depends on the weather. It's either going to be a big boat race or a small boat race. If it's going to be a big race we should be okay. If the weather is alright we should be able to do it in about four days but if it drops light and we have to drop kedge somewhere it could take a bit longer."
Team Tonic is not the biggest entrant, that accolade goes to the Swan 60 Fenix but Robinson was unconcerned by the rest of the field that includes Tracy Edwards' 1989 Whitbread entry, Maiden.
He is happy to sail his own race: "I tend to never really worry about it as you have just got to sort yourself out. You never see any of them anyway so we just have to race as fast as we can against the clock and hope that is good enough."
madfor sailing wish all the competitors the luck of the Irish.
The complete entry list
|0||GBR 552R||Team Tonic||Nick Hewson||Royal Ocean Racing Club||Farr 52|
|0||996 OR||Fenix||Richard Balding||Royal Ocean Racing Club||Swan 60 R|
|1||IRL 7077||Lobster||Gary Horgan||Kinsale YC||Dubois 45|
|1||IRL 1838||Irisha||Adrian Lee||Royal St. George YC||Beneteau 477|
|1||IRL 5851||Cracklin Rosie||Roy Dickson||Howth YC||Corby 40|
|1||IRL 10477||Little Princess||Fiona Nesbitt||National YC||Beneteau 477|
|1||K 1418||Maiden||Terry Neilson||UK||One off|
|1||IRL 40||Azure||Bob & Bairbre Stewart||Dun Laoghaire||Dubois 40|
|2||IRL 1990||Imp||George Radley||Kinsale YC||One off|
|2||IRL 8331||Changeling||Kieran Jameson||Howth YC||Thomas 38|
|2||IRL 951||Aquelina||James Tyrrell||Arklow||X 412|
|2||GBR 782T||Lancastrian||Neil Eatough||Howth YC||Starlight 46|
|2||IRL 2131||Sapphire||Frank Clarke||Cobh SC||One Tonner|
|2||GBR 9834||Fusion||Michael O’Carroll||Royal Cork YC||Projection 35|
|2||IRL 4077||Tiger||Oliver Sheehy||Royal St. George YC||First 40.7|
|2||IRL 9400||Trinculo||Michael Fleming||Howth YC||Sigma 400|
|2||IRL 2382||Xerces||Mick Liddy||Air Corps SC||IMX 38|
|2||12732||Jabberwocky||Tim Costello||Dun Laoghaire Motor YC||Mumm 36|
|3||IRL 638||State of Chassis||Kevin Buckley||Dun Laoghaire||Sigma 38|
|3||IRL 733||Thalia||Sean Lemass.||National YC||Sigma 400|
|3||FRA 3246||Pichenette||Samuel Caillault||UNCL||Feeling 850|
|3||IRL 767||Endeavour||Conor Phelan||Royal Cork YC||Beneteau 31.71|
|3||IRL 3337||Something Fishy||Johnny Morgan||First 33.7|
|3||K 4500||Fandango||Terence Fair||Royal Ulster YC||Sigma 33|
|3||IRL 3861||Cavatina||Eric Lisson||Royal Cork YC||Granada 36|
|3||GBR 623R||Hipocampus||Michael Greville||Royal Ocean Racing Club||She 36|
|3||IRL 738||Errislannan||Paul Kirwan||Royal St. George YC||Sigma 38 OD|
|3||IR 9388||Joker||J. Maybury||Royal Irish YC||Sigma 38 OD|
|5||IRL 4711||White Rooster||Dermot Cronin||Malahide YC||Hustler 36|