46 knots in the North Sea

Alex Bennett tells of his bumpy, gale-ridden fourth leg of the Shetlands Round Britain and Ireland Race
One of the most experienced shorthanded ocean racers competing in the Shetlands Round Britain and Ireland Race is Alex Bennett, competing aboard his Owen-Clarke designed Class 40 Fujifilm with co-skipper Malcolm Dickinson. But even for Bennett, who sailed around the world in the Oryx Quest, competed in the Mini Transat and the Transat Jacques Vabre, and was also one of Pete Goss’ crew on the Team Phillips maxi-cat, leg four of the Royal Western YC’s doublehanded lap of the British isles was a little too full-on. Fujifilm at the start - photo: Tom Gruitt Fujifilm pulled into the lead among the Class 40 on the previous leg up to Lerwick but approaching the finish she was pipped to the post by the wily Paul Peggs and Marco Nannini on the latter’s Sungard Front Arena. As Bennett explains: “Literally up to a mile from the finish line at Lerwick, the breeze just shut off and Sungard was behind us by a mile and a half and managed just to carry the old breeze right up to where we were, but headed further inshore because they saw we’d stopped and they just got the lightest of zephyrs to pull them along the cliffs and then they parked in front of us. About an hour later the breeze filled in from ahead and they just got it and that let them through to the finish in first. So a bit stressful and a bit annoying, but that’s yacht racing at the end of the day. We were only separated by 20 minutes there, so it wasn’t a big deal.” While the leg up to the Shetlands had been relatively light, leg four from Lerwick down the North Sea to Lowestoft in Suffolk, was anything but. This was particularly the case for boats like Fujifilm that had chosen