Photos: Tom Gruitt/www.tom-gruitt.co.uk

Norwegians claim line honours

37 minutes separate the first five boats home in the Shetlands Round Britain and Ireland Race

Monday June 28th 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

A windless park-up in the Channel leaving the boats at the mercy of the tide resulted in a surprise elapsed time winner in the two handed Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race in the form of Norwegian duo Rune Aasberg and Arild Schei aboard their Class 40 Solo, who beat into Plymouth Marco Nannini and Paul Peggs on SunGard Front Arena, leaders for most of the race and Alex Bennett and Malcolm Dickinson on Fujifilm. Having been within sight of each other on Friday morning, less than half an hour separated the top five boats at the Poymouth Sound line in one of the most dramatic conclusions this historic race has ever seen.

Throughout Thursday night, the four Class40 leaders and Hans Plas and Robin Verhoef's Open 40 Roaring Again had averaged around nine knots as they crossed the 60 miles of Lyme Bay towards Start Point before the finish line off Plymouth. However, on Friday morning, with under 30 miles to the finish, the boats stalled to sub-one knot averages in minimal breeze between Start Point and Prawle Point. At 09:00 BST, speeds picked-up marginally with SunGard Front Arena very close inshore, Fujifilm standing off seven miles south of Prawle Point and Solo and Phesheya-Racing taking the middle route with Bennett and Dickinson making double the speed of the inshore trio at a little under five knots.

Meanwhile, the dominance held by the Class40 division was severely under threat from Roaring Again as the Dutch duo closed in on the group off Bennett and Dickinson’s starboard quarter having started Leg 5 six hours behind the Class40 leaders.

By 11:00 BST, SunGard Front Arena, Solo and Phesheya-Racing were rock-hopping close inshore through Bigbury Bay with Aasberg and Schei on Solo inching into the lead making the best boat speed at 7.3 knots. A few miles further offshore, local west country talent Bennett and Dickinson on Fujufilm were level with Leggatt and Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing. Just after 13:00 BST on Friday, the Norwegian Class40 took first place across the Royal Western Yacht Club finish line, followed 13 minutes later by Nannini and Peggs in turn four minutes ahead of Bennett and Dickinson on Fujifilm with the South Africans, Nick Leggatt and Philippa Hutton-Squire on Phesheya-Racing in fourth, trailing Bennett’s green boat by just nine minutes.

Having consistently taken third place in the previous four legs of the SRBIR, the overall Class40 win by Rune Aasberg and Arild Schei on Solo is an outstanding achievement.

"I am extremely happy with how the race went and the overall result,” commented Marco Nannini, who now begins training in earnest for this autumn's Route du Rhum. "Of course, I'm gutted we were pipped to the finish line by Solo, but in truth, I never imagined we would be at the top during such a testing race against pros such as Alex Bennett on Fujifilm,” he admits. “Especially as this was our first race on the boat, we learnt a lot as the race progressed through a variety of conditions and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season.”

Elsewhere in the Class 40 fleet Livewire and sec-Hayai both retired.

On Saturday at 04:17 Will Claxton and Matt Gill's trimaran Paradox was the first multihull to reach Plymouth. Paradox had led the fleet into Shetlands before losing the lead in the gale force conditions sailing down the North Sea. They were followed by Simon Baker and Dan Fellows on the leading Dazcat, Drama Queen 30 hours later.

At the latest sched 16 boats have so far finished the race with a large gaggle of boats expected in today in the light conditions.

While historically the Royal Western YC's four yearly doublehanded lap of the British Isles is run on elapsed time in length bands, it is now raced under IRC. At the penultimate stopover in Lowestoft it was Christopher Rustom and Stephen Homewood on their Stewart 37 Ding Dong who led on corrected time, with an advantage of just over two hours on Pip Hare and Phil Stubbs' Lightwave 395. The Shed. With both boats in the vicinity of Start Point this morning, the IRC prize should be decided today if the wind fills in.

40ft monohull results

1. Solo (Aasberg - Schei) 25 Jun at 13:07:02 11d 00:52:02 11d 00:52:02
2. SunGard Front Arena (Nannini - Peggs) 25 Jun at 13:20:33 11d 01:05:33
3. Fujifilm (Bennett - Dickinson) 25 Jun at 13:24:37 11d 01:09:37
4. Phesheya Racing (Leggatt - Hutton-Squire) 25 Jun at 13:33:59 11d 01:18:59
5. Orca (Tolkein – Brewer) 26 Jun at 03:18:13 11d 15:03:13
6. Roaring Forty (Magrath – Pugh) 26 Jun at 15:12:53 12d 02:57:53
7. Spliff (Dawson – McColl) 27 Jun at 10:37:07 12d 22:22:07
8. Livewire (Dodd – Marshall) RTD
9. sec.Hayai (Budel – Banffer) RTD

More photos from Tom Gruitt

 Katie Miller shares her blog from her Figaro, bluQube:

The lead up to the start of the fourth leg had been pretty intense... high winds causing damage to moored yachts (luckily only cosmetic sticker damage to bluQube) and causing some concern in the race office as to the safety of the skippers who were due to leave in the 35-40knot breeze.

Conditions like these however, are the optimum conditions for yachts like bluQube. A wide transom and twin rudders give maximum control while surfing at high speeds down wind. In fact, we were pretty excited to get over the start line and start chasing down our opponents in front of us.

With some nerve and youthful spirit on our side, we were the only yacht (we have heard) to cross the start line under spinnaker... something to do with the narrow dead downwind channel we had to overcome, with jagged rocks on either side of us. Pretty intense sailing, and only pleasurable because we managed to pull it off! As we rounded Bard Head, in 35 knots of breeze, we were soon up to boat speeds of 15knots. The highest boat speed we physically saw on the GPS was 20 knots, but we think we probably experienced higher!

After ten hours of fast, and occasionally nail biting sailing, we had knocked off in excess of 120 miles, before disaster struck! On the crossover of watches we wrapped the spinnaker around the forestay an infinite number of times. With wind speeds still in excess of 30 knots, and still maintaining boat speeds of 10-12knots, the decision was made to leave the wrap until both skippers had gotten some sleep, and the wind had died off a little. Once the wind had dropped to 20 knots Matt leapt into action on the foredeck, unclipping the sheets and physically unwrapping the spinnaker in a manoeuvre similar to a Maypole dance, except on a bucking deck. An hour and a half later, the spinnaker was still amazingly intact, but with a shredded halyard and dodgy looking forestay bottlescrew, it was time for a quick rest and check of the boat before the spinnaker was re-launched and we got back on racing form.

After a further 24 hours of downwind sailing, dodging gas platforms and pilot whales, and with the wind slowly dropping off to eventually nothing, it was time to unleash the secret weapons!! Two twelve foot sculling oars, designed specifically for offshore rowing, had found their way onto bluQube just hours before the start of the race in Plymouth, generously loaned to us by the Mayflower Offshore Rowing Club. Now was time for their utilisation, as each oar was lashed to a stanchion before rowing ensued. There are some arguments as to exactly how effective rowing is onboard sailing yachts. However, it was with some excitement that we managed to maintain the speed over the ground continue at 1.5knots. After an hour of rowing we had pulled ourselves into the next breeze, and it was time to sail on again!

Before long, we were approaching the Norfolk coast in a steady F4 to F5, beating but with the tide on our side. Over the final few miles passing Great Yarmouth we found we were making up to eight knots over the ground, amazing speed for this point of sail! We made Lowestoft with little more than an hour of fair tide, with the breeze just failing at the same time....Very lucky for us, very unlucky for the boats behind!

So, on to the last leg to Plymouth, It’s currently looking like it will be mostly light wind and therefore a very slow race in which anything could happen, so there is still a lot to play for.

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