One week to the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race

Strong line-up includes Groupama and Telefonica Blue VO70s

Monday August 16th 2010, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom

The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race sets sail from Cowes in one week's time - Monday, 23 August. More competitors than ever before will be taking part in this non-stop race around Great Britain, Ireland and all of the outlying islands. 29 boats are entered from ocean-going yachts, with world-class professional teams to smaller craft with Corinthian crews.

Yachts flying the ensigns from nine countries are taking part - Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Lithuania, Spain and Sweden.

RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen walks the course: “Crews will face the vagaries of the tides and unpredictable weather; dodging oil rigs and container ships as well as relying on tactical and navigational decisions and great seamanship to get them round the course! Most sailors agree that this race is one of the toughest tests as it is nearly as long as an Atlantic crossing, but the changes of direction at headlands will mean constant breaks in the watch system for sail changes and sail trim.”

Favourite for line honours and also gunning for a course record, is Mike Slade’s 100ft supermaxi, ICAP Leopard which will also have the current course record holder, Sam Davies on board. Davies sailed with Dee Caffari aboard the IMOCA Open 60, Aviva when they set a time of 6d 11h 30m 53s.

The most surprising entry in the race is that of the two Volvo Open 70s - Franck Cammas' Groupama and Telefonica Black, skippered by Iker Martinez. Cammas has with him a strong line-up including former ORMA 60 skipper Jean-Luc Nelias, Swedish VOR and trimaran sailor Magnus Woxen, ex Telefonica crewman Laurent Pages, Erwan Israel, Solitaire du Figaro winner Charles Caudrelier, Martin Stromberg, ex-Green Dragon crewman Phil Harmer, Michael Pammenter, Martin Krite and Yann Riou. 

Telefonica's line up includes veteran navigator Andrew Cape, VOR legend Neal MacDonald, along with Brasil 1 crewmen Joca Signorini and Horacio Carabelli, ex-Alinghi/470 Gold medallist Jordi Calafat, Pablo Arrarte, Zane Gills, Diego Fructuoso, and of course Xabi Fernández.

“I have very fond memories of the race,” commented Neal MacDonald who first competed on Sticky Fingers in 1994. “I had a fantastic time, great sailing on a good boat with a fun crew. The race course is shorter than say an Atlantic crossing, but can be a lot tougher and often far more complex. The main reason it is so much harder is that there are so many corners to go round, each one normally associated with a change of weather conditions. Lots of tacks and gybes, lots of sail changes and a massive variety of weather conditions. For the entire race, it is impossible to get into a proper routine or watch system. It is a rewarding but very tiring race. It is always a pleasure to sail in home waters but to sail round your home country is fantastic, a real experience. I'm very much looking forward to it. It will also be a proper race with some great competition. All in all it has the makings of a terrific race.”

While the bigger boats may be crewed by seasoned professionals, there are many corinthian entries in the race. Adrian Lower is a gynaecologist and father of three and will be racing the Swan 44 Selene under the burgee of the Royal Burnham Yacht Club: “I have put together a great team of East Coast sailors and we look forward to the challenge. Our sights are set particularly on Winsome, another Sparkman and Stephens design from the 1970’s. She is extremely well sailed and their team has sailed together for a number of years. Winsome has been our benchmark in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet and North Sea Race this year.

Spectators can follow the race as each boat is supplied with an OCTracker beacon. Synchronised position reports will be displayed graphically at regular intervals on the race website.

Following the success of the Virtual Fastnet Race last year, when 27,000 players entered online, the Royal Ocean Racing Cub is working with online race experts Virtual Regatta to provide a virtual race round the British Isles for the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Armchair experts around the world can test their skills against the sailors racing on the yachts. The course will mirror the 1802 n mile race which tests inshore and offshore skills, preparation and speed potential. The virtual race will be no different!

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