Wet and windy start
See Rick Tomlinson's start gallery here
The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race exploded into action at 1400 local time under grey leaden skies and big breeze. ICAP Leopard and Telefónica Blue chose to set off from the outer distance mark, and it was a hair-raising sight as, RORC Chief Executive, Eddie Warden Owen reported from the race course: “It was a magnificent start, 25 knots from the southwest with gusts of up to 30 knots coming out of the Medina River. Spanish entry Telefónica was an impressive sight, the Volvo 70 is built to race at full tilt around the world and she carried her enormous spinnaker to blast past the 100 foot Leopard at over 25 knots. It was a really impressive sight to these huge machines blasting down the Solent leaving the rest of the 27-strong fleet in their wake.”
Jonny Malbon's IMOCA 60 Artemis Ocean Racing chose to start on the Island side and spectators on shore had an incredible view of the powerful boat surfing past Cowes.
Tonnerre de Breskens 3 from Holland, went for a spinnaker and staysail and were flying until they broached out in a big gust and changed to jib-top. Next on the water were the young team on the British Keelboat Academy’s John Merricks II who put a reef in the main just before the start, which was a wise move. They handled the boat like seasoned professionals and quickly passed Tonnerre, screaming along under spinnaker, like a scalded cat.
The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is a truly international event with boats competing from 10 different countries and they got as they started this epic and challenging race. They will be relieved as they are finally on their way, many of them will have been planning for this race since the 2006 event.
The forecast is for fast running conditions all the way along the south coast and the wind strength may well increase as the seaway narrows as they go through the Straits of Dover.
Franck Cammas' Volvo Open 70 Groupama had a late start due to damage sustained whilst they were on their mooring in a coming together with Tonnerre de Breskens. Groupama had to fix damage to their hull prior to starting the race.
Gottfried Pössl’s Class 40, Celox 40 was dismasted shortly after the start as skipper Andreas Hanakamp explained: ‘We were doing 26.4 knots of boat speed when the runner gave way, everybody is okay but shattered. We have anchored the rig and marked it, so that it should not be a danger to shipping. We are very disappointed not to race, but delighted that nobody has been injured.”
After just one and half hours of racing. Telefónica Blue and ICAP Leopard are virtually neck and neck, blast reaching at 25 knots past Owers light buoy. Groupama have made a good recovery and are not far behind.
The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is being tracked with OCTrackers and can be followed in real time here.
From Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com
From Mark Lloyd/www.lloydimages.com