Outright Round Britain record set to fall
At 2130 BST this evening, the MOD70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail was mid-way across the Celtic Sea en route to Bishop Rock, with 290 miles left to sail to the finish but making 31.8 knots! To set a new outright World Record, the Omani MOD 70 needs to cross the Royal Yacht Squadron Line by 12:59:14 tomorrow (14th) and at present her ETA based on her average speed on the course to date stands at around 0900, ie comfortably inside Banque Populaire V's time.
At around midnight tonight the wind is forecast to drop fractional - to around 15-20 knots instead of 20-25, but worse for Musandam-Oman Sail's progress is that the wind is expected to back marginally into the west, making it slightly too deep an angle to make best speed directly towards the finish line. In addition, she must sail more miles due to having to sail around the back of the Isle of Wight and enter the Solent from the east.
Earlier Damian Foxall reported from on board: "We are just 15 miles from Blackrock, in sunshine on the West Coast of Ireland. I can see Galway and Connemara to leeward. The wind has just lined up beautifully and we haven't really needed to gybe, so we are just going straight, corner to corner, towards the next mark, Tearaght Island. We have the inkling of an idea that it might be possible, in a dream world, to beat Banque Populaire's record. We are pushing hard, towards near where I grew up; Bull Rock. With the wind going lighter and to the west, we will be dead down wind, which will mean a lot of gybes, but we will see how tomorrow goes; for now we are keeping alive the idea that we can break the course record."
In the VO65 showdown, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam, continues to lead the charge and has extended their lead over Team Pedro Campos to 38 miles at 21:30. The VO65s are currently between the Outer Hebrides and the northwest coast of Ireland.
Earlier in the day Walker reported: "10 miles until we can bear away at St Kilda and the thrashing will subside. It was a tough night with up to 36 knots of wind and sustained periods of 30+. We have continued to push the boat as hard as we can - only once backing off as it felt like we were going to shake everything to pieces. I think it is paying good dividends having so many capable helmsmen, as we are going well. It is pretty intense on the body and mind. Most of the helmsmen's hands are in tatters for a start!"
33 miles astern of the Spanish VO65 is Dongfeng. Earlier the Franco-Chinese team reported: "At the half waypoint of the Round Britain and Ireland Race, Dongfeng Race Team had a broken sail and a semi-broken sailor. Pascal Bidégorry, although still able to do his job as navigator onboard (and a great job at that), is out for the count as far as manoeuvres are concerned, taking the team longer to make any sail changes and losing valuable time on the competition. Combine that with the onset of fatigue and the constant soakings in the wild conditions, Dongfeng Race Team are hanging in there."
17 miles adrift of Dongfeng is Alvimedica and a further 32 miles back is Team SCA. The three trailing VO65 all had to put in an addition gybe east this afternoon.
Mid-evening the IMOCA 60 Artemis-Team Endeavour was approaching the remote Scottish outcrop of Sula Sgeir, well on track for breaking the IMOCA 60 record by more than 24 hours.
"We haven't gone upwind since the start and, as we arrived at Muckle Flugga, the breeze switched around 180 degrees and we still haven't!" explained Thompson. "I have held the overall record three times, including onboard Banque Populaire, so to add the IMOCA record would be fantastic. It's looking hopeful; four years ago it took Artemis two and a half days to get up to the top of the course, so we are already 12 hours ahead of their track. Apart from some bad sea-state plugging the tide at Great Yarmouth, we have been up to full pace. Right now, we are just taking it a leg at a time but we think we will be in Cowes for a Sunday Roast."
Sadly the same cannot now be said for the mid-fleet down, which are still making their way up the North Sea towards the Shetland Isles. The monster depression that was once Hurricane Bertha has now shifted its centre southeast, partly over southern Norway. This means that the further north the boats on this section of the race track sail, the more headed they become. At 2130 BST this evening all the boats south of the latitude of Aberdeen were still more or less laying, while those immediately north were being headed and further further north boats such as La Promesse and Bank von Bremen were hard on the wind.
It's safe to say that this year's Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is a 'big boat' race.