Monday, August 11, 2014

Round Britain & Ireland Race Preview

J/109 White Knight sailing Round Britain (Cowes, Isle of Wight, England)- Organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is undoubtedly one of the toughest yacht races in the world. While other ocean races are longer, racing 1,800 miles around a coastline notorious for highly changeable weather and wicked tides and currents, puts the race amongst the most difficult to complete, let alone win. The 2014 entries include an amazing variety of yachts and sailors; exceptional people who come together as a team to attempt to climb one of offshore racing's biggest mountains.

Round Britain RaceThe fleet takes off this Saturday noon from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, Cowes, Isle of Wight.  They will set off down the Solent to the east and turn west around the south side of the Isle of Wight. After that the course is simple: leave Ireland and Great Britain to starboard all the way to the northern tip of the Shetland Isles, a point known as Outer Stack just north of Muckle Flugga, then return down the eastern side of the UK back to where the race started in Cowes. The fastest yachts may complete the course in under a week. For the slower yachts, nearly two weeks is more likely.

The most northerly point on the course, the island and lighthouse of “Muckle Flugga” is a higher latitude north than Cape Horn is south by roughly 300 nm!! Legend has it that Muckle Flugga, and other outlying islands, were formed by two giants fighting over the love of a mermaid. They threw giant rocks at each other, which became the small islands. There isn't a happy ending as the mermaid, fed up with them both, said she would marry whoever could follow her to the North Pole; they then stumbled after her into the sea where they both drowned!  Sad story, eh?  The lighthouse on the island was built over 150 years ago and was first lit on New Year's Day 1858 to protect the ships during the Crimean War. Whilst it was manned by lighthouse-keepers, the island was also the northernmost inhabited island of the UK.  For you literary fans, apparently Robert Louis Stevenson visited the island on 18 June 1869 and there are many who consider Stevenson’s relatively short stay to be inspiration for his classic book- “Treasure Island”!

Muckle Flugga lighthouseMaking their way around Muckle Flugga is a fleet of twenty yachts flying the flags of 11 nations: including China, France, Germany, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Ireland, Oman, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and the USA.

"This race is another step up from the offshore races organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club. The course is three times longer than the Rolex Fastnet Race and it takes the competitors through a myriad of different conditions. Crews will have to cope with a huge number of elements and that is what makes this race so compelling," commented RORC CEO Eddie Warden Owen (himself a J/24 European Champion and UK Champion).

"Most sailors agree that this race is one of the toughest tests of them all. It is nearly as long as an Atlantic crossing, but the changes of direction at headlands, navigating wind farms and oil rigs, will mean constant breaks in the watch system for sail changes and sail trim. The race is only run every four years and is a highly regarded fixture on the yacht racing calendar; experienced amateurs and seasoned professionals alike aspire to compete in a race that is real challenge."

There are three very well prepared J/Teams competing for IRC handicap honors. In IRC 2 Class, the J/111 BRITISH SOLDIER, the UK’s Army Sailing Association team, will by led by Phil Caswell. Joining them is the J/122 RELENTLESS ON JELLYFISH, sailed by Chris Radford and James George.  In IRC 3 Class, Rob Hammond and the UK Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club will be sailing the J/109 RUAG WHITE KNIGHT 7.

Team SCA sailing Round Britain RaceOf interest to many J sailors will be the first outing for the brand new fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s that have been built especially for the Volvo Ocean Race which starts in October 2014. It is the first skirmish between five professional teams: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Alvimedica, Dongfeng Race Team, Team SCA and Team Campos.  Top skippers and crew on a number of the boats have plenty of J/Boat one-design and offshore experience under their belts, including TEAM ALVEMEDICA (Charlie Enright), TEAM SCA (Libby Greenhalgh and Sally Barkow), ABU DHABI (Ian Walker), DONG FENG (Liu Ming and Jiru Yang), TEAM BRUNEL (Andrew Cape), and the Spanish- TEAM CAMPOS (Iker Martinez)!   Sailing photo credits- Rick Tomlinson   Follow the three J/Teams with YellowBrick tracking.  For more RORC Round Britain & Ireland Race sailing information