With all of the pre-race hype about incoming hurricanes, potential course reversals and broken course records, it would have been easy for this year’s Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race to disappoint. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. With the downgraded Hurricane Bertha’s eastward progression moving slower than predicted, race organizers opted to delay the start by 21 hours in addition to confirming that the course would be reversed as it was in 2010, to run counterclockwise around the British Isles.
The 28 competing yachts had no time to settle into the marathon 1,802-mile ocean sprint, as their crews were sending it downwind in 30 knots of breeze from the get-go. The fleet’s scratch boat and sole multihull, Musandam-Oman Sail, set an astonishing pace out of the gate, and the Omani MOD70 is currently routed to complete the course in around three days. This would be just a couple of precious hours ahead of Banque Populaire V’s 2011 reference time of 3d, 3h and 49m. If skipper Sidney Gavignet and his half-Anglo/half-Omani crew can hold on to set a new course record, the achievement will be made even more impressive by the fact that BP V was twice as long as the 70-ft Musandam-Oman Sail and left on a specific weather window, not on an organized race start.
Behind the blazing tri, a half-dozen Volvo boats are settling into position on the race course in a clearly defined A fleet and B fleet. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Volvo 65 Azzam has opened up a 30-mile lead over the Spanish Team Campos with the Chinese entry Team Dongfeng a further 10 miles back. The American/Turkish youth entry Team Alvimedica and the all-female Team SCA have fallen off the pace and are battling closer with the old Russian Volvo 70 than they are their one-design brethren. There’s a lot of carnage to report through the fleet, including four out of five Class 40s and the legendary Sir Robin Knox-Johnston retiring. The globetrotting Ker 51 Varuna currently leads IRC overall, with the ex-Russian VO 70 Monster Project putting in a stellar showing in second.