SAIL - - Features -

An epic race round the Bri­tish Isles; a his­toric ocean-rac­ing first

There are ba­si­cally two kinds of off­shore sail­boat races out there: those that take place an­nu­ally, like the Fast­net and Chicago-to-Mack­inac races; and those that take place ev­ery other year, like the Transpac and New­port-Ber­muda race, in part so the com­peti­tors have suf­fi­cient time to re­cover be­fore the next run­ning. (The Rolex Syd­ney-Ho­bart is a no­table ex­cep­tion, be­ing both in­cred­i­bly bru­tal and tak­ing place ev­ery year: must be all the beer those Aussies drink.)

Then there’s the Seventstar Round Bri­tain and Ire­land Race, which takes place ev­ery four years, the same as the epic VendŽe Globe. Or­ga­nized by the Royal Ocean Rac­ing Club, the event is not es­pe­cially well known in the States, but is renowned in the UK and Europe as be­ing one of the tough­est events around. Start­ing from in front of the famed Royal Yacht Squadron “Cas­tle” in Cowes, Eng­land, the event takes the fleet clock­wise past Lands End across to Ire­land and then around the top of Scot­land back down to the English Chan­nel and into the So­lent and Cowes.

Turn­ing points in­clude not just Fast­net Rock, but St. Kilda and Scot­land’s Muckle Flugga is­land, lo­cated at roughly 61 de­grees north. (For com­par­i­son, Cape Horn is lo­cated at a mere 55 de­grees south lat­i­tude.) Yeah, it’s tough, with the en­tire 1,805 nau­ti­cal-mile course ex­hibit­ing the atro­cious weather for which this part of the world is renowned. So tough is the event that the last two times run­ning, the RORC has re­versed the course in an ef­fort to keep the fleet from be­ing overly bat­tered by the fore­cast wind and seas.

Ac­cord­ing to this year’s over­all win­ner, skip­per Giles Red­path of the Lombard 46 Pata Ne­gra, which fin­ished in just over nine days, eight hours, “To win this race over­all is amaz­ing, my great­est rac­ing achieve­ment to date with­out a doubt. It is a phe­nom­e­nally in­ter­est­ing race, the con­di­tions change all the time and it is a lot tougher than a transat­lantic. It is full-on the whole way round and that in­creases the level of sat­is­fac­tion when you do well.”

Of course, this be­ing Great Bri­tain, a place known for its quirk­i­ness, a wide va­ri­ety of boats and crews could be found among the 28-boat fleet. Th­ese in­cluded Par­a­lympians, a young stu­dent crew from Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity (which had its is­sues with sea­sick­ness) and a num­ber of tough lit­tle racer-cruis­ers— among them the Amer­i­can-flagged Jean­neau Sun Odyssey 45.2 A.J. Wan­der­lust, skip­pered by Michi­gan’s Char­lene Howard and crew Neal Brewer, which put into port at one point for re­pairs, but still com­pleted the course in just over 17 days.

“I asked Neal to stick with it, which he ab­so­lutely did,” Howard said of the team’s set­backs. “We still had 1,500 miles to go and I didn’t want to give up. This race is only ev­ery four years, so there was no way I was stop­ping now!”

Then there was Tim Win­sey, who along with Charles Em­mett won the dou­ble­handed IRC 4 sec­tion aboard the clas­sic Sigma 36 racer-cruiser Bri­tish Bea­gle— de­spite it be­ing Em­mett’s first off­shore race. “The first week there wasn’t a mo­ment you could re­lax, it was just re­lent­less and in­tense,” Win­sey said. “I didn’t know quite what to ex­pect, but this to me is nor­mal now. I’ve done a lot of cruis­ing when I was younger, and I don’t re­ally do rac­ing, but we had a chat in the pub, and we hatched the plan to do it.”

For more on this year’s Round Bri­tain and Ire­land Race, or to find out more about en­ter­ing the next time around, visit roundbri­tainan

dire­land.rorc.org.— Adam Cort

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