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All Change, No Leg to Isle of Man, Channel Course Instead

Published on 09/06/2019

In light of the strong winds which were forecast for the Irish Sea, the newness of the Figaro Beneteau 3s, and especially the seas expected in the Saint Georges Channel between Wales and Ireland, the decision has been taken by Race Direction to introduce an alternative, safer option.

Instead of the planned ascent of the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man and fast downwind, the new course now goes from Kinsale to Bishop Rock by the Scily Isles, then up the Channel to round The Needles Fairway mark to the west of the Isle of Wight, then back down to Portsall and in to Roscoff, a 530 nautical mile course.

Although there will be a brisk SW’ly at the start it will soften in the Celtic Sea during this first night. Along the Channel it will be a light N’ly wind, so a gennaker reach. As the low pressure displaces the wind will head right round in to the SE. And light winds are expected for the return passage down the Channel to the Portsall by the Point of Brittany. The there will be some moderate NE’ly to get the leaders in to Roscoff during the night of Wednesday to Thursday.

Skippers were generally in accord with Race Direction, even is some were not really enamoured with the idea of another Solitaire stage in the Channel when a new frontier – to the Isle of Man for the first time – seemed to be on offer.

Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) It is unexpected but interesting nonetheless, changing the game at the last minute adds to the challenge. It will take us along the south coast of the UK, so lots of headlands and local effects and transitions. All the guys here have sailed the south coast quite a lot. But I have done quite well on th south coast before. As for the late change I think this changes it the game a lot ot see who can adapt quicker, who can read the weather and who can mentally deal with the change.

We go around the Needles Fairway and then down to the point of Brittany so round to Grand Basse de Portsal then down the coast into Roscoff, probably against the tide as usual and then in to the finish.

The Pôle (team) will work to send us all the information and that is the important thing to have as much information as possible with us. The main thing for me is that I have a clear picture of the first 24 hours so I can do that automatically.

Conrad Colman (Ethical Power) Going to an entirely different part with no time to prepare is not a conscientious race by the race direction. It takes days and days of planning to get this right. Here is a complete change and we have to scramble now to make sure we get out on to the route and to do it safely. Like many races there are different splinter groups of weather preparation. So I will establish the route and then figure out the pinch points where to go and where not to go. And thankfully I can offload some of the strategic thinking to my weather router and we discuss that before the start. I was excited about going round the Isle of Man. It was going to take us longer than the 37 minutes it takes the TT motorbikers to go round, I was really pumped to be going up there. Another time.

Alain Gautier (Merci pour ces 30 ans): I have not sailed on my boat enough to really comment on what is safe or not. I have not sailed with more than 25 or 30 knots and I do not know how the boat sails with 35-40kts with a bad sea like in the Saint Georges Channel with big seas and current. I am disappointed to be going in to the Channel once again. I would preferred something more open, like going to the Fastnet and maybe another mark. So the next legs were in the Channel so here we have one more. But that is my view.

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