Phil Sharp (GBR) and crew (Julien Pulve FR, Pablo Santurde ESP, Sam Matson GBR) are currently leading the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race with a 30 mile advantage. The fourth Class 40 Championship race for Phil ahead of November’s solo grand slam the Route du Rhum from St Malo to Guadeloupe.
For the past two editions the weather has been so rough that the race organisers (Royal Ocean Racing Club) reversed the route to protect the fleet from a potential battering. As an official World Speed Sailing Record route this 1,800nm circumnavigation offers more than a race win for the Class 40s who are hungry to set a new World Record with a chance to take overall line honours.
Of the 29 boats that started on Sunday, there have been 6 retirements and with the worst of the weather yet to come, the podium is far from certain. The front runners are currently racing in near gale conditions with winds expected to develop all the way up to the Shetland Islands. Phil Sharp, skipper of Imerys Clean Energy reports from the boat:
“Conditions are getting quite crazy out here…
“The wind is around 30 knots now and increasing slowly as we pelt towards a front in the low pressure. We just had a sustained surf of 22 knots which lasted a good 30 seconds with the boat absolutely screaming. This is really the limit for the spinnaker, and we will probably change down soon to the Code 5 furling sail if it gets any winder.”
It took less than 20 hours to sail the length of Ireland:
Soon after midnight, approximately half-way up Ireland, team Imerys took control of the fleet and continued to extend their lead. With strong winds comes risk of boat damage. At 3am Phor-ty (then 3rd) crewed by round the world sailor Mike Golding and Route du Rhum competitor Sam Goodchild headed for land to make a ‘small rudder repair’, eventually retiring, whilst at dawn Corum too encountered problems stopping momentarily mid-race.
“It was a great feeling late yesterday to take the lead, but sorry to hear that Phor-ty has had to stop earlier today, we were enjoying the battle!
“In the meantime we have some breathing space, but we are all too aware of how many twists and challenges could lie ahead, so we will continue to race hard and hopefully continue the lead margin just in case we too face problems aboard.” Phil continued.