by Louay Habib
The Royal Racing Club made the following announcement on the eve of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race:
Robin Knox-Johnston flanked by (left to right) Nick Elliott, Ned Collier-Wakefield, Liam Coyne, Sidney Gavignet, Sam Davies and Katrin Hilbert.
'In consideration of the weather forecast for the foreseeable future, showing a low pressure moving through The Channel in the early hours of the morning and eventually becoming stationary over Northern Scotland, bringing a strong Westerly to North Westerly airflow for the first days of the race, it has been decided by the Race Committee to reverse the course to sail anticlockwise around Great Britain and Ireland. The decision was based on aiming to provide a more enjoyable race for all the yachts in the fleet. The start will still be from the Royal Yacht Squadron to the East.'
News that the course would be reversed drew a packed house to the Press Conference and Skippers' Briefing. It was standing room only, as world-class professional sailors and experienced offshore Corinthians listened in.
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston was a panellist at the Press Conference, made up of a broad cross-section of the 200 sailors from all over the world who will be taking part in the race. Sir Robin will be competing two handed at 75 years old. The offshore legend has raced around Britain and Ireland eight times before and was the first man to race around the world non-stop, single-handed.
Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager - 2014 Round Britain and Ireland Race
RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen asked if Sir Robin was happy with the change of course: 'Is the Pope Catholic? Like everyone else I'm absolutely delighted we're going that way round. We'll get round faster. I think it's a very sensible decision on your (RORC) part. The smaller boats will have taken a hammering and none of us would have enjoyed it. So I think this is a very sensible decision by the race organisers.'
RORC Commodore, Mike Greville, welcomed Sevenstar Managing Director, Richard Klabbers to the Skipper's Briefing. Richard Klabbers competed in the 2010 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race on board Harry Heijst's S&S 41,Winsome. 'From my own experience last time, I know how hard it is. It took me 14 days that time but we avoided the bad weather at least. I wish you all the best of luck. We are a partner of this race to give back to this sport, not to create more business, so please, all of you, come back all in one piece safe and sound.'
Volvo Ocean Race navigator, Campbell Field gave a detailed weather briefing to the ensemble, explaining why the decision was made to reverse the course. 'Part of the decision when we looked at the forecast this morning was due to the following: quite a lot of wind has been driven from a westerly direction as former Hurricane Bertha makes her way through. Part of that data that helped make the decision to not go to the west was that boats would have been making their way across the Celtic Sea with the potential for significant wave heights of 6-8 metres - you could see 10 metres out there - and a fairly ferocious westerly breeze with nowhere to go.'
The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is set to start on schedule at 1200 BST, tomorrow, Sunday 10th August. The fleet will still start in an easterly direction from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line towards the Forts in the Eastern Solent. Conditions look to be absolutely spectacular with the fastest boats flying downwind at phenomenal speeds.
Overview from production of Swan 115-002.
Harry Heijst, Richard Klabbers and Andrew McIrvine - 2014 Round Britain and Ireland Race