The third offshore leg of the Route des Princes commenced this Monday at 1000 GMT in a NW’ly breeze of between 10 and 13 knots. After an inshore race spanning a few miles, the three MOD70s still racing headed offshore, bound for Bardsey.
Edmond de Rothschild - 2013 Route des Princes
The first to pass this island, situated in the Irish Sea, just a few kilometres from the Welsh coast, will be awarded the first bonus points for this leg. Getting off to a solid start, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild was lying in second place, just a few boat lengths astray of Virbac Paprec, as the fleet of multihulls left Dùn Laoghaire in its wake. This leg promises to be tactical with a number of passage marks to be negotiated in winds that could well prove to be fickle.
As the trimarans took to the open sea, the route for this third leg hadn’t yet been clearly defined. Indeed, given the zones of high pressure expected across their route, Race Management has created several possible scenarios once the fleet has left Eddystone lighthouse to starboard:
'The course is clear as far as Eddystone: the first mark is the island of Bardsey, along the Welsh coast, before the fleet switch back towards Ireland with the Fastnet to be left to port before the skippers set a course towards Bishop Rock, situated to the far West of the Scilly Isles, and finally Eddystone lighthouse. We’re expected into Plymouth from Wednesday afternoon. As such, depending on when we pass Eddystone, Race Management will be able to choose between four marks to the East of this position to determine the course for the final sprint. If we make fast headway, we will have further to sail and if that’s the case, the mark furthest to the East will be the Southern Head lighthouse, situated to the North of Le Pas-de-Calais’ TSS. However, the current grib files suggest that it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll have to go that far. We will receive a warning about the new course 60 miles before Eddystone', explained Charles Caudrelier, navigator on Edmond de Rothschild.
Shortly before leaving Dùn Laoghaire marina, Sébastien Josse described the general weather pattern for this leg:
'A ridge of high pressure is settling into position but a small section of a front will traverse this zone. It’s still difficult to give a very accurate reading of the situation as this morning’s grib files are giving us a little more wind than yesterday and the general situation seems a bit clearer as far as Fastnet and even as far as the Scillies. However, it’s still fairly fickle along the South coast of England, where the wind could be lacking. There is a substantial tidal range (coef. 105) and we will have current to play with over this section of the course. From the outset, during our first crossing of the Irish Sea, we’re set to encounter two to three knots of current. At that point it will be angled North-South and should enable us to make some gains in relation to the routing software predictions.'
The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild then went on to explain the conditions expected for the first section of the race, which will take the fleet towards the famous Fastnet Rock for what is the second time in this event:
'We’re due to sail downwind with a NW’ly wind of 10 - 15 knots. However, we’re expecting a transition with the wind shifting round to the SSW. The wind will then swing round virtually 180° and this rotation could be accompanied by a drop in its intensity. From Bardsey as far as the Fastnet, we should benefit from a southerly wind of 12-14 knots to beat towards southern Ireland. However, the weather models are showing the arrival of an occluded front, which will totally disrupt the wind as we approach Fastnet. This section will be tricky.'
In addition to the weather, which is sure to make life difficult for the sailors, Sébastien Josse and his men will also have to negotiate the numerous TSSs (Traffic Separation Scheme) punctuating the course: 'On the whole, the TSSs are zones forbidden to non-commercial shipping. As such, these zones become real obstacles, which we have to round as we would an island. These TSSs can clearly have an influence on our strategy as they force us to make a decision about which route to take with some more clear-cut trajectories being called for. There are around seven such systems in this third offshore leg: Dublin, Tuskar, Fastnet, Bishop, Seven Stones…' explained the skipper of Gitana Team. Of note is the fact that those boats, which fail to respect the TSSs may be penalised by the Race Committee.
Once they set sail from Dùn Laoghaire, the trimarans will set a course to the South-East bound for the island of Bardsey, situated near the Llyn peninsula coastline in Wales. The island has to be left to starboard before the fleet head back across the Irish Sea to the legendary Fastnet Rock. Edmond de Rothschild and its adversaries will round the lighthouse before making for the Isles of Scilly and the Bishop Rock course mark. At that stage, the fleet will link onto a course along the coast of South-West England, passing a number of famous places along the way, including Wolf Rock, to the far South-West of England, as well as Eddystone lighthouse. According to the weather conditions as the fleet approach Eddystone, Race Management will announce the appropriate route for the end of the race. There are four possibilities under study, not to mention the one that involves the fleet heading straight to the finish line from Eddystone. Indeed the MOD70s may end up going as far as Shambles West, Fairway to the West of the Isle of Wight, the Nab Tower a little further East or, in the most extreme scenario, Southern Head, just twenty miles or so from the entrance to Le Pas-de-Calais. Whatever happens, the finish will still be decided off Plymouth. Ultimately the third offshore leg of the Route des Princes will comprise a course of 640 to 850 miles.
It is worth noting that the bonus points (Two points per mark as the leg is scored on a factor of two) will be awarded to the first boat to pass Bardsey and later Bishop Rock.
Ranking for the Route des Princes (after the jury)
1. Spindrift Racing (Yann Guichard) / 94 points *
2. Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) / 88 points
3. Musandam – Oman Air (Sidney Gavignet) / 84 points
3. Virbac Paprec 70 (Jean-Pierre Dick) / 66 points
* Spindrift Racing is ranked as DNS in offshore three as the crew were forced to retire after capsizing in the first inshore race in Dublin last Saturday.