The 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, started at 0900 BST August 11.
All 28 yachts are now heading east along the Solent having now started the 1800 mile race around Britain and Ireland. A large crowd of spectators outside the Royal Yacht Squadron saw the fleet away. In bright sunshine, with a stiff southwesterly wind and a significant positive tide, it was a magnificent start with yachts flying through the surf under spinnakers.
At 1130 BST, all of the fleet are now passed Selsey Bill, experiencing over 30 knots of breeze as they reach at top speed along the south coast of England. Musandam -OmanSail, skippered by Sidney Gavignet, has averaged 30 knots of boat speed since the start. If the MOD70 keeps that up the team will finish the course in two and a half days, smashing the course record.
'We could be very close to the record but I am not sure at this stage that we will break it,' commented Sidney Gavignet. 'The computer says we can, but the reality is that the sea state will probably slow us down a bit - and we will still have 40 knots overnight, so for this we don't want to rush as the quicker we go the more wind we will have.'
The IRC and Class40 Fleet start saw Brian Thompson's IMOCA 60, Artemis - Team Endeavour, judge the line to perfection, blasting through the short chop at full power right on the gun. However, Andrew Budgen and Fred Schwyn's Volvo 70, Monster Project, showed terrific downwind speed to take up the lead. The two canting keel downwind flyers are now locked in a high speed duel averaging 20 knots of boat speed and that battle is likely to continue for the next four or five days. Just two hours into the race, Artemis - Team Endeavour are leading overall after time correction from Monster Project.
Volvo 65s, Team SCA and Azzam, at the start of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. Photo: Rick Tomlinson rick-tomlinson.comThe five Volvo 65s screamed through the start line flying Code Zeros, all bar Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam, skippered by Ian Walker, which started with a smaller A3. Team SCA, skippered by Sam Davies, got the best start but Azzam soon peeled to the Code Zero to fly into the lead. However, Team Dongfeng, skippered by Frenchman Charles Caudrelier, was just in the lead at 1100 BST. Three teams have taken the lead in the Volvo 65 class in the first two hours, a pattern that may well continue right through the race. IRC Zero
At this very early stage, Jens Kellinghusen's Ker 51, Varuna, is the class leader and third overall. In the last 12 months, Varuna has competed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart, RORC Caribbean 600 and the Transpac. Spanish navigator Guillermo Altadill and Australian Luke Molloy are on board to strengthen the highly experienced German crew. Varuna is fully lit up, averaging over 15 knots and surfing significantly faster in the downwind conditions. IRC One
Jankees Lampe's Open 40, La Promesse, is revelling in the downwind conditions. The other half of the Dutch Two-Handed team is Bart Boosman, who was shouting for joy at the Skippers' Briefing when he heard that the course was being reversed. La Promesse is trucking along, averaging over 15 knots, leading IRC One and the Two-Handed Class and fourth in IRC Overall. IRC Two
The fleet of five yachts are virtually neck and neck, with Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Logic, leading the fleet by virtue of having the lowest rating in the class. However, the downwind start will be highly desirable for The Army Sailing Association's J/111, British Soldier, as well as Chris Radford's J/122, Relentless on Jellyfish.
Conrad Manning, racing Two-Handed on Ian Hoddle's Figaro II, Rare, sent this message from the race track. 'What a sight! The VO65 fleet just came screaming past us and we can see Oman Sail flying on one hull at an incredible speed. We are really flying as well, it's blowing 30 knots out here and the speedo hasn't dropped below ten knots since we started!' IRC Three and IRC Four
The only boat in IRC Four, Lula Belle, leads the two faster IRC Three boats, Change of Course and Ruag White Knight 7 on the water, a fantastic start for the Two-Handed team from Ireland. The three boats are fairly closely rated and will be looking forward to their own battle around the course which is likely to last almost two weeks.