The chasing pack are still around 50 miles off the pace set by PRB, VM Matériaux and Temenos, with Jonny MALBON (GBR) and Artemis Ocean Racing leading the way. Behind Jeremie BEYOU (FRA) on Delta Dore has clearly had the pedal to the metal overnight, climbing four places to 10 miles behind MALBON. Bernard STAMM (SUI) and Cheminees Poujoulat, Dee CAFFARI (GBR) on Aviva are Sam DAVIES (GBR) and Roxy are hot on the heels of the green and white Farr boat, all packed in a 4 mile zone less than 10 miles behind BEYOU.
'It's very tactical, very interesting, but we didn't come here to race around the islands in light winds,' said WAVRE jokingly. Aboard the leading boat, PRB, RIOU was laying it on even thicker! 'It's cold and wet and the wind is dropping out again. At the moment we have 8 knots of wind. Day is breaking and it would be good if the fog did the same thing.'
This third edition of the circumnavigation of the British Isles seems to have the fog as its keynote, reminiscent of the pea-soupers of old time London! Right from the outset in Calais the 11 crews were slicing through thick banks of fog as far as Cape Gris Nez, then again in the Channel, again after the Fastnet and the length of the Irish coast and now en route for Saint Kilda... Other than the odd sunny spells turning the waters of Ireland a shimmering turquoise, the atmosphere has been clammy and heavy, coloured by the anxiety of some unforeseen danger looming up in the gloom. The going is long and tedious with upwind conditions set to accompany the fleet as far as Shetland some 450 miles north, the current ETA of which is Saturday. Two good days of zigzagging in around 12 knots of breeze which will drop and increase at will as the hours go by, forcing the crews to lug all their gear across from one side of the boat to the other, the helmsmen remaining particularly attentive to make the most of any slight wind shifts.
The outlook is not to cheery for the fleet who are likely to have to withstand this wet and relatively stable situation against a variable wind from NNE to ENE according to their position in relation to a ridge of high pressure with a fairly slight pressure gradient that will fluctuate between Ireland and Scotland, in addition to a warm front from the east which is in the process of dissipating. A positive thing about this situation is that the seas will be fairly slight and the wind is unlikely to exceed fifteen knots.
At the 12:00 Ranking today the leaders were drawing level with the Isle of Islay to their east, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland´s West coast. The Isle of Islay plays host to around 3,200 inhabitants and extends across 600 square kilometres with 130 miles of wild coastline. Famed for its whisky and its large variety of birds, this former main seat of power in Western Scotland was inhabited as far back as 7000 BC by hunters and fishermen. At this time of year, Islay is at its mildest, bathed by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Later in the day, the fleet will also pass west of the island of Mull, which is the second largest of the Inner Hebrides. Mull is the fourth largest island in Scotland and surprisingly the fourth largest island surrounding Great Britain at 338 square miles. Beautiful scenery for any voyage.