No long surfs, no reefing the sails, no sinister cracking, no rumbling down below, no fire hoses on deck: the sailing conditions close to SW Ireland are more than a little gentle! Too gentle for some who have to be on permanent watch on deck to make the most of the slightest wind shift, whilst their distant pursuers yesterday are today snapping at their heels. RIOU has been battling all night to get a lowly one mile lead over LE CAM, but the danger is just on their stern. Swiss sailor Dominique WAVRE, is just a stone's thrown a away on Temenos and a group of four boats - Cheminées Poujoulat, Roxy, Artemis Ocean Racing, Aviva - are sailing within sight of each other ()… as are the duo 15 miles behind them, Delta Dore and Akena Vérandas. The fleet is currently stretched across 77.3 miles and that is set to be reduced still further over the coming hours as the backmarkers are still in more wind!
The weather situation for the fourth day of racing in the Calais Round Britain Race is far from easy for the navigators to negotiate: light northeasterly winds, variable in both strength and direction. There are some difficult choices in view: either to stay in contact with your competitors and hope to make a difference later on (there are still over 1,200 miles to go!), or shake off your marker and attempt an escape, which could prove to be a fiasco… All the fleet is aware that the wind will return and settle in gently from the NE for the next few days. The outlook then is for upwind conditions for rounding Saint Kilda, West of the Hebrides, prior to a series of tacks up to the Shetlands; all this in at best 12 knots of wind!
In order to gain the upper hand, the boats will have to be the first to hit the new wind and then that lead should extend naturally. To achieve this, the boats' speeds being roughly the same in these calm conditions, it is the choice of tacks that will determine the ranking. Sweeping into Galway bay is one solution which extends the course and it may enable these boats to make the most of the thermal breeze from the sun on the land. For this, good timing is needed as well as good management of the currents. The other option is to take as direct a course as possible between Blasket Island (SW Ireland) and Eagle Island (NW Ireland) for a 100 miles in the hope that a new breeze will sweep across the whole race zone at the same time.
Only time will tell which options our teams will choose.