High-speed chase ends tour


THE FOUR-day visit to Ireland of the new multihull one-design 70-footers (MOD 70) fleet ended yesterday with a final high-speed chase around the southside of Dublin Bay, ending three days of racing that attracted thousands of spectators.

The five trimarans, each with six crew for this latest offshore stage in their European Tour, blasted south towards Dalkey Island in a fresh breeze that carried them along the coast towards their final Irish waypoint at Fastnet off west Cork.

The fleet was led by the Swiss Race for Water, an environmental awareness entry skippered by Steve Ravussin whose crew includes Franck Cammas, winner of the recent Volvo Ocean Race.

After rounding Fastnet sometime early this morning, the five boats have a sprint across the western edge of the Bay of Biscay towards Portugal and Cascais for the next stop-over of the tour. Fresh westerly winds should ensure that these speed machines reach their potential of up to 40 knots of sustained speed and reach the leg finish late tomorrow or on Wednesday.

Spectators at Dún Laoghaire were treated to a taste of this performance in the more sheltered waters of Scotsman’s Bay over the weekend, though the City Race series wasn’t without drama. On Friday afternoon, Sidney Gavignet’s Musandam-Oman Sail came just a little too close to Teddy’s ice cream parlour at Sandycove and struck a rocky outcrop, a few hundred metres from the shore.

It was brought to a crashing halt by the underwater trap and sustained damage to its deep centreboard. A speedy pit stop at the Carlisle Pier base ensured the team was back in action for the next two races. Gavignet had no further problems on Saturday when Irish Olympian Annalise Murphy was a guest on board.

Crewman Brian Thompson along with her parents Con Murphy and Cathy MacAleavey set the current Round Ireland speed sailing record with the late adventurer Steve Fossett in 1993 on board Lakota. Initial discussions over the weekend indicate a strong chance of a new record attempt, using one of the modern MOD 70s, with Thompson and two generations of Murphys on board to beat the standing record of 44 hours and 42 minutes.

After the 2012 European tour is completed, preparations will begin for next year’s series including a possible return to Dún Laoghaire.

But a record attempt could be launched from France when suitable weather is forecast, allowing a team to sail from Brittany to Dublin in 20 hours to begin a new time.

As the five MOD 70s passed Ireland’s south coast early this morning, it was exactly 19 years to the day since Fossett and his team had set the current record.

Dragon Gold Cup: World champion leads

CURRENT world champion Lawrie Smith opened the Brewin Dolphin Dragon Gold Cup yesterday with a clear challenge to class supremo Poul Richard Hoj-Jensen at Kinsale by winning the opening race of the no-discard six-race series.

An Atlantic swell proved testing for the 65-strong fleet but were ideal conditions for the Dane though it was the British former Whitbread Round the World Race skipper who edged ahead by the finish.

The final leg of the race saw Cameron Good from the hosts Kinsale Yacht Club slip from fourth place to seventh. With his crew Simon Furney and Henry Kingston, Little Fella was best of the Irish and top Corinthian entry overall after day one.

Next best of the home fleet was Martin Byrne of the Royal St George YC in Dún Laoghaire with his regular team of Adam Winkelmann and Pedro Andrade on Jaguar who placed 10th.

The sea conditions were left-over after fresher winds gradually abated but still took their toll with breakages and damage from collisions.

Top British entry Gavia Wilkinson-Cox ended in 34th after reportedly taking three penalty turns for various incidents during the race and the no-discards rule could yet prove decisive for her hopes as a key contender.

Lighter conditions are expected for today and tomorrow but Wednesday’s forecast of winds in excess of 25 knots could threaten the full programme of racing that concludes with a final on Friday. – DAVID BRANIGAN

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