Fleet of multi-hulls aims to break round-Ireland sail record

Kerryman Damian Foxall among yachts due into Dún Laoghaire

 Round-the-world sailor Damian Foxall is anticipated in Dún Laoghaire harbour early this morning, on board the 21m  Oman Air-Musandam. Photograph: Lloyd Images

Round-the-world sailor Damian Foxall is anticipated in Dún Laoghaire harbour early this morning, on board the 21m Oman Air-Musandam. Photograph: Lloyd Images


A fleet of silent invaders is anticipated in Dún Laoghaire harbour early this morning, with Kerryman and frequent round-the-world sailor Damian Foxall among them.

He is on board the 21m (70ft) Oman Air-Musandam, one of nine multi-hulls vying to break the 20-year-old speed record for circumnavigating Ireland early next week as part of the first ever Route des Princes offshore race.

The 3,045-nautical mile route between Valencia in Spain and Plymouth in southern England is intended to conjure up “memories of expeditions led by Corsairs and explorers”, according to the organisers of the four-stage race.

The trimaran crews are tested on the “vagaries of the Mediterranean Sea, the Portuguese trade winds, Atlantic depressions, the treacherous Irish and British coasts, and the stony shores of the French Finistère coast upon landing”, the race plan states.

The fleet of MOD 70 and Multi 50 vessels left Lisbon for Dún Laoghaire on Sunday, with strong winds and big seas forecast off Cape Finisterre and ideal conditions for the 990 nautical-mile second stage of the race.

‘Rough and fast’
“It will be rough and fast but we’ll get there in one piece,” Foxall said before leaving Lisbon.

The fleet will compete in far more comfortable inshore racing in Dublin Bay this weekend, conjuring up memories of the Volvo Ocean race inshore series in Galway.

The trimarans will then set out on their Irish circumnavigation on Monday from Dublin Bay, before heading south to Plymouth and finishing in the French bay of Morlaix at the end of the month.

The fastest round-Ireland sailing record was set 20 years ago in 1993 by the late Steve Fossett on Lakota, breaking the previous record by nearly one day with a time of 44 hours, 42 minutes and 20 seconds.

On board with Fossett were co-skipper David Scully, British yachtsman Brian Thompson and Irish sailors Cathy McAleavey and Con Murphy – parents of Irish Olympic sailor Annalise Murphy.

Not plain sailing
Foxall will use this week’s Irish stopover to announce his next international offshore sailing campaign.

The Irish Volvo Ocean race winner and his French skipper Sidney Gavignet are expected to confirm an Omani sponsored entry in November’s Jacques Vabre Transat race.

This would mark a return to a race that ended badly eight years ago for the Irish man in the grip of an Atlantic storm when sailing with co-skipper Armel Le Cléac’h in a 60ft trimaran that capsized.

Foxall was hospitalised after being airlifted from the boat, 450 miles off the coast of France in 2005.

He put the accident behind him and three years later went on to secure a stunning international double-handed victory in the 2008 Barcelona round the world race with Jean-Pierre Dick, a French skipper also bidding for Jacques Vabre honours this November.

Another record has been challenged in the past few days by Breton sailor Francis Joyon, who is already the fastest solo world yachtsman. He has broken the North Atlantic crossing record set by Thomas Colville in 2008, making it over in five days, two hours, 56 minutes and 10 seconds.

A three-day festival as part of the Route des Princes runs in Dún Laoghaire from June 21st to 23rd, with racing from 2pm to 5pm each day and live commentary from Irish Olympic sailor Ger Owens.