Three Multi-One-Design (MOD) 70s, and the maxi-yacht Rambler 88 have added extra spice to a record-breaking 64-boat Volvo Round Ireland fleet that starts the 700-mile offshore race tomorrow at 1pm from Wicklow.
Although predictions of a summer solstice record are being made, if any such time is to fall then the record-breaker, and that includes holder Musandam-Oman Sail, must be back off Wicklow Head within one day, 16 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds, or approximately 5am on Monday. It’s a tall order even for the fastest sailing boats in the world.
Sidney Gavignet's Oman trimaran is joined for the clockwise circumnavigation by British entry Team Concise10 and American Lloyd Thornburg's Phaedo3. There is additional Irish interest because Volvo Ocean Race winners Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery will be racing on Musandam-Oman and Phaedo3 respectively.
Although the trimarans will most likely complete the circumnavigation in a 48-hour time frame, the bulk of the Round Ireland fleet will still be racing for the main handicap prize most of next week.
In the hunt for IRC handicap honours there is a host of offshore boats drawn from across Ireland and the UK’s RORC fleet, including five potent J109 designs.
But also in contention is one of the oldest and slowest boats in the fleet that is a past double winner to boot. The 1978-vintage Granada 38 Cavatina under skipper Ian Hickey will relish the prospect of the stop-start conditions offered by the current mixed forecast.
Although the Irish Sea Offshore (ISORA) J109 champion Ruth (Liam Shanahan), runner up in the 2014 race, is not competing due to work commitments, a new much-fancied Dublin boat has emerged. Howth J109 entry Euro Car Parks has been chartered by David Cullen and carries no less than six national champions from three different classes for the circuit, including four-time Olympic keelboat helmsman Mark Mansfield.
Royal Cork's Mansfield joins Cullen and crew directly from Cowes where he competes today at the final races of the Quarter Ton Cup. Racing on Paul Gibbon's Anchor Challenge, the Cork Harbour Farr design is top of three Irish entries in the 26-boat fleet.
Gibbons is sixth after seven races sailed. Ben Daly's Cobh Pirate, also from Cork, is 13th and recently crowned ICRA class three champion Cartoon (Ken Lawless) from Dún Laoghaire, is 23rd after a bruising start on Wednesday.
Greystones Sailing Club's new premises will be officially opened by Health Minister Simon Harris on Sunday, at the town's new South Pier. The club, established in 1968, has more than 350 members with a fleet of more than 100 dinghies and 20 keelboats.
The first event of the 150th anniversary celebrations for Royal Ulster Yacht Club at Bangor on Belfast Lough will take place today. The Sigma 33 UK & Irish National Championships has attracted 20 boats.
The 1720 European Championships hosted by the Royal St George Yacht Club on Dublin Bay has attracted a 17-boat fleet. The championships will run some of its races as part of the National Yacht Club regatta programme tomorrow.