Round Ireland racers hoping for some wind in their sails
SAILORS will be praying for a stiff breeze this weekend as 36 boats battle it out on the high seas in the country's annual Round Ireland Yacht Race.
However, with light winds on the horizon, this year's Conway Media Round Ireland Yacht Race is shaping up to be slower than usual, although the changeable Irish weather has been known to throw up a few surprises.
Some 36 yachts will be under starter's orders when the 704-mile non-stop race gets under way from Wicklow Harbour at noon on Sunday.
The rules state that sailors must "leave Ireland and all her islands to starboard", so the boats will head south to Tuskar Rock and on to Fastnet before rounding Cork and striking up the west coast.
Last year, the winning boat managed to complete the arduous course in under three days. However, organisers believe it could take longer this year.
"With light winds, it could be like watching paint dry. It could be a day or two longer," predicted Charlie Kavanagh, commodore of the Wicklow Sailing Club.
"Last year it took the fastest yacht two days and 17 hours -- it could be more like four days this time. Each race is different."
This year's race will see entries from Ireland, Britain, France and the Netherlands, and while most of them will be crewed by amateurs, there will also be some professionals taking part. The event has also managed to attract sailors from as far away as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Over 10,000 people are expected to flock to Wicklow town this weekend to celebrate the race's 30th anniversary, which is being marked by a sailing festival.