Tuesday 30 May 2017

Read deflated after wind gamble fails to deliver

WM Nixon

In baseball, they call it swinging for the fences. In sailing, you take a flyer. Either way, it's a big tactic which can bring big gains, but is equally likely to bring spectacular losses.

Whatever, when it goes haywire those who do it can usually manage to justify it with ingenious explanations. And they don't have to when it succeeds.

Last week, we left the Volvo boats closing in on the finish of Stage 3 at Sanya in Southern China.

American skipper Ken Read had swung for the fences aboard Puma. He went right in anticipation of a wind shift.

Far from veering as the brains trust on Puma had deduced from their weather data, the wind backed.

There was nothing for it, but to take the medicine. By the time Puma got back in the hunt, most of the hunt had moved on.

Only Mike Sanderson's veteran Sanya was still astern. But Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi was in sight ahead, and the Puma got her claws into them -- a bit of a tacking duel, and they were on course for fourth at the finish.

Up at the front of the fleet, Franck Cammas is settling into his first Volvo race. With race-hardened Damian Foxall as first mate, Groupama looks more in touch with each successive day and they showed well on the leg to Sanya.

They were right there with the Martinez crew down the Straits of Malacca and round the south point of Malaysia, though towards the finish Telefonica opened the gap ahead of Groupama, with Camper third.

Current points are Telefonica 95, Camper 80, Groupama 71, Puma 48, Abu Dhabi 39, Sanya 16.

The in-port race is in a week's time to round out a fortnight of festivities at Sanya and then, on Sunday, February 19, they start leg four to New Zealand, which is homeward bound for many crewmen.

Can Ran do it? Can Nik Zennstrom's world-beating 72ft Ran add the Caribbean 600 to her string of successes, which includes the 2009 and 2011 Fastnet Race?

This newest classic starts in Antigua on Monday, February 20, and already it has a history in which an Irish boat is much involved.

Back in 2007, Ger O'Rourke's Cookson 50 Chieftain from Kilrush was overall winner of the Fastnet Race. Then, under the new ownership of Adrian Lee of Dun Laoghaire, she was the winner of the first Caribbean 600.

The record for the warm water course was set last year by George David's Rambler 100, which, by August, had become well known for all the wrong reasons, but the irrepressible skipper is back with his 90ft Rambler in which he and Read notched some remarkable wins.

Irish hopes this year are with Mick Cotter's 78ft Whisper, which is something of a cruiser-racer by today's standards, but nevertheless has taken a very creditable fifth overall in the Fastnet, and is the record holder for the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle race.

The biggest boat is the 200ft Hetairos, which has a crew of 29, including four Irish -- James O'Carroll, Aaron O'Grady, Mark O'Reilly, and Johnny Mordant.

Irish Independent

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