Thursday 22 February 2018

Tough lesson for Cammas and Foxall as Groupama falls off pace


WM Nixon

A week ago, Franck Cammas on Groupama was already slowing down as the steam went out of his initially successful ploy of holding close to the African coast in the Volvo Ocean Race.

The other boats had held to the west to get through the Doldrums and into the south-easterly tradewinds as they make for the first turning mark at Fernando Noronha off the coast of Brazil.

It was commented here that, though Groupama -- with Kerry's Damian Foxall as one of the main men on board -- had a seemingly substantial lead of 140 miles, the speed potential of this new generation of Volvo 70s is such that 140 miles can be wiped out in a morning.

You can say that again. In just two days, with the men in the west getting into their stride as Groupama wallowed, the Cammas/Foxall team dropped 600 miles.

That, as near as dammit, is the length of the Fastnet Race. It was a severe lesson that among boats of this calibre you're better to sail with the fleet and inch ahead rather than take a flyer which can see many miles lost as quickly as they were gained.

Last night, Telefonica had edged back in front of Puma as the leaders raced to reach a cold front that could catapult them to Cape Town.

An game of strategy was playing out as the teams lined up to navigate the St Helena High, a huge weather system blocking the path to the finish line in South Africa.

The team best able to navigate the zone should reap the benefits of a cold front that could potentially transform the narrowest of advantages -- the front two have been neck-and-neck since day one -- into an unassailable lead.

Confidence was high on Telefonica, who were nine nautical miles closer to the finish line of the 6,500-nm first leg and travelling at 16 knots, two knots quicker than Kenny Read on Puma.

Back in the Northern Hemisphere, the November reputation for strong breezes sees speed sailing come top of the agenda.

The Irish SpeedSurfing Association is a moveable feast, taking full advantage of the latest technology in weather forecasting, communications, mobility and GPS speed measurement.

That's a pompous way of saying that they make it up as they go along and can turn up anywhere at short notice.

This weekend is highly likely to see a gathering somewhere in Ireland for the sixth and final round of the 2011 speed championship, but they're allowing next weekend as a rollover possibility.

Oisin van Gelderen of Skerries heads the Irish speedlist -- his best speed over 500 metres is 43.96 knots, while he clocked 44.23 in his best 10 seconds. That puts him around seven knots quicker than Gildas Bechet (our speed sailors come from all sorts of places), while Rob Jones is another three knots behind.

Two of Ireland's leading sailing figures have been deservedly recognised for their contribution to our sport.

In Crosshaven, Ted Crosbie with his Neils Jeppesen-designed Excuse Me was awarded the Royal Cork's 'Boat of the Year' trophy, and in New York Robin Eagleson of Lough Erne received the International J/24 Association's highest award, the Geoff Evelyn Memorial Trophy, for his unrivalled contribution to the 3,000-strong class' good health worldwide.

Irish Independent

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