It was close, very close, but a new world record for sailing around Britain and Ireland is a record to savour – and one likely to stand for some time.
After 1,956 nautical miles and three days, three hours, 32 minutes and 36 seconds, the MOD70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail yesterday crossed the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race finish line at Cowes to break the record by a mere 16 minutes and 38 seconds.
The previous record had been set in 2011 by Banque Populaire 5 – a yacht almost twice the length and therefore significantly faster.
Musandam’s multinational crew, led by Sidney Gavignet, has set a record-breaking pace since the race’s postponed start on Monday morning.
The remnants of Hurricane Bertha blasted the striking-looking multihull, along with the rest of the fleet, out of The Solent and down the Channel.
Indeed, the manner in which the weather pattern evolved meant the leading yachts were able to broad reach all the way up Britain’s east coast in breeze which rarely dropped below 25 knots, often hitting 40 knots.
And then as they rounded Muckle Flugga on the northern most tip of the Shetland Islands the south-westerly breeze obligingly veered to the north, providing another downwind sleigh ride along the west coast of Ireland.
The giant tri’s progress was only slowed by having to frequently gybe along England’s south coast, with the only upwind section of the entire race coming in the final sprint to the Cowes finish line from the forts off Portsmouth.
Attention now turns to Warsash skipper Ian Walker as he aims to break the monohull race record.
His Abu Dhabi Racing Team has a healthy 50-mile lead over the other four Volvo 65s taking part
Yesterday, Walker said: ‘We are just rounding the Blasket Islands off the south west tip of Ireland, which seems incredible seeing as we only left Cowes less than three days ago.
‘We have wriggled away from the chasing pack overnight and now have a nice lead which we will aim to defend from here.
‘It seems clear that the prize at stake is not just the first Volvo 65 but will also be the race record for whoever gets there first.’
Meanwhile, Portsmouth skipper Sam Davies, leading the all-women SCA team, is neck and neck with two other Volvo 65s, Dongfeng and Alvimedica, having come back into contention after losing ground having to avoid east coast wind farms.
SCA’s Hamble-based navigator, Libby Greenhalgh, blogged: ‘It becomes quite tactical as we gybe down the west coast of Ireland – there will be about one hour between each gybe.’
For the smaller yachts in the 28-strong fleet, the change in wind direction which so benefited the larger leaders has given them a hard upwind slog to the Shetlands.
That tough challenge means some are unlikely to round the islands until the weekend.