Up to 70 boats are expected to compete in next year's Visit Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race 2006

The 11th edition of the Visit Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race starts from Plymouth on 11 June 2006 and a total of 60-70 boats are likely to take part. The route for this two-handed race comprises five stages totalling 1,900 miles around the British Isles and Ireland leaving all to starboard. The fleet will include monohull and multihulls from 30-50ft loa.

Essentially five races in one, based on accumulated time, this event has a similar format to the famous Figaro Solo race, the relatively short stages of two or three days demand that the crews race flat out in short sprints where time at the helm and minimum sleep are balanced with the need for solo watch keeping and precise navigation.

Kinsale is the new destination for the first stage of the 2006 race. Well known for its gourmet restaurants and safe, accessible harbour the crews can rest and recover for precisely 48 hours following their warm up sprint of 230 miles from Plymouth via the Bishop Rock.

The Fastnet Rock is rounded on the second leg as the boats take on 460 miles of formidable ocean swells off the west coast of Ireland before heading north to the remote anchorage at Barra in the western Hebrides.

Heading north-west out into the Atlantic the yachts aim for the isolated volcanic island of St Kilda. This 420m high rocky cone is unlit but the GPS makes easy work of a pin-point rounding and onward to the Flannan Isles and Sule Sgeir, racing in seas seldom sailed toward the most northern point of the British Isles at Muckle Flugga in 61N latitude.

Being further north than the southern tip of Greenland, there is almost 24 hours of daylight here in June and enjoys low air temperatures to match.

The longest leg is 470 miles from Lerwick to Lowestoft during which the clear blue waters of the north change dramatically to the brown tidal soup of the southern North Sea.

The final leg across the Thames Estuary and round all those familiar headlands; North Foreland, Dungeness, Beachy Head, St Catherine’s, Portland, Start Point, often proves to be where podium places are decided. The finish is at the Royal Western Yacht Club line. The current outright record for this race stands at 15 days 7 hrs.

Prospective entrants can find all the details at www.rwyc.org where rules and entry forms can be downloaded. The entry deadline is 31 January 2006 with later entries paying a surcharge. The qualifying 300-mile cruise is to be completed by 1 May 2006.