Bow damage fails to thwart leading pair as they get ready for final leg to Plymouth

The leader of the Round Britain & Ireland Race has swapped again on the fourth leg from Lerwick to Lowestoft, as gear damage continues to take its toll. The leaders at Barra, Roger Barber and Malcolm Whitehead, who had forged ahead in one of the smaller catamarans, the 30ft Meridian, were dismasted 40 miles from the finish of the next leg in Lerwick. That left the way clear for the larger boats they had left in their wake, particularly Roger Langevin and Henriette Lemay in the ageing Open 50 Branec III, and Ross Hobson and Andi Newman in their 40ft catamaran Mollymawk.

Those two fought it out between Lerwick and Lowestoft, but not without their own dramas. Mollymawk lost the sacrificial bow of the main hull, some two-and-a-half feet, when it fell off eight hours out of Lerwick. A crash bulkhead protects the hull and it did not stop the pair continuing at speed. Despite the modified pram-type bow, they covered the 470-mile leg in 49 hours. The two are repairing the bow today, hopefully in time to start again tomorrow morning after their compulsory 48 hour stop at Lowestoft.

Branec III saw unexpected action too when she ‘hit a coaster’. Skipper Roger Langevin reports that they did not see the ship, which he believes tried to avoid the yacht, and collided with it at the stern. It was, apparently, a case of the yacht hitting the coaster rather than vice versa. Branec III lost her bowsprit and dented her bow and will not be able to set either a gennaker or spinnaker on the final 305-mile leg to Plymouth.

Barring another mishap, this shortens the odds of an overall win for Mollymawk. The Nic Bailey-designed 40ft catamaran was the last race winner in 1998, when she was named FPC Greenaway and sailed by Richard Tolkien and Robert Wingate. Then, she finished in an elapsed time of 10 days and 15 hours. Since Mollymawk lost 30 hours in Barra when she was held back by bad weather, that time will take some beating.