Teams make final preparations for BMW Round Ireland sprint which starts next Saturday 26/6/06

More than 40 teams have signed up for the BMW Round Ireland Race which starts from Wicklow on 1 July.

This 704-mile, clockwise sprint round Ireland, run in conjunction with the Royal Ocean Club, takes place every two years with this year’s event promising to be the most exciting yet with a fleet ranging in size from 30ft up, including Voodoo Chile the 32ft yacht that won the 2004 edition of the BMW Round Ireland Race.

Other interesting entries to watch out for include Mike Golding’s Open 60 and the New Zealand 95ft maxi yacht Konica Minolta aiming to take not only the line-honours trophy and the Round Ireland Course record but the overall handicap win.

Golding who has just completed the SNSM (St Nazaire – St Malo) and broken the Open 60 race record aboard Ecover see previous news story here said that the Round Ireland Race is one he is really looking forward to but at this stage he’s not 100 per cent sure if he’ll be on the startline.

Chatting from St Malo Golding told “We have an entry but at this point in time it’s still unclear whether we’ll make it or not. We have a few timing issues. We are going to change our forged keel back to a fabricated one ready for the Velux 5-Ocean Race and obviously need to get this done as soon as possible. If the keel arrives late we might be able to slot in a sprint Round Ireland but if it’s early then we’ll probably start work on this rather than do the race.

“It is a shame because I was really looking forward to giving the boat a bit of a showdown and fit in some short-handed sailing before the 5-Oceans but that’s the way it goes. We’ve also got stack of other jobs to do on the boat before the big race.”

Another one to watch out for is Ger O’Rourke’s Farr-designed Cookson 50 Altana Chieftain – the boat that recently won Super Zero class at the IRC championship with a race to spare. In top form O’Rourke and crew will be looking for a top result to add to their already long list of achievements that includes a class win in the 2005 Sydney Hobart Race.

Local Dublin sailor Mick Cotter will also be on the startline with Whisper Farniente his new Southern Wind 78. Cotter who’s more often seen at the helm of a Dragon, racing from the Royal St George YC, will be sailing with a crew of 12 and, although he’s unlikely to break any records, he is hoping for a top line honours position.

Cotter who took delivery of his new yacht earlier this year made his big boat helming debut at the PalmaVela Regatta (see previous news story here) . Now two-months on, Cotter and team have just completed the obligatory qualifying passage on the 420-mile delivery trip to Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. Although Cotter is new to owning/helming a big boat, he’s far from new to big boat racing scene having competed in the Round Ireland race twice.

Chatting about what competitors are likely to expect as they circumnavigate Ireland Cotter explained: “The west coast can be pretty rough because it’s generally fairly windy and there are some tidal gates to be aware of. There’s a tricky one where the tide splits in the Valencia area at the entrance to Dingle Bay (Kerry) on the south-west corner. There’s another one off Belfast. The race often starts again once round the top into the Irish Sea. Down the east coast, apart from the sandbanks, there’s not too much to worry about.

Although Cotter is not expecting to break any records in his well-provisioned luxury cruiser he is hoping to finish in a respectable line honours position, adding: “Once again I have the great Poul-Richard Hoj-Jensen onboard who’ll be taking the event extremely seriously. All my crew are Dragon sailors so although the boat is primarily a cruising boat it’ll be in full racing mode for the Round Ireland. “As well as Hoj-Jensen I have Brian Matthews who’s an expert navigator, plus Mark Pettitt and Kyron Tarbert who’ll be sharing the helming with Hoj-Jensen and myself.”

Depending on the weather Cotter’s Southern Wind 78 is likely to take between three and a half and four and a half days to complete the course.

Denis Noonan, race organiser concluded: “This year’s race is gearing up to be one the largest and best BMW Round Ireland Yacht Races in its 26-year history with entries received from France, England and Ireland as well as New Zealand for the first time.”