Groupama could be heading for a new course record this bank holiday weekend

At 07:00 BST on day six of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, Groupama were 335 miles from the finish. Unless there is a complete shut down in the wind, the course record is about to be smashed.

The winner needs to cross the Royal Yacht Squadron Line by 01:31 on Monday 30 August *. The current estimated time of arrival is in the early hours of Sunday morning, nearly 24 hours inside the record. It is highly likely that a new record holder will be declared, but who that will be is very much undecided.

Last night, Groupama and Teléfonica Azul made short work of the west coast of Ireland, hurtling along the rugged coastline at full speed. Groupama gybed east just before midnight, to cross the Irish Sea. Teléfonica were even quicker than their opponents and hour by hour, they were reeling in Groupama. As they turned east, the two Volvo Open 70s were less than seven miles apart, hugging the shore to play the wind shifts and current. You can be sure neither of the navigators on board got any sleep last night; the area is notorious for rocks and shipwrecks. Groupama have held the lead and for now, it looks like it could be a drag race across the Irish Sea. But the race for line honours and a course record is still on, as Teléfonica skipper, Iker Martinez, explains via satellite:

‘Team Teléfonica are all in good shape. Nobody has any problems and we have physically recovered from the beating of the early days. Now, with little swell, we are all able to sleep and we are ready to face the end of the race and there is a lot of racing left: many manoeuvres, strong current and finally entering the Solent. The race could be decided there with boat speed and handling.’

During the night, Jonny Malbon’s IMOCA 60 hit the Atlantic highway, launching the powerful yacht down the west coast of the course. Pulling away from the chasing pack, Artemis Ocean Racing has regained the overall handicap lead from Piet Vroon’s Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens. Lithuanian Volvo 60, Ambersail is also enjoying the fresh running conditions and is third overall.

Steven Anderson’s First 40.7, Encore is having a tremendous race and leads IRC One by a good margin. Encore rounded Muckle Flugga just after 1800 BST last night, and no doubt there will have been some very satisfied crew on board as they finally cracked off the wind towards the setting sun.

Adrian Lower’s Swan 44, Selene is the class act in IRC Two. The team are due to pass Muckle Flugga this morning and lead IRC Two by some distance. Selene may be one of the oldest yachts in this race but they can also boast the youngest crew member. At just 18 years old, Rory Munro is the youngest competitor in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.

Reflex 38, Visit Malta Puma took their first scalp yesterday afternoon. The racing school boat had to turn back earlier in the race to repair their engine. They gave up a healthy lead in their class and resumed firmly in last place on the water. However, Visit Malta Puma passed Keith Gibbs’ C&C 115, Change of Course yesterday and are due to round Muckle Flugga this afternoon. Skipper Philippe Falle, wrote in his blog about the tremendous support they have been receiving via satellite;

‘Getting all the amazing messages of support from our friends and supporters at home has really made an impact on me and I am sure on everyone aboard. They have made me realise how many hearts have been touched by Sailing Logic and Visit Malta Puma over the years. How much respect and admiration we have from people all over the world and how much everyone believes in us. That alone makes it worthwhile continuing with the race.’ ENDS/…

* Current course record:
Monohull crewed – 6 days 11 hrs 30 mins 53 secs, set by Dee Caffari and Sam Davies on Aviva in 2009.

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