After days of near calm conditions, new breeze arrives for final stages of Round Britain and Ireland Race 7/7/06

After days of near calm conditions, a new breeze has arrived for the final stages of the BMW Round Britain and Ireland Race. Last night a stream of yachts started arriving across the Wicklow finish line which has dampened the prospects a big boat overall win for the fourth consecutive time.

Following the arrival of the super maxi Konica Minolta at Wicklow Sailing Club on Wednesday evening, the remaining five class super zero arrived en masse 15 hours later. The group have been in close contact since converging at Tory Island on the north-west coast.

The longer than expected race proved more testing for some than others. Ger O’Rourke’s Cookson 50 footer Altana Chieftain menu was reduced to freeze-dried food and muesli mixed with orange juice.

Meanwhile, crew on rival entry Whisper Faimente, a 35-tonne Reichel Pugh 78 footer reportedly sent them mobile phone pictures of their steak with rosemary jús evening fare. Nevertheless, O’Rourke has emerged overall winner of the class on provisional results.

The fresh winds have brought further uncertainty to the standings of the smaller boats in open contention for the overall trophy. While there is every possibility of a shock turnaround when the slowest boats reach the finish over the weekend, a battle royal is being staged on the Irish Sea overnight.

Defending title-holder Eamon Crosbie on his 32ft Teng Tools has been locked in a match race with Galway’s Aodhan Fitzgerald on Ireland’s West, a Beneteau 40.7 as the pair are within sight on one another and enjoying a fetch from Mew Island southwards to Wicklow and expected shortly after dawn.

Once ashore, stories of exceptionally light conditions were being told in Wicklow SC and while records have stood intact in this race, the slowest speed claimed to date stands at an excruciating 35 miles in 20 hours.