Tortoises gain as hares limp home
Just one week after the gentle start from Plymouth, The Faraday Mill OSTAR is living up to its reputation of being a tough challenge even for the most experienced and well prepared skippers. After just six days of racing there have been 13 retirements out of 34 starters and with the heaviest toll being taken in the Open 40 class where of the 7 starters only 2 yachts are still racing, namely Patrice Carpentier in VM Materiaux and Nico Budel in Hayai. It would appear that these down wind flyers may not be best suited to a 3000 mile upwind bash. The experienced Roger Langevin in the trimaran Branec 1V described the seas as horrible and boat breaking even though the winds were no more than Force 7. He wisely took his foot off the pedal and is still racing.
In complete contrast to the Open 40’s, The Eira Class which comprises the six slowest boats in the fleet have yet to suffer their first retirement. This class is made up entirely with Corintian sailors in their own yachts without the aid of sponsors and shore crews and whose main purpose of participating in the race is to arrive in Newport. Could it be that the competitive sailors in the Open 40 class were pressing too hard too soon, whilst their Corinthian counterparts were happy to batten down the hatches and wait for more favourable conditions before pressing on.
The OSTAR fleet is currently headed by 3 trimarans, with Pierre Antoine in Spirit having a 40 mile lead over Branec 1V who in turn has a 30 mile advantage over Franco Manzoli in Cotonella. Still in the race are the two smallest trimarans of Leon Bart and the only remaining female skipper 25 year old Lia Ditton in Shockwave who has her own tracking system which can be followed on www.liaditton.com
The leading monohull is currently VM Materiaux, still with over 2000 miles to go, closely followed by Steve White in Olympian Challenger and Yves Lepine in Atlantix Express. Only some 200 miles behind these racing yachts are four of the Eira Class who appear to be relishing the upwind slog. These are Steve Gratton in a Contessa 32, Richard Hatton in a half tonner – Chimp, Mervyn Wheatley in his solid Formosa 42 and the experienced Peter Keig in his self built Roberts 38.
The retirements as of 4th June – Roaring Forty (bulkhead problems), Robosail(Boom & vang problems), Destination Calais, White Spirit(Autohelm not functioning), Blue Shadow(collision at start), Sea Beryl (mainsail damage), Octavus (dismasted), Suomi Kudu (forestay pulled out of deck), De Franschman (broken stay), La Promesse (skipper back injury before the start), Acanthe Ingeierie (Anne Caseneuve with suspected broken knee), Mollymawk (broken daggerboard) and Up My Sleeve. The retired yachts are either back in port already or are making their own way to a safe haven. Meanwhile the 21 remaining yachts battle on towards Newport still over 2000 miles away for most of the fleet.