Monday, 13 May 2013

UK Mini Fastnet 6.50 : Nikki Curwen's preview

Nikki Curwen. Image copyright Artemis Offshore Academy

by Nikki Curwen

Today 15 Minis will set off from Plymouth in search of the iconic Fastnet Rock. The course was changed yesterday and we are now going from Plymouth, straight to the Coningbeg Light Vessel and then onto the Fastnet Rock, down to Bishop Rock then back to Plymouth, a course totalling 561 miles. This course change was to allow a less brutal Irish Sea crossing. Rather than a hard beat all the way to the rock, we will now have a one sided fetch just off the wind, at around 80 degrees TWA (true wind angle).

There is a massive low sitting in the Irish Sea which could spit anything at us. We’re all on for a bit of a beating with winds expected up to 35 knots. With the changing wind direction the sea will be very lumpy, not ideal conditions for the Mini!

We start at 12:00 BST in about 20 knots, upwind all the way to Lands End via Eddystone Lighthouse. From there we go straight to Coningbeg, a cardinal marker off the south east corner of Ireland. Afterward that, we head towards the Fastnet Rock on the south west coast. The wind is due to swing north east by this point, so we will be in full upwind mode, purely on starboard tack. Round the rock we will hopefully get the kite up for the first time and enjoy a downwind blast towards bishops rock.

Over the last couple days there has been great debate on what 90 degrees is, whether it’s your boats heading or your course over the ground. Where in the rules it states your heading, how one proves your heading is unknown to me with leeway and tide both effecting your course over ground. Many sailing races have brought in rules to require competitors to avoid the TSS’ completely. The Vendée Globe being one, of which seven boats were given penalties in this years race due to infringements. Henry Bomby, Artemis Graduate and Figaro competitor wrote a brilliant article explaining it all in great details. You can read that here.

There's certainly an interesting race ahead!

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