Having crossed the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race finish line Monday at 00h32′ 27” after 6 days 10 hours 32 minutes and 27 seconds at sea, Artemis Ocean Racing II managed to break the IMOCA 60′ course record at the end of an “epic day of full-on sailing”, as Jonny Malbon said upon setting foot ashore.
The Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race is special for Artemis Ocean Racing, as its 2006 edition was the first event the team’s first IMOCA 60′ (ex-Hexagon, later known as Artemis I) took part in – and incidentally won, with Jonny Malbon at the helm. And despite the “domestic” feel evoked by its course and appellation, it’s a gruelling competition with 1802 nautical miles to cover – that’s more than half of a transatlantic crossing – on a course that takes the sailors to the loneliness, the cold and the desolation of the Northern Hemisphere’s high latitudes.
Last night, Jonny Malbon and his crew came back home to find the Solent as windy and choppy as they left it last Monday under reefed mainsail and Genoa jib, yet an awful lot has happened during this (mainly) fast and furious week, which saw five competitors, including the Super Maxi 100′ ICAP Leopard, retire from the race after having suffered gear failure. For the first 3 days of the race, the breeze only dropped below 20 knots for a total combined time of a couple of hours, which means that the crew have had a very bumpy, wet and uncomfortable ride for starters.
Yet spirits were up, as Artemis Ocean Racing II is a powerful machine that needs strong conditions to fully express her potential, and as a results the boat speed was thrilling, as Jonny Malbon recalls: “As soon as we set off we were in 30 – 35 knots of wind, we knew it wasn’t going to be plain sailing the whole way! It was a brutal start, with heavy airs, big seas and big speeds – fantastic to be off at such a pace! We made some good decisions and were up to the north really quickly. We had a few sticky patches off Muckle Flugga, and it was really painful to see the lead that we had melt away, but every time we managed to get going again quickly. I had my eyes on the time, and the boys were really on it, they did great job of always pushing the boat. We had another light patch this morning (Sunday) but when the breeze kicked at about 9 we had the most epic day – overpowered and on the edge, but totally enjoying it with speeds reaching 27 to 28 knots at times! We’re knackered but it was fabulous…”
“The record has been in our minds from the start, and we’re all really chuffed about it. The team spirit was great, it all worked perfectly and we had a really good time, it was nice to push the boat hard at all times and get the best out of her. We had some spectacular gybes and a few hairy moments, with a lot of laughter as soon as the boat had recovered and was back on track. Graham, Mikey and Gareth know the boat inside out, and it was also great to have Simon Hiscocks on board with us.”
The IRC overall results won’t be known until the “chasing pack” comes in, but at the moment it’s looking very good for Artemis Ocean Racing who had a fabulous final day – so maybe one more victory to celebrate for the crew! Stay tuned…
Dee Caffari / Sam Davies (Aviva) 2009 – 6 days, 11 hours, 30 minutes and 53 seconds.
Artemis Ocean Racing II crew
Jonny Malbon, skipper
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