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Day Two: Pole Position for Baranowski in Big Boat Bonanza

I Love Poland has had an excellent start to the race, currently leading IRC Overall. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com I Love Poland has had an excellent start to the race, currently leading IRC Overall. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

1630 BST Monday 09 August

Just over 24 hours into the race and the heavy weather has made it a big boat bonanza in the race out to the Rock. The Volvo Open 70, I Love Poland, holds the lead in IRC Zero by just over three hours on corrected time. Grzegorz Baranowski’s Polish crew, the line honours winner from the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race, is also at the head of IRC Overall. 

The VO70 may be more than 70 nautical miles behind Skorpios on the water, but in terms of corrected time the Poles are doing well on the long port fetch out to the Fastnet Rock, considering the lack of waterline length compared with the two boats ahead of her. Rambler 88 is second overall under IRC, more than four hours ahead of her giant rival for line honours, the ClubSwan 125 Skorpios. Also vying for the top three in IRC Zero is Germany boat Varuna, Jen’s Kellinghusen’s Ker 56. 

Considering the high rate of attrition, with more than 50 retirements from the race, Fernando Echavarri’s professional team on Skorpios might be counting their lucky stars that they’ve weathered the worst of the first 24 hours. 

With only miles until they round the Rock, the breeze in the Celtic Sea has been very benign this afternoon, blowing around 15 to 18 knots from WSW.

One of the big tactical conundrums is which side of the Traffic Separation Scheme, the prohibited no-go zone, to pass. While Skorpios opted for the southerly side, Rambler 88 has led a trend to turn hard right at Land’s End and take the northerly route around the TSS zone. 

VO65 Sailing Poland is skippered by Bouwe Bekking. © Carlo Borlenghi/RolexVO65 Sailing Poland is skippered by Bouwe Bekking. © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

However Bouwe Bekking, skipper of the Volvo Ocean 65 Sailing Poland, says it wasn’t such a big deal as it might appear from the outside. Running the numbers on the weather routing, there’s not a lot to choose from between one and the other.

“It looks like there’s only about 10 minutes either way. Going north looks a little bit better, a little bit more pressure.” With most of their closest rivals going the same way, it’s matter of going with the pack. “Just don’t take the risk, somebody else can have a go at that.”

For a round-the-world veteran like Bekking, the opening 24 hours are nothing that he hasn’t seen before, but he could understand the high dropout rate.

“Mostly the breeze was 25 to 30 knots, but sometimes gusting 33 to 35 knots,” he said. Not only that, but the sea state was the boat-breaking issue. “We’ve got about 16 knots now, pretty OK right now. We’ve got the other VO65 [Viva Mexico] behind us and [IMOCA 60] 11th Hour Racing about five or six miles back.”

Quite a bit smaller than the frontrunners in the IRC Zero, but also in the running on corrected time is Tala, David Collins’ Botin 52 which has just turned north past Land’s End. 

There have been three retirements in IRC Zero, the highest profile being Eric de Turckheim’s Teasing Machine which retired with engine problems, unable to charge the electrical system. Teasing Machine is on her way back to Cherbourg.