With less than 50 miles now separating the entire fleet, Race 15, the OneDLL Cup looks set to be one of the most contested races so far as the teams enter the notorious stretch of water known as the Pentland Firth.
The Pentland Firth separates the most northerly tip of Scotland and the Orkney Islands and is renowned for its tidal conditions; if mistimed it can leave even the most seasoned sailor going backwards or leave them with no choice but to anchor.
The timing of the crossing for the top half of the fleet couldn’t be worse as OneDLL, Henri Lloyd, Switzerland, GREAT Britain, Old Pulteney and Derry~Londonderry~Doire all face the frustrating adverse current. Skipper of Switzerland, Vicky Ellis, who has crossed this notorious stretch of water many times, explains the less than ideal conditions:
“Normally when I do this passage I've carefully worked out the best times to transit this infamous stretch of water between the Orkneys and Scotland. The tides here run at up to 12 knots so with the wrong tides and an opposing wind direction huge standing waves can be established, in addition to the line of breaking over-falls and whirlpools. Put it this way, had I planned this passage I wouldn't choose to be here now, but that is racing – wish us luck!”
Meanwhile, the back of the fleet seem to have timed the crossing perfectly as Mission performance, Invest Africa, Qingdao and Jamaica Get All Right, look set for a faster passage and a favourable tide. Skipper of Invest Africa, Rich Gould explains the tactical crossing:
“We are currently about 25 miles out of Pentland Firth, the huge tidal gate between the mainland and the Orkney's. The tide can run, in places, at double figures through here! Everything looks good for us managing to shoot the gap on a fair tide so we are expecting our speed over ground to dramatically increase in the next few hours. Once through we are in to the North Sea and will be laying a course for the finish line, and Holland!”
Race Director, Justin Taylor, commented on the challenging conditions the fleet face during the remainder of Race 15, to Den Helder, The Netherlands.
“It seems that the front runners were a little early and ran into a couple of hours of westerly going foul tide this morning until it switched to a fair tide. This is what we term a tidal gate and with the tide running up to 9 knots, it is important to time the passage just right to maximise the benefits of a good tide. Although the final three yachts did not plan to be in the positions they are in right now they will at least benefit from a fair tide which will last until 14:30 UTC today.
“The rest of the race will be dominated by the low pressure system muscling in from the north-west which will shoulder the high pressure ridge currently over the UK out of the picture. This will bring strong south westerly breeze over the entire North Sea. Hopefully the wind will not back too far to the south as this will mean the yachts will have to tack all the way to Den Helder instead of just being hard on the wind and making it on the current tack.”
While the fleet continue to make progress to Den Helder, The Netherlands, the teams passed the town of Wick this morning, hometown of the only Scottish entry, Old Pulteney and its distillery. The fleet is expected to arrive in Den Helder from Friday 4 July. You can follow the progress of the fleet here at the Official Race Viewer.
To read all the skipper reports, click here.
To read the crew diaries, click here.