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ISORA Offshore Series 2018 Races 7 & 8: Liverpool to Isle of Man and Isle of Man to Mid Irish Sea

by Chris Power-Smith 14 Jun 11:03 BST 8-10 June 2018
The ISORA fleet leaving Liverpool in the ISORA Midnight Race © LYC

The Midnight Race from Liverpool to Douglas, Isle of Man, was being run for the 99th time on Friday 8th June. This is an evening race with the start at 19.30 provided by Commodore of Liverpool Yacht Club, Paul Pratt. The race was also Race 7 of the ISORA Offshore Series.

The race was also the first part of a weekend qualifying series for boats taking part in the Round Ireland. The qualifying consisted of the delivery to Liverpool, the "Midnight Race" on the Friday evening and the "Mid Sea Race" to take place on the Sunday.

22 boats came to the start line on the Mersey close to Albert Dock. Due to the very light winds the course selected was essentially down the river to the seas and direct to Douglas. All boats taking part were fitted with YB trackers.

At the start the wind was from SSE 2 to 3 knots and the tide had just started to ebb. All boats hoisted kites and made a spectacular sight on the river Mersey. The right side of the channel was preferred for the stronger tide but there seemed to be more wind on the left. As it turned out, there was no obvious advantage. In just over an hour the boats made nearly 4 miles with the wind between 2 to 5 knots to pass New Brighton to port. Crews were kept busy with very frequent Gyles to stay within the narrow channel as all channel marks were marks of the course.

It was a very challenging and tactical race down the river with close quarter racing and tight quarters boat on boat manoeuvres. Requests for room to gybe were constant with a fear of running out of depth or even worse hitting the revetment wall along the channel.

On exiting the channel the boats were still tightly bunched with "Jackknife" pulling out in mid channel in front by a few hundred meters from series leader "Mojito" on the starboard side and Michael Boyd's "Jedi" and "Wakey Wakey" on the port side. "Ruth", "Platinum Blonde" and "Aurelia" were sailing closely in the middle with "YoYo" out wide on the starboard side.

The next hour saw the boats make about 5 miles in the strengthening tide with Round Ireland Race hopeful, Glyn Sheffield, in his Farr 40, "Espresso Martini Too" breaking out in front of "Jackknife". "Platinum Blonde" was now in third, closely followed by "Aurelia" and "Ruth". "Mojito" and "Wakey Wakey" were next having opened up a lead on "Jedi", "Max Too", "North Star" and "YoYo".

"Espresso Martini" was the first boat to pass the Q2 Mark to exit the Queen's Channel at approximately 22.15, followed closely by "Jackknife", a few hundred meters adrift. Next to exit the channel was "Aurelia", with "Platinum Blonde", "Wakey Wakey" and "Ruth" close behind, followed by "Mojito", "Jedi", "North Star" and "YoYo". Class 2 boats,"Windjammer" and "Mojo" were not far behind as they exited the channel around 22.30.

The wind was now a steady 10 knots and still from the SSE.By midnight "Jackknife" had opened up a lead on the water with little change in places in the pursuing front group of boats as they passed the exclusion zones of the Conwy Oil Field.

By 03.00 the wind had dropped to 7 knots and shifted ESE. "Aurelia" had edged out in front on the water. "Ruth" was the leading J109 hotly pursued by "Wakey Wakey" and the First 35, "Platinum Blonde", splitting her from sistership J109 "Mojito".

By 06.00 "Jackknife" was leading the charge for line honours just ahead of "Aurelia". The J109s were still neck and neck but "Platinum Blonde" was stubbornly fighting to split them up. As the boats approached the finish "Ruth" gybed South of the rhumb line and lost ground to the other J109s and "Platinum Blonde".

"Jackknife" was first over the line to take line honours after 14 hours 35 minutes, followed by "Aurelia", "Mojito", "Wakey Wakey" and "YoYo". "Mojito" had done enough to win Overall and Class One with "Wakey Wakey", only 35 seconds behind after over 15 hours racing, taking 2nd Overall. "Platinum Blonde", 5 minutes further adrift took 3rd Overall."Aurelia" won the Class Zero race with "Jackknife" second. "Windjammer" won the Class Two race with a very credible 5th overall, followed by "More Mischief" second in Class 2

Taking place soon after the Midnight Race that finished on Saturday afternoon, the crews of most of the boats had just enough time to take part in the generous hospitality of Douglas Yacht Club's BBQ and reception before preparing for race 8 the "Mid Sea Race" starting at 08.45 on Sunday morning.

The start line was set by Commodore of Douglas Yacht Club, Darren Barnes and extended from the Douglas Geadlighthouse eastwards for approximately 0.3 miles. The course was set for 48 miles, due to a very light forecast, direct to a virtual finish gate consisting of two waypoints in the middle of the Irish Sea close to the M2 Buoy. The YB trackers would automatically take the remote finish time of boats as they pass through the virtual gate. A technique pioneered by ISORA in conjunction with YB Tracking. Sixteen boats came to the start and could proceed to their respective home ports after the race finish on both sides of the Irish Sea.

The race started in 5-6 knots. First to break away in the light airs was "YoYo" closely followed by, "Jackknife", "Jetstream", "Lively Lady", "Espresso Martini" and "Ruth". Just behind were "Platinum Blonde", "Jedi" and "Mojito". The three lead boats continued to build a lead but the airs were very fickle. Some boats went further out to sea looking for breeze on the left, whilst "Jackknife" pulled ahead on the right where more breeze was forecast during the morning.

Progress of all boats was slow in the patchy intermittent wind which was only 3 knots by 11.00. By midday there was not much improvement but "Espresso Martini", on the left side of the fleet, had stretched out a lead over "Jackknife" on the right and "Aurelia" in the middle. "Jetstream", "YoYo" and "Ruth"were now close behind. The boats behind, that had gybed out right early towards the expected new wind, seemed to lose out and fall behind. By 13.00, the wind had filled in to 10 knots and had shifted into the North with a noticeable drop in temperature as the cold front arrived. "Jackknife" and "Espresso Martini" stretched ahead on opposite sides of the course with "Aurelia", "Ruth" and "Jetstream" leading the chasing pack in the middle.

The three Class 0 boats continued to stretch their lead on the water but the clock was ticking and the J109s, "Ruth" and "Jetstream" were making steady progress behind as the breeze went down a couple of knots. By 16.00, the wind was back up to 11 knots and "Jackknife", in the lead, gybed early for the finish gate but lost ground to "Espresso Martini" who hit the front and notched up her first line honours. "Aurelia" was third over the line to win back to back weekend Class 0 races and counting down the clock to "Ruth" and "Jetstream" close behind on the water for overall. "Ruth" crossed next with skipper, Ben Shanahan, taking his first Overall and Class One win of the series, just 46 seconds ahead after 9 hours racing of Holyhead Sailing Club's and Nigel Ingram's "Jetstream"second, with "Aurelia" third overall.

The Class 2 Race was won for the second time this weekend by Lindsay Casey's and Denis Power's "Windjammer", with "More Mischief" second and "Altair" third.

The virtual finish gate worked flawlessly and was judged to be a great success by all participants.

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