Brought to you by Seahorse magazine, Scuttlebutt Europe is a digest of sailing news and opinions, regatta results, new boat and gear information and letters from sailors -- with a European emphasis. Contributions welcome, send to editor@scuttlebutteurope.com

Photo-Finish Predicted
The Vendee Globe is going down to the wire with the leading pair of Armel Le Cleac'h and Alex Thomson split by just 78 miles as they enter the final 1,000 miles to the finish.

Thomson has been playing catch-up since Le Cleac'h took the lead on December 2 but as the race enters its final few days he has transformed from the chaser into the hunter, ruthlessly stalking his French rival in the hope of being able to deliver the killer blow before the race is up.

Banque Populaire skipper and pre-race favourite Le Cleac'h has hardly been easing off on his run into the finish.

By the 1400 UTC report Le Cleac'h was matching Thomson's 21 knots of boat speed with a slim buffer of 78 miles at the latitude of Cape Finisterre on the north-west point of Spain. Rather than head for the finish line in the Vendee port of Les Sables d'Olonne the duo must continue north east to avoid the centre of an anticyclone currently blocking their path east. By tomorrow the winds and therefore boat speeds will have dropped, and several days of light-wind sailing lie ahead. Both skippers are expected to finish on Thursday January 19, potentially just a few hours apart.

Throughout the fleet, today split by 9,000nm from head to tail, there has been admiration for Thomson's new record. "Alex's record is seriously impressive," said New Zealander Conrad Colman, some 6,000nm behind the leaders. "I've been watching his average boat speed closely, and the idea of staying at 23 knots for 24 hours is absurd. I think the new generation of IMOCAs are incredible and as soon as I put my feet back on the ground I'll be looking to cement a new project for myself and join the club 'flying'."

www.vendeeglobe.org

Thomson Smashes 24-Hour Distance Record
British sailor Alex Thomson today smashed the world record for the greatest distance sailed solo in 24 hours notching up 536.8 miles on his 60ft racing yacht.

Thomson, 42, is currently in second place in the Vendee Globe just 70 miles behind French race leader Armel Le Cleac'h with 1,000 miles to go to the finish line.

During the 24-hour period running up to the 0800 UTC position report he sailed his racing boat Hugo Boss at an average speed of 22.4 knots, or 25.7mph.

His 24-hour distance beats the record of 534.48 miles set by French sailor Francois Gabart in the 2012-13 edition of the Vendee Globe, a singlehanded race around the world without stopping.

Thomson was among a fleet of 29 mostly French solo sailors that set off from Les Sables d'Olonne in the Vendee region of France on November 6.

He actually bested Gabart's record two weeks into the race, sailing 535.34 miles in 24 hours, but the rules of the record state it must be superseded by one whole mile.

He previously held the record between 2003 and 2012 with a distance of 468.72 miles. The new record will now be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council.

Thomson is expected to arrive in Les Sables d'Olonne on Thursday after 74 days at sea. The fastest time the race has ever been completed was 78 days, set by Gabart in 2013.

If Thomson, from Hampshire in England, can overhaul Le Cleac'h before the finish line he will be the first Brit to win the race in its 27-year history.

vendeeglobe.org

Additional Benefits For Irc Certificate Holders
The main benefit for sailors racing with an International Rating Certificate (IRC) is of course the exciting, competitive racing to be found in 40 countries across the globe. In addition we have negotiated some special extras for IRC racers in 2017 ...

SPINLOCK
Award-winning hardware specialists Spinlock, now into their 5th season of IRC sponsorship, are offering IRC competitors a generous 25% off all their products across the range - a perfect opportunity for you to update your rope-holding and personal safety gear for 2017!

SEAHORSE MAGAZINE
Keep up with latest technical developments and racing news with Seahorse International Sailing, the official magazine of the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the world's No1 yacht racing title. Seahorse continues to provide IRC certificate holders with free access to six editions per year of their online digital magazine and this year is also offering certificate holders a dedicated subscription package for a full 12-month Print and/or Digital Bundle.

Tuff Luff from Sea Sure
Sea Sure, a UK based yacht fitting specialist, are offering a 15% discount off their twin groove headsail systems, Tuff Luff & Tuff Luff Aero. Tuff Luff Aero is manufactured using a light weight Black Polycarbonate plastic in a new patented teardrop shape to offer 9% more lift to give you the winning edge in 2017.

Discount for RORC members
IRC certificate holders are eligible for a discount on RORC membership.

For full details and links see tinyurl.com/racingwithbenefits

www.ircrating.org

Quantum Key West Race Week Opens With Epic Conditions
The comments from the first day of the 30th anniversary Quantum Key West Race Week, the City of Key West Day, were nearly unanimous - epic sailing conditions in one of the best racing venues in the world.

"It was a sporty day," said J.D. Hill (Houston, TX), owner of the J/122 Second Star. Hill was the first to enter Quantum Key West Race Week last June and he's racing for the first time after having the regatta on his bucket list. "For years I've heard about all the great conditions and big breeze, and that's what it delivered. We had winds between 15 and 20 knots with gusts to 25. It was a lovely day, plenty of action."

The fabulous conditions helped spur Harm Muller Spreer's (Hamburg, GER) Platoon in the 52 Super Series to Boat of the Day honors. Platoon posted a 1-1 and leads Takashi Okura's (Newport, RI) Sled by 5 points. Spreer drives with all-world tactician John Kostecki (Reno, NV) calling the shots.

The 52 Super Series was one of five classes that sailed two races. Two other classes, the J/70 and C&C 30 One-Design, sailed three races, and the Performance Cruising Class sailed one race, all as scheduled. As is typically seen after the first day of a lengthy regatta, many class leaders have sterling score lines.

Top three:

52 Super Series
1. Platoon, Harm Muller Spreer, GER, 2 points
2. SLED, Takashi Okura, USA, 7
3. Azzurra, Alberto & Pablo Roemmers, ITA, 8

J/111
1. Spaceman Spiff, Rob Ruhlman, USA, 3
2. Shamrock, Jeffrey Davis, USA, 4
3. Velocity, Martin Roesch, USA, 7

J/70
1. Calvi Network, Carlo Alberini, ITA, 6
2. Relative Obscurity, Peter Duncan, USA, 15
3. New England Ropes, Tim Healy, USA, 18

C&C 30
1. Extreme2, Dan Chereesh, USA, 3
2. RoXanne, Kip Meadows, USA, 8
3. Don't Panic, Julian Mann, USA, 10

Flying Tiger
1. 04, Brian Tyrell, USA, 3
2. Hogfish Racing, Nigel Brownett, USA, 3
3. 02, Tom Babel, USA, 6

J/88
1. Hijinks, Laura Weyler, USA, 3
2. Spaceman Spiff, Ryan Ruhlman, USA, 4
3. WIngs, Mike Bruno, USA, 7

ORC
1. Kenai, J/44, Chris and Karen Lewis, GBR, 3
2. Second Star, J/122, J.D. Hill, USA, 3
3. SItella, XP44, Ian Hill, USA, 6

Performance Cruising
1. White Rhino, Swan 56, Todd Stuart, 1
2. Island Flyer, Wauquiez Centurion 40s, Denny Manrique, 2
3. SolAire, Ericson 39, Christian Haas, 5

PHRF Multihulls
1. Arethusa, Gunboat, Phil Lotz, USA, 3
2. Flight Simulator II, Corsair Cruze 970, USA, Tom Reese, 3

Full results: www.yachtscoring.com

Wight Vodka Best Yachting Bar Contest
One of our top ten this year, and every year, is the famed and beloved Windward Mark at the Bitter End, BVI

From reader Justin on why it's his favourite:

10' from beach
30 seats in a round configuration
200 degree view of North Sound
Band shell behind it for live music
Swim dock 30' away
Hammock 15' away
Bacchus the bartender
Full moon hobie trips with beer to to go, at midnight to sail around Necker Island.

That's why it is more sailor than any of the others.

Here's a lovely little concoction to try out while you mull over your choice:

The Salty Dog
Rub the rim of a glass with a freshly cut piece of lime or a wedge of grapefruit, then up end it and dip into a small plate of sea salt. Fill the glass with ice. Pour in 30ml Wight Vodka. Top up with grapefruit juice.

Voting is open through January 30th with the winner announced on February 1.

Vote here: scuttlebutteurope.com/sailors-bars

Salty Dawg Sailing Association Announces Spring Rally To Cuba
The nonprofit Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) will launch a new cruising rally to Cuba this spring.

The Rally to Cuba has been organized to comply with current US government requirements for US vessels and citizens visiting Cuba. Vessels from other countries are also welcome to participate in this unique event.

The Rally to Cuba will depart Virgin Gorda in the BVI in late March and will be in Cuba April 5 – 20, 2017. While most vessels will be cruising to Cuba from the BVI, others will cruise from the US East Coast and the Bahamas. The 14 day visit will support an educational-based, people-to-people exchange.

The Rally complies with OFAC and US Coast Guard regulations.

The new Rally is a natural, downwind passage from the Caribbean back to the US, via Cuba. In order to conduct the proper research in support of this educational activity, and with the time constraint from various regulations and American insurance companies, the Rally will make landfall in Havana and conduct its research activities in Northwest Cuba. This is a large area to visit including Havana, villages and countryside on the north and south shores.

With the structured nature of the visit, in order to properly manage the activity, the Rally is being limited to 24 boats.

www.saltydawgsailing.org

Seahorse February 2017
What's in the Latest Edition Of Seahorse Magazine

There is a choice
The world-renowned rope and cable innovators at Gottifredi Maffioli are enjoying fast-growing demand for their range of 'mid-exotic' but very high-performing Dyneema-based cables. And the majority of the Vendee Globe fleet understand why...

Stunner!
The new Botin-designed Melges 40 canting-keel one design may prove to be a major disrupter to today's mid-size raceboat market - North Sails have been playing an integral role in the development of the latest flyer to emerge from the Melges stable

Seahorse build table - Rockin' (all) around the world
The Fast40+ class now has a new fanbase... a long way from 'home'. Brett Bakewell-White

Sailor of the Month
Two gentlemen of influence... and ability

Special rates for Scuttlebutt Europe subscribers:
Seahorse Print or Digital Subscription Use Discount Promo Code SB2

1yr Print Sub: €77 - £48 - $71 / Rest of the World: £65 www.seahorse.co.uk/shop/subs/

1yr Digital Sub for £30: www.seahorse.co.uk/shop/digital

Discounts shown are valid on a one year subscription to Seahorse magazine.

Letters To The Editor - editor@scuttlebutteurope.com
Letters are limited to 350 words. No personal attacks are permitted. We do require your name but your email address will not be published without your permission.

Editor: Word limit waived for Peter Morton:

* From Peter Morton:

Dear Mr Ross

Still haven't got it quite right I'm afraid even after David Evans' letter. As the previous owner of a older Farr 727 Super Q ( 45 Degrees South) and a newer boat, you are wrong. The Class rules allow all generations of boats from the RORC 15 ft '60s up to the last carbon boats built in the 90s to race now and if you look at the results, it's actually the late 70s boats that seem just a tiny bit more competitive across a range of conditions. ( Bullit, Espada , Black Fun in the QTs and Swuzzlebubble, Brittany Drizzle and Checkmate in the HT ) so that statement of yours "I guess this cut-off favours the sought-after 'end-game' boats which didn't have creases and bumps" is an incorrect guess.

The revived QTC has been won by a 1975 boat (Tom Bombadil) through to a 1992 boat ( Cote) The later boats from '86 on were in fact bumped more. The restored/ modified QTs and HTs are now faster up and downwind as they actually weigh pretty much the same as they did when sailing under the old IOR rules. In fact the boat that won the first QTC in 1967 weighs the same as last years winner. The idea they planed away in the IOR mode is fantasy. I did plenty of IOR Quarter Ton Cups to know that. Bullet '78 and Anguilla '90 for example are always quicker than a Farr 727 downwind but rate higher to compensate.

What they don't have is a mass of internal lead as the latest rule we race under (IRC) does not penalise stability as much so we now have boats that are similar in weight, have more stability, better foils and rigs and more sail area.

Even in the IOR days we were replacing keels and rigs, so not much has changed. I put two different keels on Odd Job when I owned that in the 80s for example and many IOR boats were modified regularly. It was never and is not a one design class. One of the attraction of these classes today is that they are relatively competitive in a mixed IRC fleet thus having a dual purpose. Anchor Challenge won the European IRC Championship last year and the rules allow boats to modify to IRC rules.

As one who started the revival of the QT fleet, all we are is a group of people who once enjoyed racing these little boats, found them lying in scrapyards and old boat parks, either restored them ourselves or paid a few local boat builders (who no doubt appreciate the work) to restore/improve them and have had more than ten years of great racing and fun from the boats that would otherwise probably have been scrapped.

No one was forced to either buy or restore these boats and every one of of us had the option to buy and sail other boats including One Designs, but chose to race in these fleets. More are still doing that and there will be three QTs making a return this year that have not been on the water for years, so the formula and format can't be that wrong. I enjoy sailing my QT as much as my Fast 40, it's just a bit "different" downwind.

And Dear Mr Skinner.

You too are wrong I'm afraid. The first Quarter Tonners were originally designed to the RORC rule not the the IOR Rule and now using the IRC Rule. Bowsprits are banned in the QT fleet, by the way. The first QTC in 1967 only contained a short offshore race and certainly not an Ocean Race.

The answer to your WL only race format question is yes. The QT Class TELL the RO what they want which is why we do both WL and Round the Cans. Those of you that know the QT Class Secretary Louise Morton will have learnt the hard way not to cross her and to do exactly as she ask.

So, wrong again there I'm afraid. Cowes Week is all Round the Cans and the Class does Round the Island. We don't (as a result of the owners decision) do a 200 Mile "Ocean Race" but I'm sure you would be welcome to do that in your boat if you can find an OA to accept an entry. I think you live in China so I'm sure the Chinese QT Class can race Ocean Races and do a long 200 mile race. (good luck with that one) and I promise not to write to this website suggesting that you are all wrong.

We have had in excess of 25 boats at the QTC every year for the past 10 years so we can't be that far wrong with the formula and I'm sorry that you do not approve of what racing we do in the UK, Ireland, France and Holland where there are fleets that race our formula.

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The Last Word
You'll hit gold more often if you simply try out a lot of things. -- Ira Glass

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