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

A Photo Finish Coming... Thomson Within 50 Miles Of Le Cleac'h
are being forced to sail much further north due to an anticyclone currently blocking their path home. The routing the pair must follow could take them as far north as the Scilly Isles before they can tack and finally point their bows towards the finish.

In the last 24 hours, Hugo Boss skipper Thomson has scythed another 10 miles off Le Cleac'h's advantage, and at the 1400 UTC position update was doing 20.4 knots compared to his French rival's 19.7. But even at that rate he will not be able to reduce the deficit enough to overhaul Le Cleac'h before the finish line. Thomson's hopes of becoming the first Brit to win the Vendee Globe in its 27-year history lie in tactics, namely the precise moment to tack and head for Les Sables.

Top ten ranking:
1. Armel Le Cleac'h, Banque Populaire VIII, 435 nm to finish
2. Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss, 42 nm to leader
3. Jeremie Beyou, Maitre CoQ, 813
4. Jean-Pierre Dick, StMichel - Virbac, 1722
5. Yann Elies, Queguiner - Leucemie Espoir, 1822
6. Jean Le Cam, Finistere Mer Vent, 1825
7. Louis Burton, Bureau Vallee, 2892
8. Nandor Fa, Spirit of Hungary, 4552
9. Eric Bellion, COMMEUNSEULHOMME, 5155
10. Conrad Colman, Foresight Natural Energy, 5228

www.vendeeglobe.org

* At press time... new report shows Thomson just 39 nm behind, but both boats travelling at 10kts. Thomson's gained 30 miles in 2 days but he's got just one more day to go. At sea, the horizon is just under 3 miles away. But if the top of the mast is 100 feet above sea level... the sight distance increases to just nearly 12 miles. The two could literally be in view of each other at the finish if Thomson continues to gain on Le Cleac'h. What an astounding race...

Quantum Key West Race Week Rollicks Through Day 2
To the delight of the more than 600 sailors competing in the 30th anniversary Quantum Key West Race Week, Day 2's racing nearly mirrored Day 1's memorable conditions.

Today, Lewmar Day, offered more stellar racing in 15- to 20-knot winds amid sunny skies and warm air temperatures. To borrow from a familiar phrase, "Race. Rinse. Repeat."

"It was another challenging, windy day, but these are the conditions you expect down here," said Kris Werner (Rochester, NY), tactician for Laura Weyler's (Williamsville, NY) J/88 Hijinks. "We made the comment sailing in both days to take a look around: it's just beautiful here. We've had two perfect days of sailing and couldn't ask for more. It's been great."

Hijinks was named Boat of the Day after posting victories in both races. The crew now has the low score of 5 points and leads Ryan Ruhlman's (Bratenahl, OH) Spaceman Spiff by 6 points.

In the Flying Tiger 7.5m Nigel Brownett's (Long Beach, CA) Hogfish Racing won both of today's races and has a 1-2-1-1 scoreline, good for a 4-point lead over Brian Tyrell's (Benton City, WA) 04. Brownett is sailing with longtime friends Andrew Kerr (Seattle, WA), Jahn Tihansky (Annapolis, MD) and Paul Molenda (Chicago, IL).

Todd Stuart's (Key West, FL) White Rhino (Swan 56) won the lone race in the Performance Cruising Class. White Rhino finished 30 minutes ahead of Ken Johnson's (Stoughton, WI) Grateful Red and corrected out to a 13-minute victory.

The ORC Class saw Alex Sastre's (Coconut Grove, FL) High Noise (Italia Yachts 9.98m) take the daily win with a 3-1. High Noise moved up to third in the standings, but Chris and Karen Lewis' (Houston, TX) Kenai (J/44) and J.D. Hill's (Houston, TX) Second Star (J/122) still hold 1-2 in the overall standings, separated by 2 points.

In the J/70 Class, Carlo Alberini's Calvi Network from Italy posted another solid 1-2-5 and leads with the low score of 14 points. Tim Healy's (Jamestown, RI) New England Ropes holds second with 26 points while Glenn Darden's (Fort Worth, TX) Hoss is third with 36 points.

Dan Cheresh (Saugatuck, MI) Extreme2 also put up some more steady finishes, going 1-3-1 on the day to lead the the C&C 30 One Design class with the low score of 8 points, good for an 8-point lead over Kip Meadows' (Raleigh, NC) RoXanne.

Racing resumes tomorrow with the first warning signal for all three divisions scheduled at 11:00 am.

www.keywestraceweek.com

Platoon Battle In The Trenches, But Hold Out For Key West Lead
Photo by Max Ranchi, www.maxranchi.com. Click on image for photo gallery.

Even among some of the top teams in the 52 SUPER SERIES, the world's leading grand prix monohull circuit, nerves and elements of self-doubt had a negative effect on Monday, the first day of the new season and the opening races of the Quantum Key West Race Week.

While Harm Muller-Spreer's Platoon opened with two confident, well executed wins, several among the 11 TP52 teams racing on the azure waters of the Florida Keys did not manage to start their season on their A-Game.

But after enjoying a life at the head of the fleet on Day 1 the Platoon team spent Day 2 slugging it out in the trenches for a pair of sixths. A four-race total of 14 points keeps them in the lead, but only barely. Quantum Racing's win in Race 4 lifted them to second, a point back. Despite an eighth in Race 4, which could've been worse, Azzurra is third with 19 points. Bronenosec has the same total, but sits fourth on tie break. Provezza, which won the day with a pair of seconds, is fifth.

Hard, honest debriefs turned around the fortunes for some such teams today.

Tony Langley's Gladiator crew won Race 3 for the 52 SUPER SERIES at Quantum Key West Race Week, leading from the first leeward gate. Their victory is the first race win for Langley's team since July last year in Porto Cervo and the first with multiple 52 SUPER SERIES champion Ed Baird as tactician.

After one general recall, Race 4 officially got underway in much the same conditions as the previous three, 15 to 20 knots from the east southeast with short choppy seas and brilliant sunshine.

It was by far the most competitive rounding of the regatta, with the entire fleet passing the mark within a minute of each other.

Quantum and Provezza worked the right side of the second beat and were bow-to-bow around the final mark. Another aggressive set by Quantum Racing earned them a few crucial metres and they were able to hold on for the win with Provezza second and Bronenosec third. Platoon, after rounding the first mark in 10th, finished sixth.

52 SUPER SERIES
2017 Quantum Key West Race Week standings after four races.
1. Platoon, GER, Harm Muller-Spreer, GER, 14 points
2. Quantum Racing, USA, Doug DeVos, USA, 15
3. Azzurra, ITA, Familia Roemmers, ARG, 19
4. Bronenosec, RUS, Vladimir Liubomirov, RUS, 19
5. Provezza, TUR, Ergin Imre, TUR, 21
6. Ran Racing, SWE, Niklas Zennstrom, SWE, 23
7. Sled, USA, Takashi Okura, USA, 26
8. Interlodge, USA, Austin & Gwen Fragomen, USA, 29
9. Gladiator, GBR, Tony Langley, GBR, 30
10. Alegre, GBR, Andy Soriano, USA, 31
11. Paprec Recyclage, FRA, Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, FRA, 37

52superseries.com

2017 ORC VPP, Rules and DVP Now Ready For Use
The Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) is pleased to announce that its 2017 version of the ORC Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) is now ready for use. The VPP is the core of the ORC International and ORC Club Rating Systems and is used to generate certificates in these systems.

ORC Rating Offices around the word now have access to issue 2017 certificates according to their policies. The ORC's public online access to present and past valid certificate copies, and running new test certificates, ORC Speed Guides, and Target Speeds in the ORC Sailor Services system is now also updated for the new 2017 VPP.

Full story in Scuttlebutt

For more information on the ORC VPP and DVP, go to www.orc.org/vpp, and purchase and download of the 2017 VPP is available at www.orc.org/dvp

Wight Vodka Best Yachting Bar Contest
A few readers have noted that we don't have any UK-based bars this year. A few others have noted that the two bars in Bermuda do count... as Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory.

And one very sharp fellow has noted that ALL of our top ten are in, or were in, British Colonies. Including of course all those in the USA.

But back to Bermuda... and the beautiful club due south from the city of Hamilton across the harbour... the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (RHADC) in Red Hole. Or as Shorty Trimingham once remarked to your humble narrator, RHADC really stands for the "Red Hole Arguing and Drinking Club".

It's a beautiful white building with lovely grounds, and serves as the Bermuda home base of the Marion to Bermuda Race.

The bar is resplendent with Bermuda cedar, flags and trophies; add in the most comfortable bar chairs in the Western Hemisphere (two sturdy arms to aid the weary and bleary), and you have the quintessential proper yachting bar. Bertie Wooster would have loved the place.

www.rhadc.bm

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

Vote for your choice from our top ten here: scuttlebutteurope.com/sailors-bars

Mount Gay Round Barbados Series Lives Up To Reputation
The Blue Peter. Photo by Peter Marshall/MGRBR. Click on image for photo gallery.

Bridgetown, Barbados: The Mount Gay Round Barbados Series organised by Barbados Cruising Club in association with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, and Mount Gay got off to a spectacular start today with the first race of the three-day Coastal Series blessed with glorious sailing conditions.

A good 17-20kts of north-easterly breeze and relatively flat seas resulted in exciting close racing for the five fleets, which ranged from Windsurfers and Foiling International Moths, Cruising classes, to the CSA Racing class.

Today's courses, which all started in Carlisle Bay took the fleets generally out to the south-east, round South Point to Tapas, a mark just off the beach up the east coast. The relatively short opening blast was just the right length, although those on the most physically demanding boats such as Andy Budgen on his foiling Moth Nano Project, and Charles Trevor Hunte on his windsurfer did confess to feeling somewhat fatigued.

Commenting as he stepped ashore after his first race win, Budgen said: "The second half was actually quite bumpy, which meant it was extremely demanding. I started to feel tired half an hour in, and consequently had a few splashes. It has however, made me realise I definitely need a support boat for the Round Barbados Race on Saturday because it is going to be tough."

As the racing progresses in the Coastal Series, more and more yachts are making their way to Bridgetown in preparation for Saturday's Mount Gay Round Barbados Race, including Adix, the stunning Arthur Holgate 65m classic, which is currently en-route from St Martin.

mountgayrumroundbarbadosrace.com

The Round The Island Race Entries Open On 27th January
Cowes, Isle of Wight: The iconic one-day yacht racing extravangaza, the Round the Island Race, organised by the Island Sailing Club (ISC) in Cowes, has announced that Early Bird entries for the 2017 race, being held on Saturday 1st July, will open at 00.00 on Friday 27th January.

In tandem, the Notice of Race will be published online on the 2017 race website. Early Bird entries will close at midnight on Saturday 18th February when the Standard Entry fee kicks in.

Further details will be available online from 27th January via this link: www.rtir.me/entries

This most famous of yacht races annually attracts in the region of 1,500 competing yachts and upwards of 12,000 sailors from around the globe. Last year saw the departure of title sponsor J.P. Morgan Asset Management after twelve fruitful years, and organisers are delighted to shortly be announcing the Round the Island Race as the flagship sailing event for a new Presenting Race Partner.

Meanwhile, Raymarine has signed a new three-year deal as the Race Technical Partner and the ISC also confirms that the official race charity will continue being the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust for a further year.

www.roundtheisland.org.uk

The Lion Prepares To Roar Again
Claasen's J-Class Lionheart is already looking forward to a busy season: the 43.40-metre racer's schedule is a who's who of the major regattas in the western hemisphere in 2017.

Kicking off the season will be St Barths Bucket from 16 to 19 March. Next it will be the turn of the Bermuda America's Cup - both the Superyacht Cup on 13-15 June and the J-Class event on 16 and 19-20 June. The latter will see Lionheart return to her roots as the original design was created in the 1930s for the legendary Harold Vanderbilt, who owned the Js Enterprise and Ranger.

Lionheart will also be reliving history when the yacht participates in the Newport J-Class World Championships from 22 to 26 August. She may also ultimately make her way to other regattas closer to home - such as the Superyacht Cup on 21-24 June - although, the relevant decisions will be made as the dates approach. Launched in 2010 as the first J to be built with an aluminium hull, Lionheart has already won some great races in her competitive career to date, including the J Class Falmouth Regatta.

claasenshipyards.com/the-lion-prepares-to-roar-again/

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.

* From Adrian Morgan: While in awe of Alex Thompson's new 24-hour record, 536.8nm, it is pure hyperbole to say it "smashed" the previous record held by Francois Gabart, 534.48nm, and no proof that the new foilers are significantly faster than the older non-foilers. If the margin was just 2.32 miles in 24 hours, and that with essentially a half foiler, maybe one should reflect on the gain vs the cost, not least the demolition of those Vendee foilers through encounters with UFOs. The march of progress is unstoppable, but are foils really worth the candle, in solo long distance racing? If Alex wins the race, then we Brits will have real cause for celebration. It will have been the man, however, not the machine that done it. That's quite another matter.

* From Euan Ross: I enjoyed Peter Morton's broadside, even though the target had already been scuttled! My original letter concerned 'throwing good money after bad' when left with an unsaleable asset - a scenario not uncommon in the world of yachting. The bulk of the current Quarter Ton fleet manifestly does not fall into that category. Even so, had I the means and inclination to join the revival fleet, I'd still rather invest in an 'Alice II' than a 'Manzanita'.

On the subject of downwind performance, however, I fear I have been misrepresented. I don't think I suggested that Quarter Tonners ever planed on flat water more than "occasionally", or that it was ever anything other than a very special event. And it was fun but not a "fantasy" when we arrived at Milleur Point in company with the One Tonners back in 1979, after a broad reach of 50 miles and countless broaches. Beating up to Rathlin Island, with 20 to 30kts on the nose, was another matter and basically crushed my enthusiasm for racing toy yachts offshore. We sold our Bolero in 1981 with the assumption that she was past her best. A couple of years ago, I traced the history of the boat. In the interim 35 years she had been coverted into a cruiser with an inboard engine then, more recently, stripped back as a reasonably competitive racing boat again, but now with a heavier keel and tall rig. The current owner finds the idea of scooting offwind inconceivable.

I have followed the Quarter Ton revival with interest and it's certainly quite extraordinary what has been achieved. Until the arrival of the Fast 40s, which Peter Morton also sails, they were the most interesting boats afloat in the Solent. There is no need for the denizens of the fleet to be in any way defensive. They have done a great job.

* From Alistair Skinner: Alistair: I don't mind being corrected when I am wrong but Peter there is no need to labour the point especially when I responded respectfully - in case you didn't realise, I wasn't being sarcastic - when you corrected me on the IOR Vs RORC in a letter several days ago, so let's not go over old ground.

Bowsprits may be banned in QT fleet (presumably you mean the QTC fleet) but not under IRC and not in China and there are several brands that offer demountable so a boat could rate AND race under either formula should one choose. I do live in China and no there are not enough of them here (I own them both) to have a QT Class although I would dearly love that. Also, I don't think I actually suggested that we do 200 mile races in a QT (Nope not me!!), in fact having checked I most certainly didn't suggest that all QTC races were W/L so I was definitely NOT "wrong again there" and I certainly DID NOT say that I "do not approve of the racing we do in the UK etc etc". Might I suggest you identify your target before pulling the trigger, a clear case of Ready, Fire, Aim!"

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The Last Word
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