The former Victoria College pupil and his three crew members onboard Class 40 yacht Imerys Clean Energy could hardly have dreamt of doing better when they set out from Cowes nine days ago. Victory in a highly-competitive Class 40 championship event, overall line honours from the 30 entrants and a new Class 40 world record mark [subject to ratification] for the clockwise circumnavigation of the British Isles.
Touching home at just after quarter-past four yesterday afternoon means that the record now stands at eight days four hours, 14 minutes and 49 seconds – an improvement of close to 15 hours on the epic 1,800 nautical mile course. Coming in second was another Class 40, GB yacht Concise.
Sharp was lavish in his praise of his crew, Julien Pulvé, Pablo Santurdé and Sam Matson: ‘The endurance, tenacity and determination shown by the team throughout the entirety of this race explains how they crossed the finish line in first place.
‘As a team we stayed positive even through major setbacks. This helped us overcome problems and retain our strength battling for the lead. This drive enabled us to keep our lead at Muckle Flugga, and it was this advantage that became pivotal for the remainder of the race.
‘So, a massive thanks to Julien, Pablo and Sam for their resilience and for staying focused from beginning to end – I don’t think I could have chosen a better team – winning was always the only option and importantly we had a lot of laughs, too.’
Of the 29 boats that started the race a week last Sunday, 11 have since retired due to damage aboard from such challenging conditions. Said Sharp: ‘We’re really happy with this result as the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race is undoubtedly the toughest offshore race this side of the Atlantic. Breaking the record is a serious bonus and I am really chuffed to place this alongside my nine-hour Channel World Record sprint.
‘This year we saw real extremes of challenging weather conditions, from heavy downwind to light upwind sailing, and although in our class we had other competitive boats that pushed us, it turned out to be very much a race of attrition.
‘It’s very normal to have problems in heavy weather and the real issue is how you overcome them. Our biggest setback was losing our most valuable spinnaker just north of Ireland when approaching a cold front. The wind increased very quickly and sent the bow straight into a wave, ripping the spinnaker in two. Then, late Friday our wind instruments went down, in fact, the spare set was left hanging on a wire from the top of the mast!’
As the final race ahead of November’s grand slam, the solo Route du Rhum from St Malo to Guadeloupe, Sharp will be spending the next few months working on performance from valuable lessons learnt over the past nine days.