Maxi Banque Populaire, the French 140 foot trimaran skippered by Loick Peyron, set a new outright multihull race record for the Rolex Fastnet Race when she reached Plymouth this evening at 19:48:46, for an elapsed time of 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (32 hrs, 48 mins), and an average speed around the course of 18.5 knots.
In the process, skipper Loick Peyron broke the race record of 1 day, 16 hours, 27 minutes he previously set in 1999 aboard his 60 foot trimaran Fujcolor in 1999.
Banque Populaire holds the world record for the most number of miles covered by a sailing boat in one day – 908.2 miles, roughly one and a half times the length of the Rolex Fastnet Race.
More than 20 crew on board a racing yacht have been rescued after it capsized off the Irish coast.
The US registered racing boat, Rambler 100, was taking part in the Fastnet Race when it overturned about 12.5 miles from Baltimore, Co Cork, just after 6.30pm on Monday.
The Irish Coast Guard, which co-ordinated the rescue operation, said 16 crew members sitting on the hull of the vessel were airlifted to safety. Another five who were in a life raft were taken on board other yachts.
Ian Loffhagen, racing manager, said the yacht – skippered by George David – capsized between the Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy. “All 21 crew have been rescued,” he added.
Some 314 yachts are taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race and set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.
The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s biennial event takes the fleet 608 miles along the south coast of the UK, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off south west Ireland, before returning around the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth.
The event has a fearsome reputation following the 1979 race which was devastated by strong winds and seas resulting in 15 deaths.
A spokeswoman for the Irish Coast Guard said the seas in the area were not very rough at the time of the capsize, but that the weather conditions were foggy.
The Baltimore RNLI lifeboat was first on the scene, followed by the Shannon and Waterford-based rescue helicopters and the Irish Naval vessel the LE Ciara.
The yacht’s personal locator beacon was activated when it overturned.
Follow up on the rescue.
Feel0ng lucky to be alive, Australian Mike Mottl stepped onto dry land at the pier at Baltimore, west Cork to cheers, applause and an emotional embrace.
One of five crew of the Rambler 100 to be separated from the vessel after it keeled over in heavy seas, Mr Mottl and four others spent two hours adrift before they were plucked from the water.
“I’m feeling lucky to be alive, happy to be here and it’s great to see the local people here to greet us,” Mr Mottl said as he stepped into an awaiting ambulance at the pier.
Erle Williams, from Auckland New Zealand was at the helm when disaster struck seven miles north west of the Fastnet.
“I’m sailing all my life I’ve never ended up in the water like this, it was pretty scary. We were very lucky to get out in time, the navigator put out the call just as boat was tipping over and it went over phenomenally fast,” he said.
Foggy conditions prevented other boats taking part in the race from seeing the stricken crew.
“We were yelling and hollering out to them but obviously they couldn’t see us, it was a pretty frantic time,” he said.
A number of the crew members were asleep below deck when the boat keeled over.
“Some of our guys were very lucky to get out from under the boat so we are counting out blessings,” Mr Williams said.
Michael Van Beuren (44) from Portsmouth, New Zealand said the boat capsized within 30 seconds.
“We were going upwind in heavy seas when the keel fin fractured, the seas were quite big. It is such a relief that we all made it ashore.”
Skipper and owner George David was among five crew members set adrift from the vessel. They were plucked to safety by the crew of the diving vessel, Wave Chieftan .
“We could see them drifting away, we spent two hours clinging to the boat thinking and worrying about them, they were our main concern,” Mr Van Beuren said.
Bob Wylie (48) from Lake Quarry in Australia spent two hours on the upturned keel of the yacht.
“My first priority was my own safety and then to try to help the others,” he said.
“I saw the liferaft drifting away so I threw a rope. It just couldn’t reach them and they kept drifting out to sea.”
One woman on board the vessel, the partner of vessel owner Mr David, was airlifted to safety suffering from hypothermia following the incident.
The Rambler 100 skippered by Mr David was first home in the Transatlantic Race earlier this year. The Rambler crossed the finish line on July 10th in an elapsed time of six days, 22 hours, eight minutes, two seconds.
The Rambler established a new record for the 2,975 nautical mile course from Newport, United States, to Lizard Point, South Cornwall, in Britian.
Mr David is the former chief executive of United Technologies Corporation, a conglomerate based in Hartford, Connecticut, whose vast holdings include such diverse companies as Otis Elevator, Sikorsky Helicopters, Carrier air conditioners and aerospace and industrial systems Hamilton Sudstrand. Mr David is an avid yachtsman and racer.
The waiting is nearly over: the 44th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race, one of the great ocean challenges is just 2 weeks away. With a staggering 350 entrants at the ready, 1979’s record-breaking tally of 303 participating yachts will almost certainly be surpassed. The sheer size of the fleet is impressive. Its quality and diversity quite breathtaking. Inspiring and exhilarating in equal measure, there is every reason to believe that the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will maintain the event’s pioneering and prestigious tradition.
The numbers game
Due to the Rolex Fastnet’s unique allure, event organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) never have any difficulty ensuring that there is a large and impressive fleet in attendance. This year is no exception. Entries came in thick and fast and were closed within ten days of opening in January. However, the requests kept arriving. After being inundated with additional enquiries from the Volvo Open 70s, the IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and Multihulls to join the 608-nautical mile marathon, the RORC adjusted the entry limit to allow these ‘professional’ classes to be counted above the initial cut-off mark.
The Rolex Fastnet Race commences from Cowes on Sunday 14 August (the first signal sounds at 10:50 BST). Whilst crews with the ambition of being the fastest to the finish will hope to spend only one or two nights at sea, spare a thought for those at the back of the pack, for whom a near week in often punishing conditions may be the order of the day.
Rambler 100 enjoying Leopard hunt
Short of a catastrophic breakdown, the fastest boat on the water at the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will be the 100-foot trimaran, Banque Populaire (FRA), which just broke the round the Britain Isles record by almost a day and a half. However, the battle for monohull line honours is the most anticipated clash and is expected to be the privilege of two other 100-ft challengers: Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard (GBR), first elapsed-time finisher in the past two editions, and arch-rivals George David’s Rambler 100 (USA). The two crews know each other extremely well, given their series of tussles in recent months. A head-to-head battle in the Transatlantic Race, which saw Rambler 100 ease to line honours after ICAP Leopard lost her bowsprit, the freshest encounter.
“Having won the Rolex Fastnet Race twice, the big play is to win three in a row, which would be quite exceptional,” explains Slade, whose yacht also holds the course record of 1 day, 20 hours and 18 minutes [set in 2007]. “During the RORC Caribbean 600, Rambler 100 proved to be the faster boat in her ideal conditions. However, Rambler 100 may also need to protect herself in bad weather, more than ICAP Leopard. We feel we have a good chance in light and heavy airs, it is the bit in between that we might have a problem! I am really looking forward to the Fastnet, it should be a very exciting race but above all else, I don’t want to lose our record to Rambler 100, that would be heartbreaking and we will vigorously defend it.”
Rambler 100 is as keen to renew hostilities. “We’re anticipating sailing in Cowes Week from 9-11 August and hope ICAP Leopard and others will be competing as well,” explains David, “we’ve had three races together already, the Caribbean 600, the Annapolis to Newport and now the Transatlantic Race. Rambler 100 took line honours and corrected ahead of ICAP Leopard in all three.”
David is fervent about the upcoming Fastnet Race and describes his own personal highlights of the parcours: “Beating out through The Needles in a huge fleet, the beauty of the south coast of England, the approach to the [Fastnet] Rock, and the wind and weather conditions all over the place.”
Whilst these two ocean greyhounds are clear monohull line honours favourites, they may not have it all their own way. There is the significant presence of six Volvo 70s, including two of the latest breed: Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Groupama IV (FRA). Then there is the Mini Maxi class including defending Rolex Fastnet handicap winner, the 72-ft Rán (GBR), owned by Niklas Zennström, in addition to Andres Soriano’s Mills 68 Alegre (GBR), a fantastic campaigner in the Mediterranean in recent seasons. Throwing in the American challengers, the STP65 Vanquish, and the Reichel-Pugh 66 Zaraffa, who like ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 competed in the Transatlantic Race, it promises to be a tight contest at the top of the fleet.
Tales from the foreign third
Of the record breaking 350 yachts competing at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, approximately a third are non-British crews. A scan of the 2011 entry list highlights the global pull of the event, with yachts competing from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE and the USA.
Karl Kwok, owner of the 80-ft Beau Geste (HKG), will be taking part in the event for the third time. “I am definitely here for the challenge as this is one of the most interesting and competitive offshore races in the world,” he explains. “My first time here was in 1995, followed by my second appearance in the last edition [in 2009]. We did well on that occasion, but it could be better still!” Kwok adores offshore racing: “For me the top three blue water offshore classics are the Fastnet, Sydney to Hobart and Newport to Bermuda – in that order. And Rolex has the top two!” Beau Geste will be another yacht snapping at the heels of the 100-footers and also arrive in Cowes fresh from competing in the Transatlantic Race.
One overseas crew in particular has reason to treasure its association with the Rolex Fastnet. Six years ago, Frenchman Jean Yves Chateau’s 33-ft Nicholson Iromiguy won the competition on corrected time, the first time in three decades that the overall prize had been won by a yacht under 40 feet. For the Saint Malo-based skipper, the victory was both a surprise and a fulfilment of an ambition: “To win the Rolex Fastnet Race was like a childhood dream, it is like an ‘Everest’ in my life and in the life of each member of my crew: absolutely fantastic, unbelievable, gorgeous, not to mention the incredible fact of having beaten all the big guys. It was also very important for me to be the third French sailor to win this race and to have my name engraved on this Cup close to Eric Tabarly [the legendary French skipper who won the race in 1967]!”
Regarding the ‘draw’ of the Rolex Fastnet, Chateau continues: “It is a mythical race. This year will be our seventh time and we are always very pleased and enthusiastic to participate with the crazy dream of winning it one more time.” Amongst the sizeable French contingent is the intriguing story of the IMOCA 60 DCNS 100 (FRA), sailed by skipper Marc Thiercelin and his famous apprentice, former downhill skier and endurance motorsport driver, Luc Alphand. DCNS 100 is one of seven IMOCA 60s, including Cheminées Poujoulat (SUI) launched in May this year.
John Towers is helming the J/122 Oojah (GBR) with a US-based crew joining British boat owner Peter Tanner, their navigator for the race. The English Channel is some distance from their usual racing haven of the east coast of the United States. “As a group of Americans, we consider the Rolex Fastnet Race to be a once in a lifetime adventure that is a natural compliment to our passion for distance racing,” explains Towers, “the Fastnet is a big deal for us and an adventure that we have been planning for the last two years.”
Tanner continues: “Our goal will be the same as any other race we enter. Priority one is a safe passage. Priority two is that the experience is very positive for all members of the crew. Our third priority is to be competitive.”
Triple TP52 challenge
The three TP52s competing at the Rolex Fastnet Race will resume their engagement having been near inseparable at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup. On that occasion, Franck Noël’s Near Miss (SUI) finished the 243-nautical mile race less than two minutes ahead of Johnny Vincent’s Pace (GBR). Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky (USA) was only a further hour behind. On corrected time, only seven places separated the three crews, with Pace coming out on top. Over a considerably longer distance, this ‘race within a race’ will be one to follow come August.
Back of the pack
The crew of the Contessa-32 Drumbeat (GBR) will likely have one opportunity to admire ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 – during the passage out of the Solent. For co-skippers and brothers-in-law, Mark Himsworth and Pierre Walrafen, the race ahead will be one of endurance and, at times, solitude: “It feels amazing to be one of the smallest and slowest boats competing, tacking or gybing down the Solent against much larger and faster machines after the start. All the while competing on handicap directly against them,” explains Himsworth, who will be taking part in the Rolex Fastnet for a third time.
The reality soon becomes quite different, as Himsworth reveals: “After 24 hours, most of the competition is long gone. Thereafter it’s occasionally difficult to keep your mind away from the thought of the faster boats turning towards (or arriving at) Plymouth while ours plugs steadily westwards round Land’s End. It’s a pretty solitary undertaking when you’re on watch and your co-skipper’s sleeping and none of your competitors are visible, but that’s all part of the attraction, and there’s still plenty going on in Plymouth when we arrive!”
The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet is the Fastnet Challenge Cup. In addition, there are more than 30 additional trophies that will be awarded at the prize giving on Friday, 19 August at the historic Royal Citadel, home of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooking Plymouth Sound and Sutton Harbour, where the majority of the fleet will berth.
Last August Alex Thomson was joined onboard his IMOCA Open 60 HUGO BOSS by former Olympic skier Graham Bell for the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. To watch their journey and get an exclusive view into life onboard the premier racing yacht HUGO BOSS tune into Channel Fiver on Sunday 10th January at 12 noon.
The 2009 Fastnet Race saw a hugely competitive line-up come together for this classic 600-mile offshore race. The 300 strong fleet included Olympic medalists, America’s Cup and round the world sailors. Lining up for his first race was former Olympic skier Graham Bell, a complete novice sailor onboard the IMOCA Open 60 HUGO BOSS one of the fastest racing machines on the planet. 2009 saw the 30th anniversary of the 1979 edition of the race, the race was brought to national attention after an extreme storm swept through the Irish Sea, 15 crew as well as 4 from the trimaran shadowing the race and two from a cruising yacht, tragically died. Only 85 boats finished, 194 retired, and 24 boats were abandoned. Graham speaks to sailors both past and present on their memories of this tragic event, and how technology has changed at sea over the last 30 years.
Date: Sunday 10th January
FREEVIEW: Channel 30
SKY: Channel 176
VIRGIN MEDIA: Channel 152
TISCALI TV: Channel 31
Following the Fastnet Race, HUGO BOSS then took part in a challenging two handed Transat Jacques Vabre. The 14 strong IMOCA fleet were battered by storm force conditions in the North Atlantic, causing multiple breakages and one boat to be abandoned. On day nine the race was cut short for HUGO BOSS after a collision on the bow, although the damage was small it wasn’t possible to stop the ingress of water until the area was free from water. Sadly HUGO BOSS was force to retire and after a affecting a temporary repair headed back to the UK.
HUGO BOSS has been surveyed after the collision, and the results showed the damage is minimal. Skipper Alex Thomson commented, “The team are currently working on the repair. The potential was there during the Jacques Vabre, it was so frustrating to have to retire when she had performed so well
Zennström’s Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer finished the race in an elapsed time of 63 hours, 1 minute and 33 seconds, which corrected out to 2 hours, 19 minutes ahead of the second-placed Italian America’s Cup team Luna Rossa on board their STP65.
“It is fantastic, we are very excited about it,” commented Zennström. “But it was also a gradual thing, because as we crossed the finish line we knew we had a good result. We had monitored some of the boats behind us, most notably Luna Rossa and Rosebud, which we thought were always going to be the closest competitors to us. And after we came in we spent the morning and actually the whole day yesterday monitoring the updates on the RORC’s OC Tracker and made our own calculations about the likelihoods for the other boats to catch up with us.”
Having failed to complete the last Rolex Fastnet Race, in 2007, the victory for Ran 2 was unfinished business. That race, sailed on board Zennström’s Marten 49, had been the first occasion that the present Ran crew had sailed together. Led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tim Powell, the all-star line-up includes seasoned race boat navigator Steve Hayles and America’s Cup sailors such as Adrian Stead and Emirates Team New Zealand’s Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.
Zennström launched his new 72-footer earlier this year, raced it at several events in the Mediterranean, including the Giraglia Rolex Cup, before it was shipped back to the UK, to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. “One of the key objectives when we were building Ran 2 was to be able to do offshore races, and the most obvious race we put on the calendar was the Rolex Fastnet Race. So it is great we have done so well in it.” Zennström explains.
This year they have also won the Swedish equivalent of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Gotland Runt, aboard their previous Ran, a modified TP52.
“I think it is a really strong team,” concludes Zennström. “We have been sailing together for two years now and the team is getting stronger and stronger. We have been very thorough in our planning, both in terms of the design of the boat and our race preparations.
Skipper Tim Powell was equally ecstatic about their Rolex Fastnet Race win: “Obviously it is a big achievement being such a prestigious race and one of the classics.” He adds that they had prepared well, believing some way in advance that a major part of the race would be upwind and, with Ran 2 being very powerful and fast upwind, they stood a reasonable chance. “We were focusing more on our class and the boats around us a lot more. But to have won the thing overall is an awesome achievement.”
Ran 2 did especially well outbound down the English Channel and by the key tidal gate at Start Point, they had pulled out a 10 mile lead over their Mini Maxi rivals. “That first 20 hours up the Channel was all important, tactically and navigationally, and as a crew we sailed very, very well,” says Powell.
Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, says that this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race did favour the larger boats. “If you think that we’ve had spring tides, and really light winds, one of the big gains that the big boats made was on the first night when they came to Portland Bill and they were able to make the tide. You could see on the tracker that those who had managed to make it away from Portland Bill had a huge advantage, whereas the others were stopped and some had to put their anchor down. So the story of the race in many respects ended there, but we didn’t know which big boat was going to win.”
The opportunity for the smaller boats to win fizzled over the last 24 hours when windier conditions that might have provided them with a fast finish to make up for their deficit, caused by missing the tide at Portland Bill on the first night, failed to materialise.
“Ran sailed really well against the opposition and it is a well-deserved victory,” concluded Warden-Owen. “It is a young crew of British guys on the boat, even though it is owned by a Swede and they are very experienced America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. So, a good effort.”
At the end of this afternoon, 59 boats of 300 starters had reached Plymouth and berthed in Sutton Harbour in the heart of the Devonshire city. The latest arrivals included the first to finish in IRC Class 1, Nicolas Loday and Jean-Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43, Codiam.
At present La Floresta Del Mar, Amanda Hartley’s Swan 56 can’t be beaten in IRC Z, having finished at 03:24 GMT this morning. While Codiam remains first on handicap in IRC 1, Marc Alperovitch and Jérome Huillard’s A-35 Prime Time is leading in IRC 2 and at 15:00 had just passed the Lizard with 43 miles left to go to the finish. Finally, Fabrice Amedeo’s X-332 Bateaux Mouches du Pont de l’Alma remains first in IRC 3, with 15 miles left to go to Bishop Rock. The majority of the fleet have now rounded the Fastnet Rock with the backmarker, the Bristol Channel pilot cutter, Morwenna, midway across the Celtic Sea with just over one third of the race course completed.
This afternoon the Royal Ocean Racing Club, organisers of the biennial British 608-mile classic offshore race, confirmed that Niklas Zennström’s Ran 2 is the overall handicap winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard secured a second consecutive line honours victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race in the early hours of this morning. With the mixed conditions the 100ft super-maxi was considerably behind the course record she set two years ago. Arriving at the Plymouth breakwater finish line at 00:09:36 GMT, her elapsed time on this occasion was 2 days 11 hours 9 minutes and 36 seconds, compared to 1 day 20 hours 18 minutes and 53 seconds in 2007.
“It was a great race,” commented Slade. “It is always nice to have a race where there are no breakages or damage. We didn’t get into any difficult situations. We just wanted to get around fast and competently. All in all we are delighted to be here, second time running, back to back victories in this great race. A huge thanks to the RORC, our sponsors ICAP and Rolex for yet again taking an interest in yachting.”
To have broken the record would have required more wind, but despite this the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race was still a nailbiter, said Slade. “There was a lot of light air and ‘are we going to get through a tide gate?’ It made for a very exciting race. We were always looking over our backs because, Rosebud, Ran and Luna Rossa were all there, all ganging up, only 20 miles behind all the time. So we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.”
ICAP Leopard’s next major events are the Rolex Middle Sea Race out of Malta in October followed by the Rolex Sydney Hobart in December. “No one has ever won all three and we will give it a try,” said Slade adding that he would be back to try for a third win in the RORC’s biennial offshore classic in 2011. Specifically this is a warm-up for the race to Hobart . “There is Maximus from NZ, Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats, so we’ll have our work cut out. We will go down there and represent Britain and try and knock off the Aussies. God knows what they are going to do at the Oval [the Ashes cricket contest]. We might need to get some revenge!”
Karl Kwok’s brand new Farr 80, Beau Geste was second home, arriving in drizzly Plymouth at 03:25:03 GMT, and now tied up in Sutton Harbour. “The race has been enjoyable,” commented Kwok. “We are racing the same IRC Class SZ boats as we did in Cowes Week, so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses more or less. Knowing that beating everyone on handicap is almost impossible, our hope was maybe line honours for the class, because once into the ocean, waterline (length) counts. So it was a drag race and we beat Ran on that one, but they are pretty close.”
Apart from three short races at Cowes Week, this was Beau Geste’s first major race and both Kwok and skipper Gavin Brady said they still have much to learn about the set-up and development of the boat. “There are still a lot of things we can still do to reduce its rating,” said Kwok, who intends to enter his new boat in all the classic races he has not yet entered. Their program includes the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup in Sardinia then the Rolex Middle Sea Race. Brady added: “It is a big ask to bring a boat like this straight into one of the biggest events in Europe as your first race, but there is a lot we can take out of it.”
Brady says that in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the leaders seemed to be connected by elastic. “Our race didn’t really start for 24 hours and in a race that is that short you are giving away a lot of race course, where you are behind your competitors. By the time we passed Ran 2 we were 13-14 hours into the race. As soon as we got up to a ten-mile lead, then the compression started again and each time that happened, there was less and less race course.”
One of the most interesting races on the water, that developed in the last few hours, was that between Niklas Zennström’s Judel Vrolijk 72, Ran 2 and BT IMOCA 60, sailed two handed by Sebastien Josse and Jean-François Cuzon. This battle from Bishop Rock to the finish was won by the French duo, arriving just over one minute ahead, the wind dropping all the time to a minimum of five knots.
“We saw Ran just before the Scilly Isles,” recounted Josse. “We crossed and we said ‘maybe these guys will gybe, because we are on starboard’. And no one moved…but then we are a bad reference because when we gybe we have to start 20 minutes before! Then eventually we saw the bowman go on the bow, furl the staysail and in seconds they were away. So I said ‘maybe we won’t match race with these guys because we’ll lose’.”
Nonetheless in the VMR running conditions, the blue IMOCA 60 stayed ahead, despite having run headlong into a moon fish while crossing the Celtic Sea and running out of diesel by the time they reached the finish.
Despite being beaten on the water by BT IMOCA 60, this was of little consequence to Niklas Zennström and the crew of Ran 2. This morning they remain the leader overall on handicap.
“I think we knew it would be up to the last bit here, but I think we have a good chance,” commented the Skype founder on their prospects of a handicap win in what is the first major offshore race for their new boat. “We didn’t lose so much here at the last bit. We had a good breeze all the way in, so we have a good chance. But now we have to wait and see.”
Zennström had no regrets about bringing his boat all the way back up to UK from the Mediterranean, to where it will now return. “One of the objectives when we built the boat was to race a Rolex Fastnet Race competitively. Two years ago we had to pull out – so we had some revenge to do…”
According to Ran 2 navigator Steve Hayles, they ended up arriving in Plymouth three hours earlier than he had anticipated yesterday. After the distance between the front runners compressed as they reached Bishop Rock, he says it was not the wind speed but the direction that saved them on the final run home. “It stayed a bit more westerly and it didn’t go around to the north, so we didn’t have all the issues of trying to get under the land. We ended up running down in here.” They then got less foul tide passing the Lizard, extending their lead over the boats astern.
This morning the lead boats in IRC Class Z have been rounding the Fastnet Rock, with the majority of the fleet still crossing the Celtic Sea outbound. Under handicap, Piet Vroon’s new Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens has taken the lead in IRC Z and is now most of the way back to Bishop Rock. French boats continue to dominate the small handicap classes. The Grand Soleil 43 Codiam remains in front of Class 1, having rounded the rock at 0300 GMT. Just short of the rock, the A35 Prime Time has taken over first place in Class 2, while the Dufour 34 Major Tom is still first in Class 3.
1) ICAP Leopard, Mike Slade (GBR) – 00:09:36 GMT
2) Beau Geste, Karl Kwok (HK) – 03:25:03
3) BT IMOCA 60, Sebastien Josse (FRA) – 04:00:15
4) Ran 2, Niklas Zennström (SWE) – 04:01:33
5) Artemis Ocean Racing, Sam Davies (UK) and Sidney Gavignet (FRA) – 05:15:41
6) Safran, Marc Guillemot (FRA) – 05:56:18
7) Team Pindar, Mike Sanderson (NZ) – 06:15:42
Aviva, Dee Caffari (UK) – 06:57:13
9) Luna Rossa, Flavio Flavini (ITA) – 07:01:54
10) Rosebud Team DYT, Roger Sturgeon (USA) – 07:45:37
11) Akena Verandas, Arnaud Boissières (FRA) – 08:34:51
While a line honours victory for Mike Slade’s 100ft super-maxi ICAP Leopard might seem obvious, the brand new Hong Kong 80-footer Beau Geste of Karl Kwok is closing on them. At 03:00 GMT this morning they were 35 miles behind and by 14:00GMT were only 24 miles astern. Over the course of the late morning and early afternoon the smaller boat was occasionally sailing three knots faster down the course.
The reason, according to round the world race veteran, Steve Hayles, navigator on Niklas Zennström’s Ran 2, is that the boats astern of ICAP Leopard have enjoyed stronger wind from the northwest. “This breeze built from behind, it came down from the Fastnet Rock, so it has been a bad bit of timing for them. It was just unfortunate. We have more headed breeze and more of it. But to be honest we are suffering the same thing with the two STP65s behind us. We feel pretty happy with what we have done. We have stopped the rot here recently.”
Hayles says they are expecting the wind to veer towards the north in the next six to ten hours and to go light. “The breeze is going to drop below ten knots for sure. We will go around Bishop Rock at about 18:00 GMT. The last 90 miles to the finish, the routing has us doing it in nine hours, but my own thinking is that it is going to take 14.” So a breakfast time arrival in Plymouth. Significantly, and regardless of the slow finish, Hayles is quietly confident of Ran 2 winning under IRC handicap, which she is leading at present.
The IMOCA 60s still remain in contention, with BT IMOCA 60 around 22 miles astern of Beau Geste. Despite being sailed doublehanded, this afternoon she has overtaken the fully-crewed Artemis Ocean Racing. The first IMOCA 60s are expected home tomorrow mid-morning.
Since yesterday the cycle of the wind has changed phase and while en route from Land’s End to the Fastnet Rock yesterday, the fastest boats were heading north awaiting a shift to get them west; today the bulk of the fleet has been heading west waiting for a shift to get them north. Some of the outbound boats have even taken the unorthodox approach of going to the west of the Scilly Isles, rather than the conventional shorter course to their east. Many have been heading so far west that the faster boats returning from the Rock, have seen them coming the opposite way. “Earlier this morning we saw several. I am surprised to see quite so many – it is a pretty aggressive punt out to the west for those boats,” said Hayles.
One of the boats heading out west was Tanguy de LaMotte’s Initiatives Saveurs-Novedia Group, the new leader in the Class 40. According to Papua New Guinean round the world sailor Liz Wardley who is sailing on board, they were obliged to dive so heavily west because of the wind direction. “We had a huge lift on starboard, more than we expected and so we really had to wait for a huge knock before we could tack over. So yes, we are quite far west.” They finally tacked back to the north at around midday.
“We are hoping the wind is going to lift us a little bit more, so we can make the Fastnet in one tack, because we are 10 degrees low,” continued Wardley, adding that at around 15:30 GMT they had 16-17 knots from the west, with the wind building the further north they sailed.
Further behind, Katie Miller and Hannah Jenner, two-handed on Miller’s Beneteau Figaro 2, Hot Socks, were enjoying the conditions off Land’s End. There the wind was southwest and Miller was hoping that it wouldn’t build as they are unable to use their water ballast at present since the pump “has just died”.
They are recovering from a difficult first night when they had to make two attempts to anchor off Portland Bill in 45m of water. If getting the anchor down was a problem, getting it up for the two of them was even harder, the operation taking more than 45 minutes. “We are going to be muscle women by the time we get back,” commented Miller, who says that the Rolex Fastnet Race is personally proving to be as tough as the singlehanded transatlantic race she completed recently. “The race is so short compared to the Atlantic that you are constantly pushing the boat as hard as you can, so you almost sleep less than you would on your own.”
In terms of the handicap standings, little has changed since this morning in the larger classes where Ran 2 remains ahead in Class SZ. La Floresta del Mar leads Class Z three quarters of the way towards the Fastnet Rock, while Codiam is first in IRC 1, half way to the Rock. However HOD35 Malice has taken over the lead in Class 2, despite a large dig out to the west , with David Lees’ High Tension 36, Hephzibah ahead in Class 3, the latter 10 miles northwest of the Scilly Isles.
The latest forecast indicates that the first boat home will be ICAP Leopard, sometime before dawn tomorrow.
First away, punching into the last of the flood tide, were the IMOCA 60s. With their ‘big gear’ unfurled seconds before the start, it was Dee Caffari’s Aviva that made the most positive start towards the pin end. However she was soon overhauled by Seb Josse on BT IMOCA 60 sailing in slightly better breeze on the island side of the course. By the 1430GMT position report, the leading IMOCA 60s were already halfway across Christchurch Bay with Mike Sanderson’s Pindar leading, narrowly ahead of Aviva, BT and Arnaud Boissieres’ Akena Verandas.
With the tide having turned favourable to flush the remaining classes west, it was the small IRC classes that were next up. By the 1430 update they too were out through the Needles, with David Lees’ High Tension 36 Hephzibah leading from the 2005 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Iromiguy, Jean-Yves Chateau’s Nicholson 33 in IRC 3B, just ahead of David Collins’ Swan 43 Cisne, leader in IRC 3A.
For the boats heading west down the Solent, the transition to the south westerly breeze occurred for most off Yarmouth resulting in a short lull before they were put hard on the wind. Fortunately the boats were driven west towards the new breeze by the tide.
With the largest boats catching up the smaller ones, Christchurch Bay was becoming grid-locked mid-afternoon, with the IRC 2 leaders David McLeman’s J/109 Offbeat and David Walter’s J/39 Jackdaw having cruised most of the way through the Class 3 fleet, as had Jacques Pelletier’s X-43 L’Ange de Milon and Andrew Jackson’s First 40.7 Genie, leading their respective halves of IRC 1.
Despite having started an hour later than the IRC 3 boats, even the IRC Zero fleet had caught up, with John Shepherd’s Ker 46 Fair Do’s VII leading on the water from Jack Pringle’s Farr 45 Fraxious.
In their planning of the starts, the Royal Ocean Racing Club had left the best to last. On schedule at 1440 BST, it was the turn of the Class 40s to take their start with the breeze still from the east. Here it was the two Verdier designs, Giovanni Soldini’s Telecom Italia and the Felippe Cubillos’ Chilean yacht Desafio Cabo de Hornos which made the best starts. By the time they exited the Solent Soldini was tied for the lead with Andrew Dawson’s Spliff and Mike West’s Kerlaria.
Five to six miles short of St Alban’s Head, at 1600GMT Tanguy de LaMotte reported from the Class 40 Initiatives Saveurs – Novedia Group that they were upwind, albeit port tack favoured, and that having put in a few tacks to get offshore they were making 5-6 knots, but the wind was slowly dying on them.
Finally there came the biggest boats in the fleet, led off the line by Mike Slade’s towering Rolex Fastnet Race record holder, the 100ft super-maxi, ICAP Leopard. Luna Rossa, with Flavio Flavini helming and Volvo Ocean Race winner Torben Grael on tactics, followed in their wake with Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran 2 leading Karl Kwok’s Farr 80, Beau Geste up the mainland side.
By the 1500 update, ICAP Leopard had already pulled ahead of all the IRC boats with only the IMOCA 60s ahead of her on the water. Among the Mini Maxis Beau Geste, thanks to her longer waterline length, had pulled ahead of Ran 2 and the STP65s Luna Rossa and Rosebud/Team DYT, although probably not enough to lead on corrected time.
Prior to the start America’s Cup helmsman and Beau Geste skipper Gavin Brady, for whom this is his third Rolex Fastnet Race, said that they were still on a “steep learning curve phase” with their newly launched boat. “We have had the opportunity to do three races this week which was good for us to learn the boat, but it is never fun, when you have a brand new boat, to look at the scoreboard at the end of it. So we know from on board the boat that we have a lot more speed to get out of it, but like any new boat at the moment there is a long list of things to do to get there. If the Rolex Fastnet Race was in one month’s time we’d be a lot better off.”
Like the other Mini Maxis, Beau Geste has a very strong crew including former Luna Rossa helmsman Francesco de Angelis and from Volvo Ocean Race winner Ericsson 4, New Zealanders David Endean and Phil Jameson.
In the Rolex Fastnet Race, Beau Geste has the second highest IRC rating, to ICAP Leopard, but given the newness of the boat Brady felt it unlikely they would be nipping at heels of ‘the big cat’. “We are very respectful of the fact that they are 100-foot long with a canting keel. ICAP Leopard would have to have a pretty bad race and we’d have to have an extraordinary good race to beat them; but this race has seen strange things before and you have to navigate the Celtic Sea and the currents. I think we have an outside shot, but the rating tells the story: they owe us seven minutes an hour.”
The 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race could well be decided this evening as the wind drops and the majority of the fleet struggle to make it around Portland Bill without having to kedge.
Two handed Division
One of the strongest sub-divisions of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet are the two handed, twenty eight boats sailing just two up. The 2007 winners in the class, Simon Curwen and Paul Peggs, both former Mini Transat competitors, aboard Curwen’s J/105, Voador, made a strong start in Class 2, alone in gybing early towards the island side.
Many will be following up-and-coming British solo sailing star Katie Miller, freshly returned from the singlehanded transatlantic race in her Beneteau Figaro 2, Hot Socks, which she is racing two handed in Class 1 with fellow solo sailor Hannah Jenner. Miller very nearly didn’t make the Rolex Fastnet Race start when some delamination was discovered in Hot Socks’ keel structure. Her boat was only relaunched yesterday thanks to some 11th hour assistance by Endeavour Quay in Gosport.
Despite the last minute panic, Miller was looking forward to a light wind race. “Last year the only IRC race I won my class in was when we had a really light crossing going to Cherbourg. So a bit of light upwind conditions to the Fastnet and some stronger downwind conditions back to Plymouth – that should work well for us.”