On May 19th 2013, the schooner Tara embarked on a new scientific adventure: The Oceans Polar Circle expedition. Tara will travel 25 000 ams around the Arctic Ocean via the Northeast and Northwest passages, returning to Lorient in December 2013.
The new challenge brings together biologists and oceanographers to focus on plankton biodiversity in the Arctic. Research will be conducted at the edge of the ice pacha where plankton is most abundant.
Circumnavigating the Arctic Ocean, Tara Oceans Polar Circle will complete the main objective of the Tara Oceans Expedition (2009-2012): to collect plankton in all the oceans of the world. Indeed, the Arctic is the only ocean missing form our global study of plankton. Other issues will also be explored: the assessment of mercury levels in the atmosphere and in the sea,, and the concentration of plastic particles. Our aim is to obtain new measurements of these pollutants in the Arctic, and better assess their impact on the arctic ecosystem.
Tara will be sailing in an environment where natural conditions are difficult. Although the period of thaw lengthens every year, time is short before the ice closes in between the Northeast and Northwest passages, leaving little room for improvisation. Beyond the Arctic Circle, temperatures vary between -10 ° C and +5 ° C in summer. Daylight will constant in the Russian Arctic (midnight sun) and then gradually diminish to 12 hours per day in September.
The Arctic region is subjected to the efforts of accelerated climate change more intensely than anywhere else, as evidenced by the rapid melting of the ice pack in summer. This unique and fragile environment is increasingly coveted for its minerals and other riches, and is a key area for understanding climate change on the planet.
Summary of the scientific mission
- Comparison of biological data on plankton and their physicochemical environment in the Arctic with the data collected in other oceans during the Tara Oceans expedition (2009-2012)
- Study of floating plastic, and mercury (dissolved and atmospheric) present in the Arctic.
- Study of the “coolr” of the ocean, its composition and surface pigment particles. – Specific study of spring phytoplankton blooms at the ice pack’s edge.
More information on Tara Oceans at : www.taraexpeditions.org
“All-Inside” Course Option Added
Some new faces are expected at this year’s Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race with the announcement of a short course addition — the Plum Island Course (126 nautical miles all in Long Island Sound) – as a PHRF-class option to the event’s traditional 186 nautical mile course for both IRC and PHRF. The change for the Memorial Weekend event means starting at The Cows off Stamford, Conn. and rounding Red and White Whistle “PI” northwest of Plum Island before heading back while the rest of the Block Island Race fleet continues farther afield to circumnavigate Block Island.
“In 2007, we had created an option to shorten the race to the Plum Island Whistle and back in case the weather was bad,” said Storm Trysail Club Rear Commodore Lee Reichart. “This year, we thought that there just might be a significant number of new-to-ocean-racing boats and crews who might like to sail that course anyway, because it keeps them from having to go out in the ocean and consequently eliminates the need to carry a life raft, which is a safety requirement for all others in this race.”
With over 50 entries to date, the Block Island Race is easily on target to top last year’s fleet of 59 (in six IRC and two PHRF classes), and with the race preceding the biennial Newport Bermuda Race, organizers are expecting to host many of that distance race’s entrants who are preparing.
The Block Island Race, which has been held annually for 67 years, is a staple on the calendar of many New England competitors and starts on Friday May 25 at 1400. It is notorious for the “fork in the road” decision that Plum Island forces after 60 miles of sailing: competitors must decide to take either Plum Gut, “The Race” or even Fishers Island Sound while leaving Long Island Sound. This decision often determines the outcome of the race.
The Block Island Race was first held in 1946 and is a qualifier for the North Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the Double Handed Ocean Racing Trophy (IRC), the New England Lighthouse Series (PHRF), and the Gulf Stream Series (IRC). The Block Island Race is also a qualifier for the Caper, Sagola, and Windigo trophies awarded by the YRA of Long Island Sound and the ‘Tuna” Trophy for the best combined IRC scores in the Edlu (40%) and the Block Island Race (60%).
For more information on the Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race or the Plum Island Course (Notice of Race Amendment #1), visit www.stormtrysail.org or contact The Storm Trysail Club (914) 834-8857.
About the Storm Trysail Club
The Storm Trysail Club, reflecting in its name the sail to which sailors must shorten when facing severe adverse conditions, is one of the world’s most respected sailing clubs, with its membership comprised strictly of skilled blue water and ocean racing sailors. In addition to hosting Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex in odd-numbered years, the club holds various prestigious offshore racing events (among them the annual Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race and the Pineapple Cup Montego Bay Race); annual junior safety-at-sea seminars; and Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta for college sailors using big boats.
For more information on the Storm Trysail Club and its events, including the Block Island Race, visit the official website www.stormtrysail.org.
8 tonnes of carbon fibre yacht, a 255 horsepower jet ski, 45 combined years of sailing experience, and one crazy guy in a suit. ‘We’ve got a safety boat, a film boat, a jet ski… all we need is a plane, man!’ said Alex Thomson, shortly before heading out into the waters of The Solent in the UK to attempt what he calls ‘The Keel Walk’, a stunt that has become infamous throughout the world thanks to the iconic image of Alex ‘riding’ the keel of his 60ft yacht ‘HUGO BOSS’. ‘But everyone always assumes it was ‘Photoshopped’,’ said Alex ‘and I was determined to prove them wrong, so we decided to try again.’ Easier said than done…to sail at the right speed to keep the keel out of the water for long enough for Alex to get on it, you need 18 knots of wind, a slight sea state and a seriously cool-headed skipper. ‘We’d wake up one day and the conditions would look just right, so we’d sound the alarm and get the boat prepped, bring in the jet ski guy, the RIB driver, the photographer, the camera guys… I’m in the suit, ready to go…and the wind drops. It was hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait.’
“This is a very emotional win for me,” said Jim Mitchell (Zurich, SUI), owner of the Custom 52 Vincitore, upon winning the 2009 Rolex Big Boat Series. “At the end of racing, when I looked at my Dad, who was out on the chase boat, we both had a tear in our eyes. The speech I gave on the first day was that we have a passion for sailing, a passion for friends and family, and we will let the results speak for themselves.” At the Rolex Trophy Ceremony this evening, winning skippers in six of the 11 classes competing were awarded one of six St. Francis Yacht Club Perpetual Trophies. In front of the owners, crew, family and friends of the 97 competing boats, those six skippers also were presented with a Rolex Submariner timepiece in recognition of their accomplishments.
As winner of IRC A class, Mitchell was awarded the St. Francis Perpetual Trophy. “I didn’t know it was the original trophy,” said Mitchell, clearly taken aback by the priceless silver piece dedicated in 1964, and deeded to the premier handicap division. “That’s a pleasant surprise. It brings a tear to my eyes. That’s so awesome.”
As the top performing IRC rated boat, Vincitore – with tactician Norman Davant and helmsman Chris Dickson – was named the overall Rolex US-IRC National Champion, and Mitchell was presented with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece to mark the occasion. “We are bringing Vincitore back again next year,” he promised. Tom Akin & Mark Jones’ (San Francisco) chartered TP52 Flash finished in second with John Kilroy (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Samba Pa Ti in third.
The St. Francis Yacht Club race committee planned the day’s final Bay Tour, but with light and inconsistent wind direction, racing was abandoned for the four IRC classes, along with the 1D35 and J/120 classes. The six races completed through yesterday (Saturday) stood as the final results.
The City of San Francisco Trophy, one of the two golden spades used to break ground for the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933, was awarded to Kjeld Hestehave’s (Richmond, Calif.) 73-foot Velos. Since the very first race, the largest boat entered in this regatta dominated his opponents in IRC B class with six straight race wins. Dale Williams’s (San Francisco) Kernan 44 Wasabi finished in second place, with Sy Kleinman’s (Saratoga, Calif.) Schumacher 54 Swiftsure II in third place, tied on 16 points with Wasabi.
“This win is 12 years in the making,” said Hestehave. “We were here in ’97 and ’98, and we got two second places that year. We were here two years ago and got killed by everyone.” Hestehave explained that he prepared Velos, the Greek word for velocity, for the Pacific Cup, fairing the bottom and getting it tuned. Originally, he planned to participate in StFYC’s annual Stag Cruise, which historically follows the Rolex Big Boat Series, but when he realized there wouldn’t be enough berths at the club’s Tinsley Island location, he brought Velos up from San Diego for the occasion. “We were here so we thought we might as well race the boat,” he recalled. “With 22 crew onboard, that’s a lot of drink tickets and a lot of sandwiches, and tonight is going to be very expensive.”
Dan Woolery’s King 40 Soozal (Alamo, Calif.) won the IRC C class and the Richard Rheem Perpetual Trophy, which was established in 1972 in memory of Richard Rheem whose famous yacht Morning Star was the elapsed time winner in the 1949 and 1955 Transpac races to Honolulu. Gold Phoenix, the J/44 chartered by James Bishop (Jamestown, R.I.), finished in second, while Tim Fuller (Marietta, Calif.) and the J/122 Resolute finished third.
Only two entries had straight wins in all races: Velos, in IRC B, and Gerard Sheridan’s Elan 40 Tupelo Honey in IRC D class. “I’m feeling great, we really wanted it this year,” said Sheridan, who lives in San Francisco, but grew up in County Galway, Ireland. “We trained for it and the crew is outstanding. Every single one deserved to be on the crew, I’m delighted for myself and for my crew.” This is Tupelo Honey’s fifth Rolex Big Boat Series. It won its class in 2005 and finished second in the other years. Clearly happy to have won an IRC class at this year’s regatta, the 45th annual, he said, “I think IRC is saving big boat racing around the world. It’s giving a new sense of purpose to racing and serious big boat campaigns. Handicap racing is never perfect, but this is close to perfect.” Sheridan was awarded the Keefe-Kilborn Trophy, which was established in 1976 to honor Harold Keefe and Ray Kilborn.
On the North course racing started late, but with a short-lived band of wind, the race committee was able to shorten the course and finish the Melges 32, Express 37, J/105, Beneteau 36.7 and Cal 40 classes.
The Melges 32 class was racing for its national championship. Philippe Kahn’s (Belvedere Cove, Calif.) Pegasus had to retire yesterday due to an equipment malfunction, but they were back on form today, winning the seventh and final race, putting them into fourth overall. Andy Lovell & Burt Benrud’s New Orleans-based Rougarou won the six-boat class and the title. Local sailor Don Jesberg and his Viva was second overall, with Stephen Pugh and Taboo in third.
Although Bartz Schneider won today’s final race in the Express 37 class, it wasn’t enough points to topple Kame Richards (Alameda. Calif.) and Golden Moon from the number one spot. Schneider’s Expeditious finished in fourth overall behind Mick Shlens and Blade Runner in second, and Michael Maloney’s Bullet in third. Richards also won the Atlantic Trophy. Established in 1978, the trophy features the ship’s bell of the yacht Atlantic, long-time Transatlantic Ocean record holder (1905). The bell was donated by John C. “Jack” Morris, and the trophy by Jack H. Feller Jr.
The Commodore’s Cup, which was established in 2004 to be awarded to the largest one-design fleet, was awarded to the winner of the J/105 class, Chris Perkins’ Good Timin’. “Honestly, Bruce Stone sailed a great series,” said Perkins of the fleet. “He only had one bad race and won three out of seven sailed. His Arbitrage is clearly one of the quickest boats. Everyone would agree he is quicker than us.” So what would Perkins credit his team’s win to? “The challenge in a 25-boat fleet is consistency,” he continued. “We didn’t have any big mistakes and that is what made the difference for us.”
While they may not have taken the overall 1D35 class win, Japanese entry Ebb Tide was clearly a crowd favorite and stepped onto the prizegiving stage to massive cheers and chants. Owner Masakazu Toyama has sailed the Rolex Big Boat Series for the past three years, each time in a different class, and this time the team’s efforts paid off with a trophy for 2nd in 1D 35. Toyama says he’d love to live in San Francisco one day, “It’s fun, and we will be back” he said with a big smile. Gary Boell and Diablita won the 1D35 class, Barry Lewis’ Chance won the J/120 fleet and Bill LeRoy and Gone with the Wind won the Cal 40 class.
After a large area of thunderstorms moved through this morning, the over 1,000 sailors competing in day three of the Rolex Big Boat Series were given a new challenge: light wind and minimum visibility through the dense fog hanging low on the water. As locals are apt to exclaim – ‘It’s never like this in San Francisco’ – a theory confirmed by spectators lined along the sea wall and second-story viewing bleachers at St. Francis Yacht Club.
An on-time racing start by the StFYC volunteer race committee, lead by PROs Kevin Reeds (Annapolis, Md.) and Hank Stuart (Rochester, N.Y.), gave the 97 competing boats two races for a total of six races. Tomorrow’s final race – known fondly as the Bay Tour – will cap off a solid four days on the water.
Flash, the TP52 skippered by Tom Akin & Mark Jones, won the day’s first race, finished third in the second, and now stands in second overall in IRC A class, one point behind class leader Vincitore, the custom 52 owned by Jim Mitchell (Zurich, SUI) and driven by Chris Dickson. John Kilroy’s TP52 Samba Pa Ti finished 3-1 and is now in third overall.
The fastest boat around the IRC B racecourse today was Kjeld Hestehave’s (Richmond, Calif.) 73-foot Velos. Since the very first race, the largest boat entered in this regatta continues to dominate the class. It now looks untouchable with six total points. Sy Kleinman’s (Saratoga, Calif.) Schumacher 54 Swiftsure is tied on 16 points with Dale Williams’s (San Francisco) Kernan 44 Wasabi. “We are more than thrilled to be there,” said Williams, who figures he has competed in at least 20 Big Boat Series in his career, winning in 1999 with a previous boat named Wasabi. However, this Wasabi is brand new, designed by the same group who created Williams’ last boat the 70-foot Peligroso. “It’s really easy to sail,” he said. “We’re surprised how fast it goes. There’s a retractable sprit, but no spreaders, no runners, no reaching struts and no after guys. It’s fast at 12,900 lbs. with 6,700 lbs of ballast. It’s everything we thought it was and more.”
Willims set up a StFYC duel for second place tomorrow between his Wasabi and Swiftsure, giving the overall nod toward Velos. “That is a very well-sailed boat,” said Woolery. “They deserve to be out front. It’s been a lot of fun and really nice to sail against them and Swiftsure.”
Soozal, the King 40 owned by Daniel Woolery (Alamo, Calif.), continues to lead the IRC C class, with James Bishop (Jamestown, R.I.) and the J/44 Gold Phoenix moving into second overall ahead of Tim Fuller (Marietta, Calif.) and the J/122 Resolute.
“Today’s first race was a pivotal race for us. We didn’t know what to expect,” said Woolery. After corrected time, the relatively new boat took first place and then a second in the day’s second race. “The second one was a little more difficult,” continued Woolery. “Our jib goes up on a jib lock and it didn’t stay up on the lock. So, as we went to the bottom mark, our plan was to go into Alcatraz and through the Cone. We were behind Gold Phoenix and we thought ‘Let’s go into the cone.’ We were right behind them and immediately the jib fell down, and that forced us to tack over to clear it. We tacked back and as soon as we did, we realized we weren’t going to make the Cone, so we tacked over to the beach first. Phoenix did as well. When all was said and done we were seven seconds corrected in front of them. At that point the race became between us and TNT.
“If TNT had gotten second and not us, then that would have brought Phoenix a little closer in the gap” said Woolery. “We were in great tacking duels, and managed to tack our way up to Phoenix. We were a minute and a half behind when that whole engagement started, and we put almost a minute and a half on them. Overall we’re feeling really good.” Soozal has a four-point lead over Gold Phoenix going into tomorrow’s final race. “We’re going to win tomorrow,” he predicted.
Gerard Sheridan’s Elan 40 Tupelo Honey continues to dominate IRC D class with two more bullets. The San Francisco-based boat won both of today’s races on corrected time and, barring any mishaps tomorrow, stands to take the overall win. “Tomorrow we will go out and race like we like to race, which is fairly conservatively,” said Sheridan. “We don’t want to take any major risks.” This is Tupelo Honey’s fifth Rolex Big Boat Series. It won its class in 2005 and finished second in the other years. “At the start of the year I decided I wanted to win Big Boat this year,” he continued. “It’s the premier regatta on the West Coast, and here at the St. Francis, the race management is impeccable.”
In the grand-prix Melges 32 class, vying for its National Championship this weekend, New Orleans-based Rougarou looked unstoppable blazing downwind. With two more wins today – to add to a series scoreline of 1-2-1-5 – the team lead by co-owners Bert Benrud and Andy Lowell needs to finish fourth or better to win the title. Philippe Kahn’s (Belvedere Cove, Calif.) Pegasus encountered trouble in the first race and dropped out to expedite repairs. The team plans to be back in the race tomorrow. Local sailor Don Jesberg and his Viva is in second overall, with Stephen Pugh and Taboo in third.
Class leaders from yesterday that held onto the lead in other one-design classes include Pat Patterson (Angwin, Calif.) and Summer and Smoke in the Beneteau 36.7; William LeRoy (Tiburon, Calif.) and Gone with the Wind in the Cal 40; Kame Richards (Alameda. Calif.) and Golden Moon in the Express 37; and Chris Perkins (San Francisco) and Good Timin’ in the J/105 class.
The other two one-design classes saw a change in leadership with Barry Lewis’ Chance gaining a slight edge over John Wimer’s Desdemona, now in second place, in the J/120 fleet, and Gary Boell and Diablita taking over from Alex Farrell (Mountain View, Calif.) and Alpha Puppy in the 1D35 class. Alpha Puppy fell to third place, while Ebb Tide, chartered by Masakazu Toyama (Tokyo, JPN), moved into second.
In Italian, the word Vincitore means ‘the winner’ so Jim Mitchell and his multi-national crew took the theme to heart by winning both races in IRC A class on the opening day of the Rolex Big Boat Series. Over 1,000 sailors on 97 boats in 11 classes are competing through Sunday, September 13. “I wouldn’t miss this regatta for anything,” said Mitchell, who grew up in Chicago but now calls Zurich (SUI) his home. “It was one of our crew’s birthdays yesterday, Dallas Kilponen, and I think our two bullets are the best present we can give him.” All of the IRC class leaders – Kjeld Hestehave’s Velos (Richmond, Calif.), Daniel Woolery’s King 40 Soozal (Alamo, Calif.) and Gerard Sheridan’s Elan 40 Tupelo Honey – joined the two-bullet club today, in the IRC B, IRC C and IRC D classes, respectively. All four divisions of IRC handicap-rated boats also are competing for the Rolex US-IRC National Championship.
The other two groups vying for national championships are the Express 37 and Melges 32 classes. For Burt Benrud, this is not only his first Rolex Big Boat Series but also his first season in the Grand-Prix one-design class. “This is our first big outing and we could have not picked a better location,” he said. Benrud, with co-owner Andy Lovell (New Orleans, La.) and crew on the Melges 32 Rougarou, won the day’s first race, took a second in the second and now sit in first overall in the six-boat class. “We are sailing under the Southern Yacht Club flag, and we are very proud to be able to represent our hometown.” Don Jesberg (Mill Valley, Calif.), the recent winner of the class’s North American championship, is in second place overall on his Viva, followed by Stephen Pugh’s Taboo (Sausalito, Calif.).
“We actually had our first Express 37 National Championship regatta in 1986,” said Bartz Schneider, the class fleet captain and president, and skipper of Expeditious, currently in fourth place overall. “This is our 20th national championship at the St. Francis. In 1990 we had our first National Championship as part of the Big Boat Series, and except for 2001, we have had it as part of the regatta every year.” Leading the nine-boat class is Kame Richards’ (Alameda, Calif.) Golden Moon, with Elan, owned by Bill Reiss (Oakland, Calif.), in third. Schneider summed up the fleet leaders: “Golden Moon will be tough, with Bay tide guru Kame Richards at the helm. Elan will be very competitive. And Blade Runner (Mick Schlens, Los Angeles, Calif.), with their name already on the trophy several times, is always a possible threat.”
The largest one-design fleet is the J/105 class with 25 boats. Returning champion Donkey Jack, owned by Robert Conrads (San Francisco), took 13-6 in two races and is now eighth overall. Bruce Stone’s Arbitrage won the day’s first race, while Adam & Guillemette Spiegel’s Jam Session won the second, putting them into second overall behind class leader, Jeff Litfin & John Case’s Mojo.
While many of the competing boats are from the Bay Area and California, some hail from ports across the US and abroad. Lorenzo Berho and his J/145 Raincloud hail from Mexico City, Mexico and are in sixth overall in IRC B. “Raincloud is a Mexican family and friends boat that has changed our lives, and also has helped us fulfill several dreams,” said Berho, who only started sailing five years ago. “We had a great experience in last year’s Rolex Big Boat Series that we decided to come back in spite of the difficult economic times, and for most of us that means traveling from Mexico City. The organizers are great and the competing boats are really friendly. Last year we got fourth place in our fleet so we would love to get a third place this year. We know that most of the fleet is very competitive and there are many experienced sailors with local knowledge. I am turning 50 years old on September 15, so I chose this regatta as my birthday present. There is nothing better than sailing with my family and best friends in the most outstanding Bay of the world.”
Jim Mitchell is another perfect example of the international aspect present here in San Francisco for racing. Now living in Switzerland, he launched Vincitore a year and half ago in New Zealand and when asked about his international crew – New Zealand’s Chris Dickson and Simon Minoprio among them – considering that many of the other entries in the race are locals, he quickly said, “Not us, we’re like the United Nations!”
When asked what makes him come back each year to San Francisco for the Rolex Big Boat Series, Jim said, “It’s just so much fun, the competition is great, you have the city, the weather- it’s always windy, constant wind. I really wanted to bring my boat to Europe and sail some races over there,” he continued, “but I want to sail with family and the guys from New Zealand like sailing in Chicago, San Francisco and the Caribbean. Bringing the boat here is just so fantastic and I’m glad to be here.”
This evening competitors celebrated the first day of racing at the Rolex Party where the first daily video was shown. The regatta ends with Sunday’s final Rolex Trophy Ceremony where specially engraved Rolex timepieces will be awarded to the St. Francis Yacht Club’s six Perpetual Trophy winners.
About St. Francis Yacht Club
Founded in 1927, St. Francis Yacht Club, within view of the Golden Gate Bridge, is a year-round host of over 40 regattas on San Francisco Bay. The club is renowned for its expertise in running world and national championships.
Seb Josse and his all-star team, including celebrity guests Dame Ellen MacArthur and Radio 1 DJ, Rob Da Bank have won the Artemis Challenge at Cowes Week. On an east-bound course, the fleet set off at 10:00 from the Royal Yacht Squadron line on a downwind leg flying their huge code zero gennakers. Mike Sanderson and team, including celebrity guest Paul Rose (TV presenter and adventurer), led off the startline but complicated winds soon started to affect proceedings and within 10 minutes, fleet positions had turned inside out.
Team Pindar today finished second in the Artemis Challenge at Cowes Week, skippered by Former ISAF World Sailor of the Year and TEAMORIGIN Team Director, Mike Sanderson.
Light winds this morning forced organisers to modify the normal ‘round-the-island’ course, to a shortened 35-mile route through the Forts and around Nab Tower off the Isle of Wight. 8 miles from the official line, as the wind dropped further, the race was called to an early finish, sealing victory for Frenchman Seb Josse and his crew on board BT IMOCA 60.
Now in its third year, this year’s Artemis Challenge attracted a total of eight Open 60’s many of which had not competed since the end of the non-stop solo round the world yacht race, the Vendée Globe earlier this year. Each yacht played host to a celebrity sailor which included names from the world of entertainment and sport: Zara Phillips, Bryan Adams and Rugby World Cup winners Will Greenwood and Mike Tindall. Sailing on board Team Pindar was BBC TV presenter, adventurer and Earthwatch ambassador, Paul Rose.
Mike Sanderson commented: “Obviously it was disappointing not to have more breeze, but we had a good time and definitely made the most of the day. Considering how well the boat has been performing in the strong winds over the last few days, I was really encouraged to see how well she handled the light breeze too.”
Earthwatch Ambassador, Paul Rose commented: “I’ve been sailing all my life but it’s not everyday you get to be out on the water on an Open 60 and with some of the best sailors in the world. It’s been a tremendous event and a great opportunity to raise awareness for Earthwatch and its Oceans Appeal.”
Team Pindar is now preparing for the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron
A further five hours later the fleet made its way back up the Solent from No Man’s Land Fort after the course was shortened for the first time but the wind totally disappeared between Portsmouth and Ryde creating a concertina effect on the fleet.
Making zero headway against a now adverse tide, the race officers made a decision to put the self-shortening course procedure into action. It was agreed this morning that all competitors were to time themselves round each mark of the course, and take the times of the boat ahead and behind should this particular scenario happen.
The race office confirmed that the results would be based on the timings at Bembridge Ledge which meant that BT who was leading at the time was deemed the overall winner, and Pindar was second. Simon Clay on Artemis The Profit Hunter with celebrity guest Bryan Adams, were third. Stable mates – Artemis Ocean Racing – with Sam Davies and special guest Zara Phillips finished 4th.
The line-up this year is as spectacular, as it is diverse, with a huge spread of boats, from the 100 footers – Mike Slade’s line honours hunting ICAP Leopard, and the more comfortable Performance Yachts 100, Liara of Tony Todd – down to the smallest class 3 yachts, the shortest being the Polish 30-footer, Four Winds, belonging to Wieslaw Krupski.
The RORC’s IRC handicap system is used to level out the widely differing performances found across this range of boats as best indicated by their IRC time correction factors: Leopard’s stands at 1.868, while Tony Harwood’s comfortable Nicholson 38 Volante is the lowest rated boat entered with a TCF of 0.863. This means that to beat Volante, Leopard has to sail 2.16 times faster than her or when Leopard crosses the finish line, Volante could still be ahead of her if she were only half way across the Celtic Sea outbound to the Fastnet Rock with more than 325 miles of the 608-mile long race still left to sail.
With such a large fleet, the boats are divided up into classes: SZ, Z, 1, 2 and 3 with a special class SZCK, for the canting keel yachts such as ICAP Leopard and the Open 60s such as Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss. In addition, one of the most competitive classes this year will be the Class 40 of which 20 examples are racing, including Giovanni Soldini’s Telecom Italia, winner of last year’s Artemis Transat.
One of the favourites for the overall handicap prize is certain to be Dutch skipper Piet Vroon and his new Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens. Launched this season, Tonnerre has already won two of the three of the RORC races she has entered.
“It has been going very well. I am rather pleased!” says her Dutch owner enthusiastically. Vroon cannot remember exactly how many Rolex Fastnet Races he has done, but thinks the number is around 21. This includes winning overall in 2001, although he admits he followed this up two years later with a 237th place. “It is the only offshore race left. All the other ones are just overnight,” he says as to the attraction of the race. “The course is interesting and difficult. It is not all that easy to predict where you have got to be. In spite of all the electronics and weather information, it always works out slightly different from what you expect. Like in 2001, if you happen to get it all right – if you pass Portland at the right moment, Land’s End, if you catch the tides right, if the wind changes your way – by the same token, if you miss it by half an hour you can be out.”
Typically small boats do well when the race starts light and conditions build mid-week. In recent history the best example of this was when Jean Yves Chateau’s well-sailed Nicholson 33, Iromiguy won overall in 2005. “For me it is the greatest race in Europe,” says Chateau of the Rolex Fastnet Race. “There are many, many beautiful racing boats and we very much like this race. I have known this race for a very, very long time. When I was a child it was a dream to do this race, and for me when we won this race four years ago, it was extraordinaire!”
Chateau returns this year with just one crew change. Already this year he has been warming up by competing in the RORC’s races and at present lies ninth overall in the RORC 2009 championship.
At the bigger end of the spectrum, the race favourite is probably Niklas Zennström’s new Judel Vrolijk 72 Ran 2 that has already had a successful season in the Mediterranean. She also benefits from local knowledge having a largely British crew, led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tim Powell.
While winning the Rolex Fastnet Race comes down to how well each of the entries sails relative to their rating, many additional wildcards are thrown at the competitors from, in particular, the weather, but also tides and the numerous tidal ‘gates’ off every headland along the south coast of England. This is what makes this race one of the most tactical games of snakes and ladders in the yachting calendar.
One advantage of having a bigger boat is that they are less affected by these tidal gates than the smaller boats, as Tim Powell explains: “With all these kind of races you need an element of good fortune to make it through the tide gates smoothly. The one thing about our boat is that it doesn’t take a lot of wind to get going and get a decent speed up – whereas the smaller boats might struggle to get through a tide gate if there’s only 5 knots of wind. In that we’d keep on punching through. I am a firm believer that you need a bit of good fortune with the tides stacking up right for you. But that’s something you can’t control too much. You end up where you end up.”
Ran 2 will sail with her normal all-star cast including numerous America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race veterans but they will face the very highest competition with crews of equally accomplished sailors on board the STP65s Rosebud and Luna Rossa and on Karl Kwok’s Farr 80 Beau Geste. Powell says he will be particularly looking out for Rosebud and Beau Geste as they are the more offshore-orientated.
A record entry of 300 boats will each carry an OC Tracker for the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts from Cowes this Sunday, 9th August. The Fastnet Race is a 608 nautical mile offshore classic which sees boats ranging from 30ft cruisers to 100ft Maxis racing from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, to the Fastnet Rock, off the south coast of Ireland, before returning to the finish in Plymouth. Every yacht will carry an OC Tracker device, supplied jointly by OC Technology, part of the OC Group, and race organisers RORC. The OC Tracker is an Iridium-based GPS unit that automatically supplies position updates for the entire fleet, which can then be viewed online on a special race viewer.
This year’s edition marks the 30th anniversary of the tragic 1979 Fastnet Race, when gale-force winds battered the fleet. Fifteen yachtsmen lost their lives, and a total of 23 yachts were sunk or abandoned. A massive search and rescue operation resulted in over 130 sailors being rescued at sea, however, the limited communications technology carried by yachts at the time meant that one of the greatest difficulties facing the rescue services was locating each boat.
“This year we have record entry numbers of 310 – 300 yachts racing in the Fastnet and 10 IMOCA 60 yachts in their own class. We also have a new, improved race player and all the OC Trackers will be on the same race viewer,” explained Clémentine d’Oiron, Manager, OC Technology. The OC Trackers are a self–contained unit that operate automatically. “The crews have to just put them on the boat and switch them on by simply removing a small magnet, and then just leave it be. It will be automatically reporting every half hour throughout the race.
“It’s all self-contained, with no wires, and is really straightforward. The OC Tracker stays in sleep mode all the time, and only wakes up to send its message, which means it has a lot of battery life because it’s only on for 3 minutes every hour. It’s the most reliable system in the world and we’ve got the biggest fleet of trackers in the world.”
However, d’Oiron warned that occasionally a boat may not show on the race viewer. “Sometimes if the boat is too heeled over the OC Tracker might not be able to send a signal, so it will keep trying again. But if a Tracker isn’t working on the map, that doesn’t mean the boat necessarily has a problem.”
The first Trackers have already been fitted to Fastnet entries this week, with the remainder added and activated well before the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race at 12.00pm on Sunday, 9th August.