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.
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.