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Thread: 2017 Rolex Fastnet

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    2017 Rolex Fastnet




    "Classic upwind start for record breaking Rolex Fastnet Race."
    The Solent laid on ‘classic’ conditions for the start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s 47th Rolex Fastnet Race. In brilliant sunshine and with brisk westerly winds gusting up to 20 knots, the giant fleet tacked up the western Solent before compressing through the usual bottleneck at Hurst Narrows. A record-sized fleet of 368 boats started the race, 12 more than two years ago, confirming the Rolex Fastnet Race’s position as the world’s largest offshore yacht race.

    The first start got underway at 11:00 BST for the nine multihulls and within minutes, the blue three-hulled streak that is Team Concise 10 had pulled out a lead, frequently heeling to an alarming degree, just one hull immersed. By the time IRC One was starting at 12:20 Tony Lawson’s MOD 70, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, was already off Poole. Crewman Paul Larsen, who five years ago became the world’s fastest sailor setting a world record of 65.45 knots, reported Concise 10 was sailing under reefed mainsail and staysail. “We’re making 20 knots tacking past Poole and just dropping into the watch system. Glamour start conditions in the Solent. I can just see the next boats clearing Hurst Castle.” However Larsen warned that unless the wind freed up, there was little chance for them to break the multihull race record. By 1500 Concise 10 was already level with Portland Bill.


    above photos ©Carlo Borlenghi / ROLEX


    The multihulls were followed away from Cowes by two other ‘non-IRC’ classes – the nine doublehanded IMOCA 60s and twenty seven Class40s. Given the upwind conditions, the older, conventionally foiled IMOCA 60s were prevailing. At 1630 Paul Meilhat and Jules Verne Trophy record holder crewman Gwénolé Gahinet aboard SMAVoile, the 2012-3 Vendee Globe (and the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race) winner as MACIF, were leading the 60s past Portland Bill. The first ‘foil-assisted’ IMOCA 60 was favourite Alex Thomson Racing and Nicholas O’Leary on Hugo Boss in third place, taking a northerly route, close to the land.

    In the Class40s present championship leader Phil Sharp on board Imerys led past St Alban’s Head, but later there was little too choose with the British boat neck and neck for the lead in this incredible fleet with the Maxime SOREL-skippered V And B, Burkhard Keese’s Stella Nova, Benoit Charon’s LMAX Normandie and race veteran Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France.

    The five IRC handicap classes, chasing the race’s overall prize of the Fastnet Challenge Cup started with the smallest boats first at 1120.


    Rick Tomlinson photo



    This afternoon at 1600, the IRC One fleet had fanned out across the course to the southeast of St Alban’s Head. @JamesNeville Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX was leading the charge inshore as Staffan Wincrantz’s Arcona 465 SALT 2.0 was ahead on the water to the south, just ahead of the venerable 1960s maxi Kialoa II, owned by Patrick Broughton.
    Mid-afternoon, competitors in IRC Two were favouring the inshore route with Dutchman Frans Rodenburg’s First 40 Elke, closest to St Alban’s Head at 1620, with class favourite Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia nearby.




    Tracker


    The IRC Three boats were following a similar tactic with the offshore tack being less popular. Having started 20 minutes earlier, they were still successfully fending off the advances of the larger, faster IRC Two fleet. The Russian JPK 10.80, Igor Rytov’s Boyatyr, was leading the pack inshore while the brilliantly-named Seafarers Ale Anticipation, the First 40.7 of former 470 Olympian Pete Newlands, was ahead on the water offshore.

    The inshore-offshore spread was more evenly distributed among the smallest boats in IRC Four. Here Noel Racine’s impeccably sailed JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew was ahead inshore while Dan Rigden’s Elan 37 Tacktic was furthest down the track out to sea.

    The last to start were the largest in the IRC fleet, IRC Zero, including the line honours contenders George David’s Rambler 88 and Ludde Ingvall’s 100ft CQS Racing Australia. By 1520 Rambler 88 was off and close into St Alban’s Head, leading IRC Zero on the water just ahead of the biggest boat in the fleet, the 115ft Nikata.


    image © ricardo pinto/team scallywag





    Among the seven one design VO65s competing in ‘Leg 0’ of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, it was very close, with the Charles Caudrelier-skippered Dongfeng Race Team - 东风队 a nose ahead and making 12.3 knots but facing a threat from Team Brunel, skippered again by Dutch race veteran Bouwe Bekking, making 12.5 as the boats passed St Alban’s Head.

    This morning Xabi Fernández, skipper of MAPFRE Insurance, looked forward to the race: “Once out of the Solent it will be upwind sailing up to the Fastnet rock, and finally we will sail downwind towards Plymouth. This is the first time I’ve competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race. It is a historic race, much like the Rolex Sydney Hobart.”

    Joan Vila, MAPFRE Insurance’s legendary navigator confirmed the forecast: “Once we leave the Solent, the wind will blow at around 20 knots. From there, it will drop until tomorrow morning, with the probability of encountering areas of very light wind. As we get closer to Plymouth, the wind will build again.”

    Photo: Carlo Borlenghi / ROLEX
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    More Fastnet Start Imagery



    Some additional clicks as they have come in from the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race
    from phototogs Mark Lloyd, Carlo Borlenghi, Paul Wyeth, Kurt Arrigo


























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    Looks like a massive clusterf#@k on the wild west end.

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    Monday Fastnet Update




    Concise approaches the Rock as Portland Bill pays

    Monday 7 August 2017

    Overnight the fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race has been made solid progress upwind, tacking on shifts and dipping in and out of the land according to whether or not the tide is favourable.

    At 0900 Tony Lawson’s MOD 70 trimaran Concise 10 was off the Irish coast just about to tack towards the Fastnet Rock while the next boat and leading monohull, George David’s Rambler 88 had rounded Land’s End, followed by SMA, the lead IMOCA 60, sailed doublehanded by Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet. The bulk of the handicap fleets were attempting to make progress around Start Point. With the exception of the fastest boats, all of the crews are scratching their heads about how the weather will pan out today with very little wind forecast around the Scilly Isles and a real risk of drifting into the prohibited zone that is the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) off Land’s End.



    Approaching Land’s End this morning Sam Davies sailing, doublehanded on the IMOCA 60 Initiatives Coeur with Tanguy de LaMotte reported seeing 7 knots of wind from the southwest. How was her first night? “Busy! We did manage each to get two times one hour’s sleep because today is going to be even busier!” They spent most of the night short tacking, no mean feat in an unfamiliar IMOCA 60, particularly with sail to re-stack each time.

    Their next call was whether to go west or east of the TSS. Leader in the IMOCA 60 class, SMA had already opted for the easterly Land’s End side along with IRC Z leader (and impressively within the top five overall under IRC), the 115 footer Nikata and Ludde Ingvall’s maxi CQS. “Luckily we will have the tide with us. From then on we see the breeze building back up in the Irish Sea,” said Davies.




    Picture sent to us from Initiatives Coeur of Sam Davies helming the IMOCA 60. Credit: Initiatives CoeurPicture sent to us from Initiatives Coeur of Sam Davies helming the IMOCA 60. Credit: Initiatives Coeur

    There was some ladies’ fist shaking this morning when Davies’ old Team SCA crew mates Dee Caffari and Liz Wardley, aboard the VO65 Turn the Tide on Plastic, tacked right on top of them. “I thought they were going to sail across and say ‘hi’ and then tack like a nice friend would - because we are not in the same classes. But she tacked right on top of us, in the worst place you could imagine, when there was no reason to do it! And there was I about to say ‘hi’ to my best friend... Dee Caffari and Liz Wardley owe me a beer when I next see them…”

    The Infiniti 46 Maverick, racing in IRC Z was half way between Start Point and the Lizard this morning. Tactician Michael Firmin was not only happy with their decision to bang the left side of the course yesterday after exiting the Solent. “We were hoping the models would play out and we’d see a big left shift which never really came, so there was stronger breeze and a slight right and people on the inside made out.”



    TRACKER


    At 0830 they had tacked away from the Eddystone south of Plymouth and were sailing in 9 knots from the west in 0.5 knots of adverse current. Fermin continued: “We are taking a leg out in front of a squall line to get a bit more pressure and hopefully a bit of a lift, just waiting for the change to come through. We are hoping the model gives us something better than what we are currently seeing which is quite light round the corner with about 4 knots of adverse current!” At present a slow moving shallow cold front is lying across the course on a northeast-southwest axis. Firmin was also contemplating the Land’s End TSS, the left possibly proving attractive as the side where the wind was expected to fill in first later today.

    In a similar location to Maverick was Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia, leading IRC Two on the water as well as IRC overall, from the Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau on the Grand Soleil 43 Codiam. Both boats benefitted greatly from going inshore at Portland overnight.



    Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke send a selfie from their Figaro II, Offshore Academy 21.Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke send a selfie from their Figaro II, Offshore Academy 21.

    In the same class, Ireland’s Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke on board the Figaro Beneteau 2, Offshore Academy 21 were negotiating Start Point. “The night was good we made up some ground,” Mulloy reported. “We went really in close to Portland Bill and we were happy with that because we were looking bad coming out of the Solent and we’ve been a bit slow going around Start Point.” Clarke has spent much time below fixing a sail they had managed to blow up leaving the Solent.

    “We are just trying to figure out what to do,” Mulloy continued. “We are watching people on the AIS to see what’s happening with the wind. There are two forecasts and there is a front and if that moved everything changes. I am trying to play it safe and stay in the middle.”



    Phor-ty, Sail No: GBR 137, Class: Class40, Owner: Peter Harding, Dismasted



    all images unless otherwise noted © carlo borlenghi/rolex







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    Heavy traffic off Cornwall as Concise rounds the Rock



    Monday 7 August 2017

    At 15:49:37 BST Tony Lawson’s MOD70 trimaran Concise 10 became the first boat to round the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland. At the time the next boat in the race, George David’s Rambler 88, was 111 miles astern. However thanks to their upwind passage, their time of 28 hours 49 minutes was well outside of record to the Rock of 22 hours and 21 minutes, set in 2011 by the Loick Peyron-skippered 40m Banque Populaire Maxi trimaran.

    Earlier in the day off the Irish coast, Concise’s Jonny Malbon reported that they were sailing in 13-15 knot westerly winds and generally it was going well:

    “Off Land’s End it got a bit funky as the front came through - there was no breeze and then a fair bit of breeze. We had the gennaker up for about 30 seconds and then the wind came clanging forwards and it turned into an upwind slog. But the sun has come out now so it is making it all a lot better.”

    Meanwhile the monohull leaders have been making their way up the east side of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) exclusion zone to the west of Land’s End and north into the Celtic Sea. In this battle, George David’s Rambler 88 has pulled out a 33 mile lead on the water over Ludde Ingvall’s 100ft CQS. Behind them, a three-way battle is going on for the lead between the VO65s competing on the Volvo Ocean Race’s Leg Zero. At 1600 Team Akzonobel was a mile ahead of Dongfeng Race Team, and Sung Hung Kai's Scallywag. However they were still astern of the doublehanded IMOCA 60 - Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet on SMA. SMA was followed by two of the older IMOCA 60s, Vivo A Beira, sailed by former Solitaire du Figaro winner Yoann Richomme and Pierre Lacaze, and Generali, sailed by Isabelle Joschke and Pierre Brasseur, both ahead of the latest generation foil-assisted IMOCA 60s which have not been enjoying the upwind conditions.

    To date only two boats, both IMOCA 60s, have opted to go to the west of the Land’s End TSS – Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès on StMichel-Virbac and Boris Herrmann and Pierre Casiraghi on Malizia.




    Artemis Ocean Racing lining up next to CQS in the IRC Zero start. Credit: Paul WyethArtemis Ocean Racing lining up next to CQS in the IRC Zero start. Credit: Paul Wyeth

    This afternoon Vendee2020Vision sailor Will Harris was feeling smug on the Open 60 Artemis Ocean Racing as they were about one mile to weather of Alex Thomson and Nicholas O’Leary on Hugo Boss, having passed up the east side of the TSS. Had there been any chance of them going to the west?

    “At the start of the race, that’s what we were thinking,” explained Harris. “The reason to go west would be because of the new breeze filling in from that side first. But it looks like by going east we will have a big right shift en route to the Fastnet. We could spend more time sailing in less wind, but with the shift we hope we can point to the Rock.” The shift is due at around midnight.

    Earlier in the day they passed through a cold front, bringing with it some rain, and once through the front the wind dropped off. Meanwhile they have been introducing Andy Yap from new sponsor UKCloud to offshore racing.

    Throughout the day the lead in IRC Zero has been changing to smaller boats as those ahead were trapped by the front. At 1600 it was the turn of the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa to take the lead from Bretagne Telecom and before that the Cookson 50, Privateer.

    While Rambler 88 was a country mile ahead on the water in IRC Z, Vittorio Miscarini’s Mylius 15e25 Ars Una had also pulled out a significant eight mile lead on the water in IRC One ahead of James Neville’s Ino XXX, the Italian boat just off Land’s End. However it was the lowest rated boat in IRC One, Jean Claude Nicoleau and Nicolas Loday’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam, lying to the west of the Lizard, that had pulled out a significant lead of almost four hours on corrected time.

    A massive on-the-water lead had also been developed by Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia in IRC Two - also overall leaders across the whole IRC fleet (and even ahead of Codiam on the water).

    “We are a bit amazed we are leading - I don’t know whether it will last” admitted Fournier. “Our aim is to win our class which we might well do. Winning overall would be a bonus.”

    Their lead, Fournier felt, was due to going inshore at Portland Bill. “That was the main reason we are in a good position. Also Pintia goes well to windward. Downwind we are not bad, but some boats go much better than us.” Fournier said they were waiting to pass through the front and to get into the right shift behind it, but were still contemplating whether to the leave the Land’s End TSS to port or starboard. Their inshore track off the Cornish coast indicates they may follow the majority up the easterly route.



    83 starters in IRC Three made for a thrilling start line and a competitive class on the water. Credit: ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi 83 starters in IRC Three made for a thrilling start line and a competitive class on the water. Credit: ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

    While French crews might give the impression that catering on board is all Chateau Margot and foie gras, Fournier admitted that on board Pintia: “My daughter Corine is making us excellent food. We had pasta carbonara. And yesterday we had chilli con carne for dinner.”

    Similarly in IRC Three, Altikhan – Linxea Valoris & Benefits, the A35 of Serge Jamet and Johann Bouic had pulled out a lead both on the water and on corrected time as long as their name. Late this afternoon they were approaching the Lizard Point ahead of JPK 10.80 favourites, Dream Pearls of France’s Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret and Bogatyr of Russian Igor Rytov; both boats off Falmouth. They were in a similar position to the JPK 10.10 Night & Day of Pascal and Alexis Loisin, the father and son team who won the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2013 and are leading IRC Four both on the water and on corrected time, having taken over the yellow jumper from Harry J. Heijst’s ancient, but slippery, upwind S&S 41, Winsome this afternoon.

    The biggest competition though is in the Class40 where this afternoon Anglo-French couple Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron aboard Campagne de France have taken over first place from Phil Sharp on Imerys, with Maxime Sorel’s V&B also strongly in contention as the boats head up the east side of the Land’s End TSS.

    Early in the afternoon Miranda Merron reported:

    “Near Land’s End. Rather light at the moment. We are not looking forward to the endless invisible wall of the TSS, which is pretty useless as it doesn’t dampen the waves either! Imerys and V&B ahead, several others close behind. We are enjoying racing with all the IRC boats too.”

    Phil Sharp said:

    "So far it's been non-stop, we've made a lot of sail changes and had many difficult decisions to make because the weather is very unstable and the forecasts are highly localised. Our little confidence in the forecasts has pushed our strategy to focus on simply sailing the shortest route – essentially to reduce the chance of getting caught out.”

    On board Imerys they have been busy repairing two piece of mainsheet track that failed yesterday afternoon.



    Class40 Imerys under way in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Credit: Mark Jardine/Yachts and Yachting Class 40 Imerys under way in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Credit: Mark Jardine/Yachts and Yachting

    There has been one significant retirement among the Class 40s when Phor-ty, the competitive Mach 40 of Britain’s Peter Harding, was dismasted yesterday afternoon four miles from Portland Bill. “I had a really good feeling – we were moving in the right direction in the fleet and we had a really good crew. I am very gutted,” admitted Phor-ty’s Pip Hare. “We got to Portland Race on the turn of the tide so we had the first of the tide against us, but we were still making eight knots across the ground. It wasn’t as lumpy as it could have been. But then we had a failure of a forestay fitting - it went ‘BANG’ and the mast floated down behind us.”

    They were able to save the rig with minimal damage and retired into Portland Harbour.

    The first finisher, Concise 10, is due into Plymouth at 0700-1000 tomorrow (Tuesday 8 August 2017).
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    Latest update -600 BST shows Mod 70 Concise 2.1 from the finish with Rambler 88 225nm from finish after becoming
    the 1st monohull around Fastnet Rock..
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    Concise Finishes as 1st Wave Of Monohulls Round Fastnet



    Concise home as Dongfeng Race Team leads VO65s around the Rock
    Unchallenged, Concise 10 blazed into Plymouth this morning, first boat home in the 47th Rolex Fastnet Race. Tony Lawson’s MOD70 trimaran crossed the finish line off Plymouth breakwater at 05:55:00 BST with a race time of 42 hours and 55 minutes. This time didn’t come close to the overall multihull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race but it was still respectable considering they sailed upwind all the way to the Fastnet Rock.




    Dockside at Plymouth Yacht Haven, a beaming Tony Lawson commented:

    “To take the record for the Round the Island Race just a few weeks ago and then this… they deserve it, they have sailed well. Everyone thinks multihulls can’t go to weather, but we led three state of the art monohulls around the Rock by about 100 miles and we led them into Plymouth by 200 miles. So if you want to go fast you have to get yourself a multihull!”
    *
    Skipper Ned Collier Wakefield said he had enjoyed the start, leaving the Solent amid the giant spectator fleet and the journey back from the Fastnet Rock:
    “Last night we gybed south and just sat there doing 30+ knots in flat water and brought that pressure all the way in. The moon was out so you could see what was going on.” As to their exceptional performance to the Rock he added that the MOD70 was sailing upwind, typically making 21 knots at 50 degrees. “The MOD70 is an amazing machine. Every time we go out we still come back smiling.”









    Among Concise 10’s crew were Paul Larsen, the world’s fastest sailor (who sailed Vestas Sailrocket 2 at 65.45 knots average over 500m in 2012) and towering Rio 2016 Finn gold medallist and Land Rover BAR crew Giles Scott, sailing his first offshore race.

    “It was really good,” said Scott. “Upwind, it felt like a long way out to the Fastnet, although I know a lot of the fleet have still got to go through all of that. On the turn round, when we started ripping downwind, Land’s End didn’t feel that far away at all. The fastest speed I saw was 36 knots.”*But fairly pedestrian compared to the 40+ knot speeds he was seeing during the America’s Cup in Bermuda? “Not at night in a seaway! These boats are awesome – get the boards set up right and they just fly. They are amazing bits of kit.”
    Ned Collier Wakefield said of his new crewman:

    “Giles enjoyed it. We scared him quite a few times! He’s not used to heeling over quite so much! He was on the helm on that favourable run back from Bishop and he had a lot of fun. I think he might have the offshore bug – apart from the freeze-dried food... And the lack of sleep... And the cold…”

    At the time Concise 10 finished, the first monohull, George David’s Rambler 88, still had 224 nm to go to the finish. Her ETA is now around 0300 tomorrow morning.
    Back in the race proper the biggest monohulls are now round the Fastnet Rock and, thanks to their now sailing downwind are pulling ahead under IRC. At 0900 CET Rambler 88 was mid-Celtic Sea on a long gybe east, but had pulled into the lead, not just in IRC Zero, but overall under IRC, taking over the yellow jersey from the biggest boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the 115ft Nikata. These two giants displaced the smaller French boats Codiam and Pintia from the overall lead, although they remain ahead in IRC One and IRC Two respectively.











    The bulk of IRC One is currently setting off across the Celtic Sea with Vittorio Biscarini’s Mylius 15e25 Ars Una leading the charge on the water while handicap leader Codiam was astern and to weather. Overnight IRC One divided equally up the sides of the Traffic Separation Scheme off Land’s End with the front runners on the water, Ars Una and James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX, taking the eastern route and Richard Fearon’s RP45 Katsu and Dennis Maijer’s Farr 45 Bucket List leading the charge up the west side, closer to the Scilly Isles. With the wind veering into the NNW, the boats have all tacked and are close to laying Fastnet Rock.

    IRC Two are following a similar regime, however their lead trio on the water, Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia, Nick and Suzi Jones’ First 44.7 Lisa (skippered by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd) and Frans and Carla Rodenburg’s First 40 Elke, all headed up the west side of the TSS while James Sweetman’s First 40 Joanna of Cowes led the group up the east side off Land’s End. The leaders in both groups tacked at around 0400 when they were close to laying Fastnet Rock.

    Conversely the first group of boats in IRC Three took the eastern side of the Land’s End TSS with Ed Fishwick and Nick Cherry on their Sun Fast 3600 Redshift Reloaded leading (on the water) up the east side alongside Ian Hoddle’s sistership Game On. Meanwhile yesterday’s IRC Three leader on corrected time, Altikhan - Linxea Valoris & Benefits, the A-35 of France’s Johann Bouic, was first on the water heading up the west side of the TSS. However Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret’s JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls is now leading IRC Three on corrected time.

    Incredibly, the leaders among the smallest, slowest boats in IRC Four are also up among the IRC Two and Three boats. Again, there have been significantly differing tactics here with the two French JPK 10.10s: the Loisins’ 2013 winner Night and Day and Noel Racine’s Foggy Dew taking the eastern route while the present IRC Four leader, Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan, had gone west.










    TRACKER


    Among the professional classes, the stand-out performance remains that of the doublehanded crew of Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet on the IMOCA 60 SMA, which is not only 23 miles ahead of the next boat in her class but also 7.5 miles in front of the first fully crewed VO65 Dongfeng Race Team. Among those VO65 crews competing on Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Chinese VO65 was first to round the Fastnet Rock at 07:58 this morning, followed eight minutes later by Team Akzonobel and then Mapfre. Bringing up the rear was Dee Caffari's fledgling crew on board Turn the Tide on Plastic at 08:55. All seven VO65s initially headed south with MAPFRE the first to gybe east.

    In the Class40s Phil Sharp and Imerys were back in the lead this morning about two thirds of the way to the Fastnet Rock however, five other boats were looking threatening, especially yesterday’s leader, Campagne de France, sailed by Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, the furthest north of the Class40s at present.
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    Rambler is closing in on line honors!

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    Rock-bound flotilla Tuesday 8 August 2017 - PM

    The first monohull arrivals are due into Plymouth tonight with George David’s Rambler 88 leading the charge, rounding Bishop Rock, the mandatory mark of the course southwest of the Scilly Isles, at 1515 BST.



    (Rambler 88 has finished 2d 8h 34m 26s)

    But the hottest contest in this group is between the seven one design Volvo Open 65s. They finally reached the Fastnet Rock at around breakfast time this morning with the Chinese entry Dongfeng Race Team in first place, making the turn south at 0758, followed by Team Akzonobel, MAPFRE, Sun Hung Kai Scallywag, Team Brunel, Vestas 11th Hour Racing and with the Dee Caffari-skippered Turn the Tide on Plastic bringing up the rear almost an hour later.

    For the VO65s, the Rolex Fastnet Race doubles as ‘Leg Zero’ of the Volvo Ocean Race and is a non-scoring practice race prior to the main event. However no one seems to have told the crews this. Since leaving Cowes on Sunday they have been sailing every bit as hard here as they will when their round the world race proper sets sail from Alicante on 22 October.

    En route to the Fastnet Rock overnight the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team had taken the lead.

    “It was upwind, but we had a good night,” reported French skipper Charles Caudrelier. “We passed Team Azkonobel this morning. We were behind them and then we were much faster. It was not about the crew - maybe they caught something around their keel. But also we were very fast on this tack because we got through the fleet.”





    As to the conditions they were experiencing on the return journey back across the Celtic Sea, Caudrelier, who won the Volvo Ocean Race in 2011-12 with Groupama, said:

    “It is very, very complicated. Everyone has gone into the corner and the wind is very, very shifty. MAPFRE was far behind us and they caught a big shift and they seem to be ahead now. There are shifts of 20-40° and the same with the wind speed. For a long time, we had 10 knots and the others had 15. Now we all have the same wind, around 16-17 knots. You would make a good choice and gain a lot, but then for one hour we had five knots less.”

    At the time Caudrelier was estimating their arrival at the finish being around 0200 Wednesday.

    Late this afternoon the IRC Z boats such as Piet Vroon’s Ker 51 Tonnerre 4 and Nicolas Lecarpentier’s Marten 72, Aragon, were rounding the Fastnet Rock, while the last handful of boats, mostly in IRC Four, were passing between Land’s End and the Scilly Isles, with the whole lap - across the Celtic Sea, round the Fastnet Race, south across the Celtic Sea to Bishop Rock, then the run back on past the Lizard to the finish off Plymouth breakwater - still ahead of them.

    Heading up the east side of the Traffic Separation Scheme off Land’s End was Kate Cope’s Sun Odyssey 36 Purple Mist, still with more than 400 miles, or two thirds of the race, ahead of them. However this was in no way phasing Cope. “We can see Longships Lighthouse. It is champagne sailing, nice sunny weather with 13-14 knots from the northwest.”

    Cope reported seeing dolphins by the legion.

    “In fact, we’ve seen so many dolphins that one of my crew said that I’m not getting out of bed unless the dolphins are doing back flips. At which point they promptly started doing back flips! The boat was becalmed, east of Eddystone and they were all around the boat, swimming upside down, on top of each other and doing back flips. That went on for about 45 minutes.”

    Cope’s Purple Mist crew are all experienced Yachtmaster-level cruising sailors but only took up racing last year. “I did three RORC races last year and I have done everything this year – so like 10 RORC races in total is my entire racing experience.” Not only is this their first Rolex Fastnet Race, it is also the furthest west Cope has ever sailed.

    “This is my Everest. I just decided to go straight for the top. I like racing alongside Concise 10 and Alex Thomson and Sam Davies. They are my heroes so being in this race with them is incredible - even if we are last!”




    However she was a little anxious about the weather ahead this evening. “The forecast shows 20 knots gusting to 26 knots - that won’t be too nice in the middle of the Irish Sea.”

    Sailing up the opposite, westerly side of the Traffic Separation Scheme close to the Scillies was the Royal Artillery crew on the Rustler 42, St Barbara V. Again they are a newbie crew, aged 23-55, with only the skipper and one other having competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race before, and several of the crew having no offshore racing experience before this year. The crew was chosen at the Army Offshore Regatta in May. “On our heavy old tub of a boat, we never expected to be near the front, but we’re having a good time,” said skipper Nat Webber.

    Theirs is one of 12 service boats competing in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, the best known being the fleet of Nicholson 55s being run by the Joint Services Adventurous Sail Training Centre. They are all competing for the Inter-Regimental Cup, although Webber admits: “We’re not really in it, but you never know! Some of the Nic 55s are not too far in front and we are hoping to stay with them.”





    As to their progress to date, Webber said:

    “The last 24 hours have been pretty dire for us as below 14 knots we wallow in the water.” So he was pleased with the more lively forecast for this evening: “They looks like perfect conditions. We are doing the wind dance!”

    Tonight the bulk of the Rolex Fastnet Race will be progressing across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock. In IRC One, the Mylius 15e25 Ars Una of Italian Vittorio Biscarini late this afternoon was approaching the Fastnet Rock, having recovered the lead from the French crew on Codiam.

    In IRC Two, Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia still had just over 50 miles to sail to reach the Fastnet rock but had extended her lead on corrected time in her class, having pulled more than 5.5 hours ahead of second-placed, British favourites Nick and Suzi Jones’ First 44.7 Lisa, skippered by RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd.

    Leaders in IRC Three, both on the water and on corrected time, were half way to the Fastnet late this afternoon with Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret’s JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls easing ahead of the doublehanded crews - Ian Hoddle and Oliver Wyatt on the Sun Fast 3600, Game On, and Ed Fishwick and Nick Cherry on Redshift Reloaded. All three boats were jockeying for the lead on the water with Dream Pearls closest to the rhumb line to the Fastnet Rock.

    Meanwhile in IRC Four, the JPK 10.10s have been suffering, allowing the upwind weapon that is Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan to take the lead ahead of Chris Choules’ Sigma 38, With Alacrity.

    The next wave of boats to round the Fastnet Rock will be the twenty seven Class40s where the Franco-Anglo duo of Halvard Mabire and Miranda on board Campagne de France have regained the lead from Britain’s Phil Sharp on Imerys.




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