The Ker 55 Aera

The Ker 55 Aera

Around Land's End

Light weather driftathon for Rolex Fastnet Race fleet

Tuesday August 9th 2005, Author: Andy Rice/James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
ICAP Maximus maintains her lead on the water in the Rolex Fastnet Race and should round the Fastnet Rock sometime tonight. The question is when? At 1400 this afternoon, a helicopter pilot logged the 100ft Kiwi-owned maxi as making 10 knots boat speed in just 6 knots of breeze. With just 65 miles to the Rock off the south-western tip of Ireland, the boat’s progress appears to be exceeding the predictions of the navigator Mike Quilter. Without the benefit of a helicopter’s viewpoint of the Celtic Sea, the round-the-world-race veteran could only draw his conclusions from the weather data he was receiving, which suggested the high pressure system could kill the breeze dead, and that ICAP Maximus would not reach the Rock for a long time yet.

However the lightweight canting-keeled maxi appears to be one of the few boats enjoying any sort of useable breeze right now. This afternoon she was seven miles ahead of Skandia Wild Thing, with the Volvo Open 70 Movistar another half mile behind the Aussie maxi. Some miles further back was the Volvo Ocean 60 ABN AMRO and two Open 60s locked in a close duel that has been going on since the Solent. The most recent update put Pindar as having regained the lead from Sill. While the bigger boats continue to make measurable progress, the majority of the fleet is still scattered along the southwest coast of England, trying to eke out what speed they can from the little breeze they can catch in their sails.

In next to no wind the boats have been trickling around Land's End throughout the day, the maxis and Open 60s this morning and a glut of 40-50 footer late this afternoon. The conditions are proving beneficial to the double handers. In particular Patrice Carpentier and French Commodores' Cup team leader Gery Trentesaux sailing their Pogo 40, who rounded Land's End at just before 3pm.

The two doublehanded Aussies Alex Whitworth and Peter Crozier on the 33ft Berrimilla are taking a lighthearted view on the race. Alcohol seems to lie at the heart of their beating boats far larger. In the absence of other crewmembers, Whitworth admits to “consulting with Dr Murphy in the day and Dr Gordon in the evening”, referring to his two morale-boosting tipples. There isn’t much rest for these two sailors, as the three hours on/ three hours off arrangement isn’t always feasible when the sailing gets difficult. “We’re trying to run with a very flat spinnaker at the moment, which is taking all of our concentration. But we just passed one of the Global Challenge boats [more than twice Berrimilla’s length], so we’re going well.”

Nick Haigh’s Farr 40 Too Steamy has been outperforming other boats of her size, leading the spate of 5pm roundings at Land's End. A few miles further south, Simon Le Bon and his crew on the old maxi Arnold Clark Drum were making just 2 knots speed in 2 knots of wind. Phil Wade said they were enjoying the sun and the calm sea, a stark contrast to the raging gale in this race 20 years ago, when Drum capsized and the whole crew’s lives were put in danger. “It’s chalk and cheese,” said Wade. “Today it’s a beautiful sunny day, we’re in our shorts with shirts off. 20 years ago, we had three reefs in the mainsail, a Code 5 genoa [the smallest sail for heavy weather], it was driving rain with one mile visibility. So we’re very happy to be back here in different circumstances.” Le Bon celebrated passing the point where Drum capsized, off Falmouth, with a bottle of champagne this afternoon.

Earlier in the day, the two of the rivals for IRC handicap victory had gone their separate ways, with Patches (above) staying inshore while Aera gybed offshore in search of more breeze. Patches skipper Ian Walker had been very uncertain about the outcome but was relieved to discover his inshore strategy had paid off later on in the day, when both boats converged back towards the course gate at the Scilly Isles. “I reckon we have a three- or four-mile lead on Aera now,” he said. “We are sailing in 5 knots breeze with the spinnaker, on a course that is taking almost straight to the Fastnet Rock. As long as the breeze keeps us going downwind then we should be fine, but then of course we’ve got to turn around and come back upwind again.”

The Patches crew has a sweepstake bet running on board, with bets taken for the estimated time of arrival (ETA) at the finish in Plymouth. Walker’s estimate is the most pessimistic, but he’s happy about that. “It costs £10 to enter, and you get a chance to revise your ETA every day, provided you pay another £5. I’ve just paid my £5 and I’m very happy to be holding the bet for the latest finish time. We’ve got a long, long way to go yet.”

The forecast ahead for tomorrow is looking lighter still...

Land's End outbound rounding times (Monday):

06:15 - ICAP Maximus
07:23 - Movistar
08:07 - Sill et Veolia
08:15 - UCA (German maxi)
08:17 - Pindar Alphagraphics
08:44 - Virbac Paprec
09:31 - Hugo Boss
09:45 - (ex Solune)
10:20 - Patches
10:24 - Ecover
10:52 - Aera
11:30 - Roxy (Open 60)
13:30 - ProForm (Open 60)
13:45 - Charisma (Swan 45)
14:40 - Audacious (Farr 45)
14:45 - Tancrede (Norma 34) - must be really quick!
14:53 - VM Materiaux (two handed Open 40)
16:29 - Too Steamy (Farr 40)
16:37 - Cacharaza (Farr 40)
17:00 - Aquis Granus (ex Tonnerre)
17:11 - Moana (Beneteau 47.7)
17:14 - Anna (Russian Mobile 53)
17:13 - Incisor of Wight (Corby 45)
17:14 - Creative Play (Farr 40)
17:15 - Paradox (Dazcat 10m catamaran)
17:25 - Spirit of Minerva (Farr Millenium 65)
17:37 - Bounty Hunter (Prima 38)
17:39 - Predator of Wight (Murray 41)
17:39 - Puma Logic (Prima 38)
17:40 - Aon
17:58 - Guithibelen II (X-43)
18:00 - Karel met de Houten Poot (Simonis 45)
18:04 Azure (Dubois 40)

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