Rolex Fastnet Race pace slows

Only five boats in over the last 24 hours

Wednesday August 17th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom

After a brisk first 48 hours, pace in the Rolex Fastnet Race has slowed up with high pressure encroaching into the Celtic Sea and towards the south of Cornwall. Since yesterday afternoon there have been just been five finishers: the last two IMOCA 60s completed the course with Alex Thomson’s black and white Hugo Boss reaching the line at 22:10:01 BST yesterday while DCNS arrived at 00:22:22, skipper round the world sailor Marc Thiercelin racing on board with Luc Alphand, the 1997 World Cup winning skier who in 2006 also came first in the Paris-Dakar Rally.

Between the IMOCA 60s, the US entry on the STP65 Vanquish crossed the finish line at 00:19:35, while Lloyd Thornburg’s Lamborghini orange-hulled Gunboat 66 catamaran Phaedo pulled into Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour after arriving at 03:03:24.

Phaedo’s captain Paul Hand, from Tasmania, commented: “The most exciting part was the hull flying out off the Needles and the more anxious moments were during the beam reach up to the Rock in 35 knots of breeze, with 20 knots of boat speed and one hull in the air. No one was sleeping that much then...”

Hired guns, navigator Ian Moore and tactician Andy Beadsworth, were crucial in getting Phaedo into Plymouth so quickly, making the most from the tide and smallest wind shifts. Nonetheless, just short of the finish line their progress slowed as they had to wait for the tide to turn.

The Phaedo team also played a vital role in the rescue of the Rambler crew as off southwest Ireland it was their media boat which picked up the five crew, including skipper George David, after they had been in the water for 2.5 hours, having drifted away from their capsized 100ft supermaxi.

The only arrival since dawn this morning has been Franck Noël’s TP52 Near Miss from Switzerland, which crossed the line at 10:46:05 BST. Her skipper, French match racer and offshore sailor Benoit Briand, was pleased to have finished: “Last night were we stuck off the Lizard withtide and no wind. We spent four hours in a circle of one mile!”

Like the boats that finished yesterday, Near Miss’ rounding of the Fastnet Rock was good in terms of the weather, coinciding with a wind shift from the southwest to northwest. Briand said the most wind they saw was 25-29 knots on the approach to the Rock. “The wind was okay, but the waves were ‘enough’ for the boat.” Conditions started to go light for them last night as they rounded the Scillies.

Unfortunately Near Miss lost her main competition, Johnny Vincent’s TP52 Pace, which retired on the first night, and subsequently they spent most of the race sailing on their own.

“We were very happy to sail this legendary race,” Briand summarised. “For us it was a challenge. Our TP52 [formerly the 2008 generation Artemis] is not made for offshore racing and we are very happy with the way we were sailing. We come back without damage, we had a very good time and we sailed well. The boat is in good shape and we very much enjoyed this race.”

Another boat reached Sutton Harbour yesterday in RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine’s First 40 La Réponse, which retired overnight on Monday with steering trouble.

“We were charging along about one third of the way up the Celtic Sea with gradually increasing breeze, gusting 30 knots and quite big waves and we were down to a jib top and a reefed main, going really well,” recounted McIrvine. “I was sitting on the rail and the next thing I knew the boat had tacked and I was half under water. The wheel had just gone loose and wasn’t connecting with the steering at all.”

They managed to deploy their emergency steering (effectively two pieces of scaffolding that fit into a hole just aft of the wheel, forming an aft-facing tiller), but sadly their race was over. They subsequently established that their steering trouble was due to the failure of the central spline connecting the steering wheel to the drive mechanism.

This morning several of the boats rounding the Scilly Isles were more or less becalmed. Jonathan Goring, owner of the Ker 40 Keronimo reported that there was a band of very little wind around 10-20 miles from the Scillies. They had just managed to keep moving in the light patch with the German-flagged Rogers 46s Shakti and Varuna and had been first into the new breeze.

Similarly Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster was becalmed on her approach to the Scilly Isles, although Applebey said the reprieve had come when the wind had filled in from the east. To the south of the Scillies they were now upwind in light breeze. “We hope the wind holds until the finish - that is what the GRIB files have suggested but we’ve had consistently less wind than forecast all day today so it is hard to tell. It would be nice if we don’t park up again as kedging a mile from the finish line could be a bit stressful!”

The next boats due in are the Lithuanian Volvo Ocean 60 Ambersail and Chris Bull’s canting keel Cookson 50 Jazz which had both just passed the Lizard mid-afternoon today. Meanwhile the remaining slower Class Z boats are still approaching the Lizard with on the water leaders in IRC 1, are currently a trio - the Ker 40 Keronimo, the German Andrews 56 Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg and the Swan 62 Uxorious IV all more or less neck and neck. On the water leaders in IRC 2, Peter Rutter’s Quokka 8 and the French J/122 Nutmeg IV were making slow progress to the south of the Scilly Isles.


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