Approaching Fastnet Rock this morning it is Yann Guichard’s Spindrift Racing that holds a very small lead on the second leg of the MOD70 European Tour.
After leaving Dun Laoghaire, Dublin yesterday afternoon bound for Cascais, Portugal, conditions have not been quite as tough as they were initially forecast, but the MOD70 fleet has been working upwind through the night, at first seeking some relief from the slamming, choppy seas by sticking close to the Irish coast all the way down to Tuskar Rock on the SE corner of Ireland.
Winds have been up to 28-30 knots and progress has been fair. Stève Ravussin’s Race for Water led to Tuskar, profiting most from their most inshore line, but they have lost out since and lie fifth.
The anticipated cold front, which will in time shift the wind direction more into the west, has not yet reached the fleet and it will not do so until after they pass the famous rock landmark off the southwest tip. And so their upwind conditions will continue for some hours once they have rounded Fastnet, making the initial strategic choices more complex.
At 0400 GMT Spindrift Racing still had some 40 miles to go to Fastnet and was some two miles ahead of Sébastien Josse’s Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. All were sailing on the direct, layline course for the rock, making between 17 and 20 knots. On the previous tack, out from the Irish coast, Spindrift Racing was able to make a higher line, gain some leverage and that is taking effect as they head for the Fastnet.
There is little to separate the tightly matched one design fleet after 16 hours of racing. The Sidney Gavignet skippered Musandam Oman Sail has a favourable position to windward of the fleet, lying in third place, sailing 2.4 miles off the windward hip of the race leader.
Sébastien Josse, skipper of Groupe Edmond de Rothschild said this morning at 0400 GMT: "We are still 40 miles from the Fastnet, near the coast in seas which are a still a bit nasty. The SW’ly wind is dropping currently and we are still quite closely spaced as a fleet. We had up to 28 knots of wind and the sea was not as bad, but it was slamming a lot. We sailed close to the Irish coast to Tuskar to get some protection from the seas and to take the little lifts and bends in wind. And then once past the tip there, everyone has changed their strategy, going offshore where waves are better organised and the wind is more stable. Currently we have 18-22 knots of SW’ly and we should pass the Fastnet lighthouse before the front arrives within the next three hours. And it looks like we will still be on the wind after the rock.
“The guys have had a little sleep despite the slamming.”
Standings at 0400 UTC
1 Spindrift Racing, EUR, (Yann Guichard, FRA) 1054.5 miles to finish
2 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild, FRA, (Sébastien Josse, FRA) +2 miles behind leader
3 Musandam Oman Sail, OMA, (Sidney Gavignet, FRA) +2.5 miles
4 Foncia, FRA, (Michel Desjoyeaux, FRA) +4.7 miles
5 Race for Water, SUI, (Stève Ravussin, SUI) +6.2 miles