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The final results of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 show that Kenneth Rumball with the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi has won in IRC 3B, where third place has been taken by ISORA’s J/109 Mojito. And RORC Commodore Michael Boyd has been second in IRC 2 with the First 44.7 Lisa.

Clearly, the Irish contingent in this great classic have had a successful time of it despite some extraordinary fluctuations of fortune. But how are such twists of fate to be explained? The Rolex Fastnet Race of modern times can be analysed by the latest technology in so many different ways that, even with the best computers, it can sometimes take much longer to deduce what precisely happened than it took in real time out at sea. So perhaps if we just select a few salient facts, we might be able to get a better overall picture. W M Nixon gives it a try.

If the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 had finished at the Fastnet Rock itself, with the fleet adjourning into Baltimore and Schull to have a party or three, there would have been much for the builders of the successful JPK range to celebrate. And several crews with strong Irish connections would have been quite right in partying to beat the band as well.

nikata at fastnet2Glad morning again….the biggest boat in the race, the JV 115 Nikata (Tom Brewer) rounds the Fastnet Rock at 7 o’clock on Tuesday morning. Photo Rolex

For after an increasingly rugged windward slug the whole way from the start, the overall leader at the Rock was 2013’s winner, the French JPK 10.10 Night & Day, whose achievement was further heightened by the fact that she was being sailed two-handed by father-and-son crew Pascal and Alexis Loison.

And second overall was another seasoned French campaigner, Noel Racine with his JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew. But it’s when we get to third slot that Irish eyes light up, as it was comfortably held by our own Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan. She was all of 11 minutes ahead of yet another French boat, Giles Fournier’s J/133 Pintia, which was fourth overall at the Fastnet.

But close behind in sixth overall was the classic S&S 41 Winsome (Harry Hiejst) helmed by Laura Dillon, Irish Champion Helm in 1996. Winsome had experienced her ups and downs since the start, but when it comes to grown-up windward work, there are still very few boats that can do it like the best 1972 Sparkman & Stephens design, and Winsome had been making hay since Land’s End, marching her way up through the fleet.

However, before we move on to see how these leaders-at-the-Rock finally ended in the rankings in Plymouth, casting an eye further down the Fastnet times continues to be rewarding, as we find that the hot ISORA J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox) was lying 9th overall as she made the turn on Wednesday morning at 7 o’clock, and Kenneth Rumball in command of the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi was only a quarter of an hour later, correcting into 11th overall, which put him one place ahead of our RORC Commodore Michael Boyd in the First 44.7 Lisa.

jedi fastnet3Cheerful times aboard Jedi after rounding the Fastnet, where she’d been placed 11th overall of the entire 312-strong IRC fleet. Photo INSS

nikata volvo65s4Nikata at the start with three of the Volvo 65s. The new Volvo boats had a very close Fastnet Race, with Dongfeng winning by 54 seconds from Mapfre. And they’re being kept busy – on Thursday they raced away from Plymouth, bound for St Malo and Lisbon

Yet of the boats which are now figuring at the top twelve of the overall leaderboard in Plymouth, only Pintia, Lisa and the Grand Soleil 43 Codiam were in the top twelve at the rock. The JNA 39 Lann Ael 2 (Didier Gaudoux), which seemed to come out of nowhere at the finish to snatch the overall lead from Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer, was only 29th at the Fastnet Rock.

As for Privateer, she was well back, in 40th. Yet the way the winds, weather and tides developed for the final 247 miles from Fastnet to finish meant the placings continued to be shaken up until the very end, and it looked for long enough as though Privateer has the big prize until Lann Ael 2 came out of the dark in the small hours of Thursday morning, and took it.

lann ael5The JDA 39 Lann Ael making knots on the way to Plymouth

lann ael6The look of a winner. Lann Ael was not showing up on the Race Tracker for some tehnical reason, but she was very definitely right there, zooming past the Isles of Scilly on her way to the overall win

This means that for the third time in a row, the overall Rolex Fastnet Race winner is French. There’s no doubt about it, but La belle France is on a roll on the offshore scene these days, for if they aren’t themselves actually sailing the winning French-built boats, the chances are they were the designers and builders.

This is an impression which is reinforced by going into the class details, and particularly among the smaller boats. In IRC 3 it’s French-produced boats dominant, with two JPK 10.80s – Dream Pearls and Timeline - separated by just two minutes on corrected time, with Timeline having finished first, but losing through a higher rating.

It’s not until we got down to 9th place in IRC 3 that we break the French stream, and even here the 9th placed Irish J/109 Jedi – which wins IRC 3B - may have been designed in America by the Johnstone team, but I’ve a feeling she was built in France.

The placing means that Jedi got through Mojito in the sometimes wild romp back from the Rock, but all around them positions were changing, and the solid Sparkman & Stephens veterans such as Pomeroy Swan and Winsome, which had shown so well on the dead beat, were losing time all the way while the loghter boats were surfing.

However, while the two overall leaders at the Fastnet, Night & Day and Foggy Dew, slipped down the overall rankings, they maintained their class leads in IRC 4, and let it be noted that Poweroy Swan wasn’t entirely out of the hunt, as she is 4th in IRC 4. But Winsome slipped back to 12th in class.

It’s ironic that of the two former Champion Helms of Ireland whom we know to have been doing the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017, one of them – Laura Dillon – was in a boat which went superbly to windward but wasn’t so competitive downwind, while the other. Nin O’Leary, was in a boat which seemed woeful to windward, but was fastest of the lot as soon as she bore off at the rock.

hugo boss at fastnet7Hugo Boss finally reaches the Fastnet Rock at 3.0pm on Tuesday. Within minutes, she was speeding downwind, up on her foils and making 22 knots
Quite why Nin’s co-skippered IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss was just so poor to windward, even by comparison with other IMOCA 60s, is something for further study. But she’s very much a boat for the wide open spaces, and the relatively short 247 miles from the Fastnet to Plymouth wasn’t nearly long enough for her foils to pick her up properly, and let the big black boat really go like the wind.

It was clearly a race of horses for courses, and while it might be going too far to describe Hugo Boss as a one trick pony, in a complex race like this there were some superb all-round boats which gave a master-class in successfully dealing with a wide variety of conditions and finishing with a mileage which suggested that some other boats were sailing a different race entirely.

malizia racing8The Yacht Club de Monaco’s IMOCA 60 Malizia placed third in class

To re-phrase the great Damon Runyon, the race may not always be to those who sail the shortest distance, but that’s the way the smart money bets. However, the smart money isn’t always completely right. The Fastnet Race course is somewhere between 603 and 608 miles (those pesky Traffic Separation Zones must have changed the classic distance), and it’s of interest to note that the boat which was recorded as sailing the fewest miles, the Italian Mylius 15E25 Ars Una which placed 11th overall, got round in just 655 miles.

pintia start9The French J/133 Pintia (Gilles Fournier) at the start. One of the most consistent boats in the fleet, she was well placed overall at the Fastnet, and went on to win Class 2 while placing fourth overall at the finish

But Winsome, back in 75th overall after being so handsomely placed at the rock, got round in only 656 miles. She pointed higher than most other boats, and made the right tactical choices on the open water outward bound windward leg. But coming back on the fast run, her classic hull shape militated against her no matter how neat a course they sailed.

The detailed results are here

As for the winner Lann Ael 2, she sailed 662 miles, but for the Fastnet-Plymouth stages she had conditions which clearly suited her perfectly, while the Cookson 50 Privateer sailed all of 687 miles, but she sailed them so well she retained second overall. And the great pioneer, the pathfinder in the lead on the water and testing condtions for all those astern, was George David’s Rambler 88. She may have taken line honours in convincing style, but she sailed an astonishing 730 miles to do so, and slipped back to 65th overall when the basic sums were done.

These sums will be re-worked for a long time yet, for this was one very special Rolex Fastnet Race. Our own Michael Boyd captured it so perfectly in his role as Commodore RORC, shortly after he had finished to take second in class, that it’s worth re-running the vid we posted last night, for he did us proud.

Read all of Afloat.ie's 2017 Fastnet Race coverage here 

Published in W M Nixon

With many ISORA boat competing in the Fastnet race, a smaller than normal fleet of ten came to the start line in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday 5th August, with useful points in all three classes up for grabs writes Mark Thompson.

An early 08.00 downwind start under spinnaker in a 10kt south westerly which was forecast to reduce from the west during the day. There were many issues to contend with, a strong Irish Sea tide, and crucially the infamous Bardsey "tidal gate" which was in favour until 1530 or so and becoming slack until 16:30 After that with a strong tide against wind, progress through Bardsey would be a challenge!

Andrew Hall's J125 "Jackknife" relished the conditions and had no issues making the Bardsey gate, and enjoyed a great run across Hell’s Mouth recording speeds of 10kts or so and took line honours in an elapsed time of 9 hrs 41 mins followed by J122 Aurelia.

Chasing hard behind and making the Bardsey gate with 20 mins to spare, overall IRC winner yesterday J109 “Sgrech”, who carried the same spinnaker for the entire race, and only gybing three times. Stephen Tudor, skipper of “Sgrech”, described the whole race like a game of chess, with so many variables at play! Indeed J109 "Just Jay", just a couple of miles behind “Sgrech”, was forced to make several sail changes during the run to Bardsey, costing many minutes ! Second overall was Howth based J109 "Indian" who enjoyed their first Pwllheli race immensely. Mid fleet finishers recorded elapsed times of 12 -14 hours and managed to dodge the worst of the ebbing tide.

At the rear of the fleet in Class 3 "Elandra" and "Oystercatcher" missed the gate and took some time against the strong tide to get clear of Aberdaron bay. However "Oystrcatcher" elected to go round south of Bardsey meeting up with "Elandra" off Hell’s Mouth , and both finally finished between midnight and 1am. A great performance by these two class 2 boats who got valuable points in this class, with Sigma33 "Elandra" now leading this hotly contested class.

All competitors were warmly welcomed to Plas Heli, the Welsh National Sailing Academy, Pwllheli. Although busy hosting the Topper Nationals, the "Pwllheli Sailing Club" prepared a special ISORA "Sailors Stew" and jugs of beer for the weary crew. A great night was had by all and everyone connected with ISORA agreed it was another excellent Race.

This spices things up for the overall Wolf's Head trophy and it looks once again it's going to be a match race during the James Eadie race on the 9th September, between current Champion “Sgrech” and Mojito.

 

Published in ISORA

The MOD 70 Trimaran Concise 10, skippered by Ned Collier-Wakefield and a veteran of last year’s Volvo Round Ireland race, was first of the record Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 fleet to exit the west end of the Solent today as the huge armada went into the process of getting clear through Hurst Narrows and past the Shingles Bank without hitting each other and the many underwater hazards on either side writes W M Nixon.

A staggered starting process which began to 1100 hrs puts some manners on the fleet, but with a sluicing ebb tide, the challenge of getting into open water with the moderate southwest breeze on the nose was an increasingly exciting business as numbers built up at the Hurst bottleneck.

In the mono-hulls, the starting order means the IMOCA Open 60s are setting the pace, and the French SMA, skippered by Meihat Paul, currently leads, while Hugo Boss (Alex Thompson & Nin O’Leary) is a couple of mies astern in fourth in class, neck-and-neck with Jean-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbec

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Published in Fastnet

In August 2007, a lone Irish boat swept quickly towards the finish of the Fastnet Race at Plymouth. Groups of larger craft had finished ahead of her, and soon a rush of other boats would follow in her wake. But when Ger O’Rourke of Limerick brought his Cookson 50 Chieftain across the line, he and his crew had the stage to themselves writes W M Nixon

They felt they’d done quite well, but wouldn’t know for sure until hundreds of other boats had been timed in. However, as the hours ticked away, Chieftain’s crew closed in on an overall win which had been achieved despite losing their main electronics before getting past the Lizard on the rough outward passage, and despite having been on the Waiting List rather than the limited-numbers Official Entry List until only a few days before the race actually started.

Chieftain’s owner Ger O’Rourke seemed to thrive on such uncertainty, and as his proposed crew included the formidable talents of the legendary Jochem Visser, he knew that once the Chieftain entry was given the nod, they’d very quickly have a full complement to take on the race.

Other entries - dutifully made many months in advance - fell away as start time approached. A heavy weather forecast may have played a role in this. But it didn’t faze Chieftain’s owner, as his programme that year had already included taking second overall in the rugged New York to Hamburg race, and he knew his canting-keel Farr-designed boat was more truly race-ready than most of the fleet. Getting officially acceptance into the fold, when it came, just seemed part of a larger plan.

chieftain at finish3In the last of the evening sun, Chieftain approaches the finish line Plymouth with Ger O’Rourke on the hel

Chieftain finish plymouth4They’ve done it. Chieftain wins the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007. The lack of anything approaching a crew uniform is testament to the fact that she was accepted as an entry only after more than forty boats had dropped out beforehand

In a stormy race, many boats pulled out, but in the weather pattern which developed, Chieftain was exactly the right size and type of boat to do best. And she’d the crew to enable her to do this, despite having to rely for much of the race on tiny hand-held GPS devices and increasingly wet paper charts.

After the finish, Chieftain’s motley crew could see the growing inevitability of the final result. But the owner refused to go up the town to buy himself a crisp new white shirt for the prize-giving until he’d been shown a document confirming that he was indeed the undisputed overall winner.

Sometime it seems as though it happened only yesterday. But sometimes it seems a very, very long time ago, as Ireland has been through a ferocious economic mincing machine since then. Either way, the reality is that the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017, which starts tomorrow from Cowes in a sequence beginning at 1100 hrs for a record entry list of 384 boats, will mark the Tenth Anniversary of Ireland’s greatest win in an event which is a pillar of world sailing. And it’s an event in which Irish boats have been involved since it was first sailed in 1925 with just seven starters. Our gallant representative, Harry Donegan from Cork with the 17-ton gaff cutter Gull, placed third overall.

Today, the increasing internationalism of sailing – and offshore and ocean racing in particular - is evident throughout the fleet, so much so that it’s almost the norm to have a crew with some mixing of nationalities. Thus in taking a preview, it’s increasingly difficult to say which entry is or isn’t Irish, regardless of simply taking it from the national flag indicated beside the name on the RORC’s entry list.

On top of that, with an entry of 384 boats and entries not officially finalized until the Race Office has the complete crew list with the essential personal information, you can readily visualize how things have been in and around the organisers’ office these past few days.

After one of the roughest Cowes Weeks in years comes to a close today, the Rolex Fastnet Race is expected to start tomorrow in moderate conditions with the hugely impressive sight of the enormous fleet sweeping westward out of the Solent through the Needles Channel, and facing the prospect of a beat down Channel to Land’s End.

Fair weather sailors had been hoping that the ridge from the Azores High might build northeastwards to give summer sailing for the 605-mile race. But we’re in unstable meteorological conditions with the restless Jetstream dictating weather and wind changes, and not all of these can be closely predicted.

rambler 88 racing5If it turns out to be a big boat race, with her unrivalled trio of line honours and IRC wins in three recent RORC races, George David’s Rambler 88 has to be a favourite

Majority opinion has it that it will be a big boat race, as the nor’westers will remain fresh to strong – or even more – until Wednesday, when another little ridge might ease things back for the smaller craft. If it is a big boat race, then in IRC Overall the smart money will be on George David’s Rambler 88. She has been re-writing the form book these past two years, as she took line honours and the overall win in IRC in the Volvo Round Ireland Race last year, and this year she has repeated the remarkable double in both the RORC’s Cowes-St Malo Race and the RORC’s Channel Race.

Certainly it will be interesting to see how she does against the newest 100ft super-maxi, the Ludde Ingvall-skippered CQS from Australia, which was shipped to Europe with the Fastnet Race as her main priority. But in her brief time in the northern hemisphere so far, things haven’t gone her way. She went out to do the Round the Island Sprint on Wednesday with the other biggies when they’d gale fore winds around the south end of the isle of Wight, and while CQS had sail trouble and didn’t excel, the seven brand new Volvo 65s had a magnificent race, with Mapfre (skipper Xabi Fernandez) winning, and the first three breaking the Round the Island Mono-hull Record.

mapfre round island6The completely new strictly one-design Volvo 65 Mapfre (skipper Xabi Fernandez) on her way to winning the Round Isle of Wight sprint on Wednesday, and creating a new record while she was at it.

There was almost an Irish interest in this as our own Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy was being lined up for a crew test for the all-women panel on Dee Caffari’s Volvo 65
Turn The Tide On Plastic, but unfortunately an injury in the recent International Moth Worlds (in which she was top woman) has side-lined her for a while, but she may be aboard post-Fastnet.

Also up among the biggies, Irish interest will be intense for the foiling IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, where new Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” Nin O’Leary is teaming up as joint skipper with seasoned campaigner Alex Thompson. O’Leary has sailed on Hugo Boss before, but the Fastnet is a case of going in at the deep end, as their main rivals at the big boat end of a two-part 69-strong two-handed division will be the legendary Jeanne-Pierre Dick and three-times Figaro winner Yann Elies in the foiling IMOCA 60 St Michel-Virbac.

hugo boss7Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a manta ray….? Hugo Boss will be raced by Alex Thompson and Nin O’Leary

stmichel virbac8Jeanne-Piere Dick’s StMichel-Virbac is likely to be Hugo Boss’s closest opponent

The Fastnet fleet is like an awesome mountain range - it’s easy enough to discern the major peaks, but it’s only as you descend into the smaller mountains and the foothills that you feel some sense of identity and fellow-feeling with what’s around you, and for true aficionados, the IRC corrected time winners in class and overall is the real Rolex Fastnet Race.

Thus the main topic this year is can the French make it three in a row. And even better, can the incredible JPK marque from Lorient make it three in a row?

Back in 2013, the unthinkable happened. The overall winner was the French JPK 10.10 Night and Day, raced in the Two-Handed division by father-and-son crew Pascal and Alexis Loison. For those of us who can just about rub along with family on a boat, and prefer to be fully crewed, it took some time to get used to the idea of Night and Day’s superb win.

Then by 2015, JPK’s new design, the JPK 10.80, was starting to make waves, and went on to win the Rolex Fastnet Race overall in the form of veteran Gery Trentesaux’s Courrier du Leon. Just to show it was no flash in the pan, a sister-ship – also skippered by Trentesaux – won her class in the next Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, and now in 2017 Paul O’Higgins’ JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI has won the Volvo Dun Laoghaire-Dingle Race overall in June while in July another sister-ship, Yes! skippered by Nin O’Leary, won the big-fleet Round the Island by an unusually wide margin.

Courrier du Leon9The JPK 10.80 Courrier du Leon (Gery Trentesaux) winning the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015

So these are still the boats to beat. But as we’ve learned in Irish offshore racing, a well-sailed J/109 can sometimes get the better of them, so although she’s not strictly Irish, we reckon that the J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox from Pwllheli) is Honorary Irish, and she’s very much in the lineup for tomorrow’s start, as is the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi skippered by Kenneth Rumball, which is in both the Open Division and in the racing for the Roger Justice Trophy for sailing schools.

This is hotly contested with more than 30 offshore sailing and racing schools involved, and in 2015 it was won by Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire with Ronan O Siochru skippering the Sunfast 37 Desert Star. IOS is back this year with Desert Star, and while a fine camaraderie had built up among her crew, the rules for participation as a sailing school means you have to carry a significant proportion of first timers, thus two of Desert Star’s crew from 2015, Louise Gray and Jacques Diedricks, have transferred to another non-school Dun Laoghaire-based Fastnet contender, Brendan Couglan’s Sunfast 37 Windshift.

boyd and osiochru10At the prize-giving in Plymouth, RORC Commodore Michael Boyd presents Ronan O Siochru with the Roger Justice Trophy for the best-placed sailing school entry in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015. Boyd himself had won the Gull Salver for the top-placed Irish boat.
Irish Offshore Sailing and Irish International Sailing School have of course competed against each other before, in last year’s Volvo Round Ireland, when INSS did best winning the schools division and placing tenth overall. But that was in the Reflex 38 Lynx. The more recently-acquired J/109 gives a new perspective, but here too the rules about having a certain proportion of trainees in your crew have affected personnel selection, and Kenneth Rumball has been unable to take his right-hand man from the 2016 Round Ireland win, Luke Malcolm, who has transferred to Paul Egan’s Dun Laoghaire-based First 35 Platinum Blonde to gain his Fastnet spurs.

jedi leading11The Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi ahead of the pack in the ISORA Lyver Trophy Race, part of the buildup in the training towards the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Some additions and insights into the eleven Irish Fastnet entries listed in Afloat.ie are intriguing. For instance, Alan Hannon’s Reichel Pugh 45 Katsu was a very attractive participant in the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race, and a closer look at the RORC’s list shows her as skippered by Richie Fearon of Lough Swilly Yacht Club, who navigated the overall winner Tanit in the 2014 Round Ireland, and has formidable international connections which could see Katsu racing with a stellar crew.

Of similar size but with a rating of only 1.096 compared to Katsu’s stratospheric 1.240, the First 44.7 Lisa is skippered by our own Michael Boyd, Commodore RORC. Not only is he defending Irish champion in the Fastnet as he won the Gull Salver with Quokka in 2015, but this year he has been doing mighty well, winning overall in the RORC’s Morgan Cup Race in June.

Another sensibly-rated boat to watch is Harry Heijst’s veteran Winsome, an alloy early version of the Swan 41, built 1972. Though Winsome is proudly Dutch (sail number is NED 118), she’s something of a star in the Solent, and is different from the slightly later GRP Swan 41 with a cockpit/bridge-deck arrangement which many owners of standard Swans of a certain size and vintage would dearly like to emulate, as it greatly improves the boat’s cockpit ergonomics and companionway access. If this is what you want, lads, get out the chainsaw……

winsome laura12Laura Dillon helming the vintage Swan 41 Winsome at the current Cowes Week. Although Winsome’s alloy hull is similar to a Swan 41, her cockpit/companionway/cabintop arrangement is a considerable improvement

The competitive Winsome’s hull has stayed exactly the same, which means she retains all the rating advantages of her age, and clocks in at just 0.990. This makes her very competitive indeed, particularly in a breeze, but only if you have the right person on the wheel. And for some years now that right person has been Howth ex-Pat sailing star Laura Dillon, a former Helmsmans Champion who is now London-based and the extremely effective regular driver on Winsome when she’s not away on some other sailing campaign.

Winsome has been making hay in this windy Cowes Week, and at the time of writing was leading her class well clear, and only rivalled for Boat of the Week in all classes by another veteran yacht with strong Fingal connections, the superbly tuned and sailed 1939-vintage Whooper of Giovanni Belgrano at the top of Class 6. In another life, Whooper used to be the Star of Skerries, owned by Christy and Joe Fox and based at Skerries in North Fingal.

But while Whooper isn’t down to do the Fastnet Race as her owner is probably doing it in his day job as a top professional, Winsome most definitely is. And with the forecast of early brisk breezes and lots of beating, she might be one to watch if she can stay ahead of the lightening breezes which may occur later next week.

silver shamrock13They may not make sterns like that any more, but after 41 years the 1976 Half Ton World Champion Silver Shamrock is still going strong, and she’s the smallest boat entered in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Another one to watch, this time for old sake’s sake, is the smallest boat in the fleet, Stuart Greenfield’s 30ft Silver Shamrock. This is the Ron Holland-designed boat with which Harry Cudmore won the Half Ton Worlds in Trieste in 1976. That’s all of forty-one years ago now, yet little Silver Shamrock is still going strong, and with the Half Ton Classics coming up at Kinsale in a dozen days’ time, we can salute Silver Shamrock and feel a sense of identity with her.

This isn’t a feeling aroused by contemplating the biggest boat which has ever raced in the Fastnet, this year’s monster, the 115ft Nikata. An absurdly large vessel. At race’s end, you’d only know a quarter of the crew. And even she’ll be eclipsed if the 130ft trimaran Spindrift 2 – currently not listed as an entry – somehow manifests herself on Sunday heading down Solent. Will there be room for the two of them?

yacht nikita14The crew will just have to wear name tags…..the 115ft Nikita is the largest mono-hull in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017

Published in W M Nixon

As offshore sailors gather momentum for a new Olympic offshore discipline, the world's largest yacht manufacturer has unveiled the first images of a radical new one-design Figaro 3 with foils.

In the new Figaro 3, Groupe Beneteau is producing the first series-built production monohull with foils leaving no doubt that foiling is making it into mainstream sailing

The foils will make the new boat up to 15 per cent faster than its predecessor and are designed to replace the traditional weighty ballast tanks used on past Figaro models.

Described as ‘asymmetric tip foils’ they work by creating side force to supplement the keel and reduce leeway while causing minimal drag. An important factor is also that they are able to retract within the boat’s maximum beam.

Published in Solo Sailing

With 138 miles to go to the finish of the first leg at Aviles in northwest Spain, Ireland’s Tom Dolan is coping well with the vagaries of the summer winds of the Bay of Biscay in the Mini 650 Transgascogne from Les Sables d’Olonne writes W M Nixon.

In the early morning, Gregoire Mouly in Ganesh looked to have done well from his long lone port tack to the west after yesterday’s start. But the heavy brigade of rock stars which had gone south on starboard in search of stronger winds have been paid off twice over, as they found breeze, and it has markedly freed them.

Thus they’ve spent the morning hunting down Ganesh, and at lunchtime Mouly was only a third of a mile ahead of the inevitably successful Erwan Le Draoulec in Emile Henry. But Tom Dolan is very much of this hunting pack, as he’s barely a mile astern of Le Draoulec, yet is fifth in class,

This is a reminder that although the MiniTransat 650 stars are solo sailors, they go even better if there’s another boat or two nearby to pace and push them, forcing them to up their game that bit more. By contrast, for a long period Gregoir Mouly had only himself to race against, and though he still cannot see the hounds on his trail, he’ll know from the AIS that within an hour they’ll have overtaken him on their more southerly route.

Tracker chart here

Published in Solo Sailing

Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan currently lies a close 8th in the Mini 650 class in the Trans Gascogne Race 2017, which started yesterday from Les Sables d’Olonne writes W M Nixon. A two-stage event across the southern half of the Bay of Biscay to Aviles in northwest Spain and back, the outward race had been originally intended to include a dog-leg course to take in Belle Ile off southern Brittany as a northern turning mark. But light winds saw the organisers shortening the route to a direct line, which immediately provided the fleet with difficult tactical choices beating into light southwest winds.

Yesterday evening it seemed initially to have paid to keep to the right, with Gregoire Mouly in Ganesh (FR 893) holding the lead well to the west of the main body of the fleet. But most of the top-ranked bulk of the fleet chose to hold on starboard from an early stage in the hope of finding stronger winds further south, and after a brief stab to the westward on port tack, Tom Dolan in Still Seeking A Sponsor (IRL 910) also took up this tactic.

This morning Ganesh still leads with a clear 8.7 mile gap on the next boat. But all the boats between second and tenth are within a mile of each other, with IRL 910 currently showing one of the better speeds, albeit at only 5.6 knots with 173 miles still to race.

Race tracker here

 

Published in Solo Sailing

Rounding Ballycotton Lighthouse on Saturday afternoon was satisfying, after a long beat from Crosshaven in the restored Royal Cork Ballycotton Race.

Over the 15-mile course which took about three hours a Northerly breeze veered through to an Easterly whisper and then - nothing. Coracle set the pace from the Grassy start line. As the course pulled rounded Roches Point the Easterly wind kicked in intermittently. Altair hugged the coast and as the white sails of Loch Gréine, Plumbat and Luna Sea followed this line those flying spinnakers no long benefited from the big sail. Passing Power Head the fleet split with the majority heading out to sea to avail of a tidal push while Altair and YaGottaWanna hunted breeze and wind lifts inshore.

As the fleet closed on Ballycotton Lighthouse Altair pulled a lead over Coracle, rounding Ballycotton Island and heading for the finish in what was becoming a very soft breeze, Coracle and YaGottaWanna rounded as the wind died further, with Loch Gréine and the kites of Cavatina and Scribbler II edging to the finish line. Plumbat and Luna Sea, in whitesail. without the option of a kite and no wind had to retire.

Ballycotton sailingRelaxing in Ballycotton after the sailing

Results: IRC – 1st Altair (K.Dorgan/J.Losty); 2nd Coracle (Kieran Collins); 3rd Ya Gotta Wanna (David Lane/Sinead Enright). ECHO – 1st Loch Gréine (Tom/Declan O’Mahony); 2nd Scribbler (Tom/Cormac MacSweeney); 3rd Cavatina (Ian Hickey). Gas Rigs Trophy/ECHO and Paddy and Peg Walsh Trophy/IRC– Altair. Jim Donegan Trophy, Best Family Boat – Coracle.

This is a race which was traditional and the RCYC Cruiser Classes are interested in getting more boats involved in coastal racing. It has invited those interested, boatowners or potential crews to make contact with the club.

Published in Royal Cork YC

The Lyver Race, after the postponement from the 30th June, took place on Friday 21st July writes Peter Ryan, Chairman of ISORA. The race is also an ISORA, RORC and a qualifier for the Fastnet Race. While 32 boats had entered the race for the original date, only 13 boats came to the start line in Holyhead last Friday.

The weather forecast for the race was for light to moderate southerly winds to back to westerly during the night and early morning. There was also strong tides.

The race start was provided by Liverpool Yacht Club committee boat at the Clipera buoy outside Holyhead Harbour. The course was as follows: Start - TSS Area (P) – M2 (S) – Rockabill (P) – Kish Light (S) – South Burford (S) and Finish between the pier heads in Dun Laoghaire – 100 miles.

The area of the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) was identified by a series of coordinates and all boats were to keep out of this area.

 The downwind start saw “Rockabill VI” and “Jackknife” making a clean start and leading the fleet north in a light easterly breeze. Immediately behind these were the three J109’s “Sgrech”, Mojito” and Jedi”. These boats continued to match race for the entire 100 miles.

Rounding the top of the TSS the fleet were still under spinnaker as they headed towards M2. On this leg the fleet split with “Jackknife” and “Rockabill VI” taking a southerly route and the other maintaining a more northerly line. Even after the M2 the fleet were still under spinnaker and as the fleet approached Rockabill it was evident that the northerly line was paying off. The winds remained south easterly and had not backed as forecast.

“Jackknife”, although first around Rockabill, had not made sufficient distance from the following fleet and “Mojito” followed next and was leading the fleet. At that stage only three boat lengths serapated “Mojito” from “Sgrech”. “Jedi” had fall a small distance behind.

The leg to the Kish was a fetch against the tide. On this leg “Sgrech” just managed to inch in front of “Mojito” and rounded the Kish ahead of them. The last leg in towards Dun Laoghaire was a full run in slackening easterly winds and against the now ebbing tide.

“Jackknife” took line honours and Class 0 IRC but only managed 4th Overall IRC. “Sgrech” managed to hoild the slight lead into the harbour, finishing just 2 minutes 26 seconds ahead of “Mojito” but enough to give “Sgrech” the Overall IRC Win and Class 1 IRC. “Elandra” took Class 2. In ECHO, “Jackknife” took Overall and Class 0 while “Sgrech” too class 1 and “Elandra” took Class 2. Full results can be found on www.isora.org

The wind by “Sgrech” reduces “Mojito”’s lead in the Overall Wolf’s Head series. However with “Mojito” heading off the compete in the Fastnet Race, they will miss the next offshore on the 5th August and their lead may reduce even further. All this opens up the competition and may develop a repeat of last year when the Overall Series was dependant on the results of the last race. The last Offshore is the Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire race on the 9th September.

The presentation of the Lyver Trophy and RORC medallions will take place at the ISORA dinner in the National Yacht Club on the 11th November.

Published in ISORA

Taking on the dominance of the Dun Laoghaire J109 offshore fleet on its home waters and winning is no mean feat. Winning skipper Paddy Gregory of the Beneteau First 34.7 Flashback (owned by Don Breen and David Hogg) recalls last week's victory in Dun Laoghaire Regatta's biggest class, the 31–boat offshore division and believes 'attention to detail' and a strong desire to win got the Howth Yacht Club crew over the line first.

We’ve all heard the term, “That’s Yacht Racing”. It’s a sport where the factors out of your control such as the weather, shifts, Gods, planets, rabbit-feet etc must all align to yield a result. All we can ever do is try and do the best with what we can control and go for it.

If I was to sum up this year’s event in a word I would say, ”tough”.

Flashback ISORA Beneteau 34.7 1896Yards from the harbour finish line and overall 2017 VDLR offshore class victory – Flashback's crew give it all they've got. Flashback were also crowned Offshore Champions in the RDYC Jack Ryan Championship as part of VDLR Photo: Afloat.ie

The usual vagaries of Dublin Bay did not disappoint and dished up the expected amount of tidal and wind challenges; in fairness we did get a little more wind than was forecast.
Although extremely frustrating at times the light airs benefited us against the bigger boats. In the last Dunlaoghaire week it was averaging 20knts and we worked extremely hard to place fourth overall in the Coastal fleet.

Flashback began racing in the ISORA Coastal series a few years ago and we haven’t looked back. The growth in the Coastal Class is a credit to Peter Ryan and his team at ISORA, as it goes from strength to strength, evidenced by it now being the biggest fleet at the VDLR 2017.

Dun Laoghaire Regatta 2017 FlashbackFlashback coming into finish during the first offshore race of Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Photo: Afloat.ie

Flashback’s a standard Bruce Farr designed Beneteau First 34.7’ (overall length 32.7’!) that we commissioned in 2006 and we were lucky enough to win our first regatta in Dunlaoghaire that season. In the intervening years we’ve changed her very little, so we’re still using a 100m2 asymmetric spinnaker. We resisted the temptation to buy a larger rudder, which many of our sister-ships have done to help with control, choosing instead to learn how to cope with her eccentricities off the wind in a blow…….plus we saved some money!

About four seasons ago, having seen the trend on winning IRC boats, we decided to try non-overlapping headsails, instead of the 142% overlapping genoas that she was designed with, and it’s fair to say that our sailmaker Philip Watson (who we’ve worked very closely with over the twelve years ) really “nailed” it on his second attempt, and we now feel that she’s a faster boat for her rating than she’s ever been (moving from old rating 1003 to 986).

flashback crewFlashback's winning crew – Photo: Gareth Craig

We’ve been fortunate to have continuity of crew (panel of 15) and we now sail both of the Howth Yacht Club Winter series’ which keeps us relatively sharp when the Spring/Summer returns.

We’re very particular about having her underwater surfaces very clean because we don’t want to have that as an “ excuses to lose”. And we’re also picky about excess weight, so we strip off our cruising gear, such as sprayhood and TV, and keep her water & diesel tanks light before racing in events.

As a testament we moved from fourth in the 2015 event to first in 2017. 2015 was a heavy weather event and we all know what 2017 weather was like!

Flashback's crew were:
Paddy Gregory (Helm)
Don Breen Main (Trim)
Saraha Watson (Box)
Eamonn Burke (Kite trim and back up Bow/Mast)
Dave McGinn (Bow/Mast)
Des Flood (Head sail Trim)
Garath May (Head sail Trim)
Tactics (normally by general consensus!)

Published in Volvo Regatta
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