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#fastnetrace – The 46th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race will start from Cowes, Isle of Wight, on 16th August 2015. 

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#fastnetrace – New benchmarks continue to be set in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event this year saw the entry list sell out in less than 24 hours. Its position as the world's largest offshore yacht race was further confirmed when a record-sized fleet of 336 yachts set sail from Cowes on 11th August.

As ever, entries covered the complete range of offshore racing hardware. Among the biggest boats several cut throat match races were to take place. Of note, this year's Rolex Fastnet Race was the first occasion the world's two fastest offshore yachts, the 40 and 31.5m long maxi-trimarans, Spindrift 2 and Banque Populaire, had ever lined up in anger at a major event. Similarly, the European-flagged Esimit Europa 2 was to take on another 100ft maxi-monohull in Mike Slade's two-times monohull line honours winner, ICAP Leopard.

There was also a 72ft Mini Maxi match race, with Niklas Zennström's Rán 2, gunning to enter the history books by scoring a third consecutive overall win in the race, although she was up against her newer sistership, American Hap Fauth's Bella Mente. The Rolex Fastnet Race was also the first ever competitive outing for the fledgling all-women's Volvo Ocean Race entry, Team SCA, which used its VO70 training boat (the former Puma) to line up with the Rolex Fastnet Race monohull record holder, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, once again skippered by double Olympic medallist Ian Walker.

At the slower end of the fleet, it was fantastic that the gaff pilot cutter, Jolie Brise, was participating. She was winner of the first Fastnet Race back in 1925 (that subsequently caused the formation of the Royal Ocean Racing Club) and the only boat in the event's history to have won it three times.

Within the fleet, 292 boats were competing for the overall IRC prize. With the VO70s this year racing in the IRC fleet, an additional 43 grand prix boats - the Multihulls, IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and for the first time, the Figaros - were racing for their own class prizes. The giant IRC fleet was divided into classes, but with numerous one-design battles going on within this, including between the three Swan 60s, four Ker 40s, three Ker 39s, the fifteen First 40.7s or the twenty J/109s. Also of note were the twelve Sigma 38s, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the David Thomas one-design, that the RORC was integral to commissioning.

Significantly, the weather this year was upwind, with a nasty shift into the northwest putting the bigger boats hard on the wind across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock, followed by some light patches as a ridge encroached on to the race course mid-week. As it transpired, conditions this year very much favoured the smaller boats.

There was a key modification to the course this year. For the first time the traffic separation schemes (TSS) off Land's End, Fastnet Rock and Bishop Rock were deemed 'obstructions', no competitor permitted to enter them. This marginally lengthened the race course to 611 miles and provided competitors with choices over how to pass the TSSes.

The ante had also been increased on the media and communications side with Fastnet Radio providing not only live audio coverage from the event, but also live video and commentary from the start of the race for the first time.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club had teamed up with Inmarsat, the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services to enable competitors to send content, including video, audio, blogs and social media, back during the race. To help achieve this, eight boats were provided with Inmarsat FleetBroadband. Four of these were lent FleetBroadband 150 terminals and four others, already equipped with FleetBroadband 500 and 250, were provided with complimentary airtime.

The Sunday lunchtime start on the Solent provided a magnificent spectacle with the giant multihulls leading the charge down the Solent followed by the IMOCA 60s - this fleet including the winners of the last four Vendée Globe round the world yacht races.

Between the maxi-multihulls, the Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard-skippered Spindrift 2 was at the front of the fleet over the first night, but made a small error passing west of the TSS off Land's End, while the competition went east. This allowed the MOD70 Oman Air-Musandam to lead into the Celtic Sea. In turn she was subsequently overtaken by the Armel le Cleac'h-skippered Banque Populaire with the mighty Spindrift 2 only regaining the lead just before Fastnet Rock. These two boats then match-raced back to Bishop Rock, their sheets cracked finally with the longer Spindrift 2 slowly pulling ahead.

The approach to the finish line in the early hours of Tuesday morning coincided with the land breeze shutting down. As Spindrift 2 parked, Banque Populaire was able to close to within half a mile of her. Ultimately Spindrift 2 just managed to stay ahead, arriving at the finish line off Plymouth Breakwater in an elapsed time of 38 hours 53 minutes and 58 seconds - some way off the 32 hour 48 minute course record this same boat set in the stronger winds of the 2011 race.

A more devastating finish line park-up occurred between the leading monohulls 24 hours later. Esimit Europa 2, skippered by triple Olympic medallist Jochen Schümann, managed to ghost into Plymouth Sound to claim monohull line honours. Her elapsed time of 60 hours 27 minutes and 49 seconds was substantially outside Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's 2011 record of 42 hours 39 minutes.

Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard came off worst, with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing able to pip her at the post, the UAE VO70 crossing the line at 07:25 on the Tuesday morning.

As Ian Walker put it: "There was a bit of land breeze in the harbour and Leopard was completely marooned. We came in with the new wind from behind. The same could have happened to us, but fortunately we managed to get ourselves into a position where we went around the outside, away from the cliff."

With the wind filling in, over the next 12 minutes there was a diverse range of finishers:

ICAP Leopard (100ft maxi) 07:29:43
MACIF (doublehanded IMOCA 60)- 07:32:19
Maître CoQ (doublehanded IMOCA 60) 07:33:16
Bella Mente (72ft Mini Maxi) 07:33:53
Rán 2 (72ft Mini Maxi) 07:35:19
Team SCA (VO70) 07:37
Hugo Boss (doublehanded IMOCA 60) 07:39:38

In the VO70 battle, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had been overtaken by Team SCA at Start Point. The girls crew (albeit including three male coaches, VOR veterans Brad Jackson, Joca Signorini and Pepe Ribes) had led around the Fastnet Rock and as they powered back to the southeast on the Tuesday afternoon, impressively had taken the lead overall in the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet under IRC. However Walker's higher rated VO70 passed them on the approach to Bishop Rock and never looked back.

The Mini-Maxi show down seemed to be going well for Bella Mente. Higher rated, more powerful and newer than the defending champion, she was leading Rán 2 on handicap until she fell into a light patch close to Bishop Rock, causing her painstakingly earned 8 mile advantage to be halved. As a result Niklas Zennström's team had the small consolation of beating Bella Mente under IRC, while conditions conspired against their achieving a third consecutive overall Rolex Fastnet Race victory.

"We had a good race, it's just a bit of a shame we couldn't finish it off - the wind gods just weren't on our side," said former Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Mike Sanderson, helmsman on Bella Mente.

The leading IMOCA 60s' performance was the most exceptional of this group. Despite their being some 10ft shorter and sailed doublehanded, the top two not only beat the Mini Maxis, but finished between the two canting keel VO70s. Strangely the IMOCA 60 podium was not only in the same order but also had, relatively, similar deltas to this year's Vendée Globe solo non-stop round the world race, with Francois Gabart's MACIF narrowly beating Maitre CoQ (ex-Banque Populaire) and with British skipper Alex Thomson on his generation older Hugo Boss, once again coming home third.

"It was a crazy finish," commented Thomson of the park-up. "When we came round Ram Head we were only expecting to see a couple of boats, but we could see Leopard and everyone else right there!"

Come Thursday, and with the smaller boats looking ever stronger on handicap, a French whitewash seemed on the cards.

The VO70s and maxis had been knocked off the top spot in IRC Canting Keel, by the smallest boat in the class, the Mach 45, Cartouche, skippered by a works team from manufacturers JPS Production in La Trinité -sur-Mer, led by Nicolas Grouleau. This was the latest French win following those in the Multihull and IMOCA 60 classes and the Class40. In the latter, after leading for much of the race, Spain's Gonzalo Botin, sailing a brand new design from his elder brother Marcellino, was finally beaten by the race favourite, Sebastien Rogues aboard GDF Suez, a Sam Manuard-designed Mach 40, from the same yard as Cartouche.

Class Zero and Class One were the only ones to fend off the French onslaught. In the former, the Mini Maxis plummeted as the smaller boats came in with breeze, and finally it was Johnny Vincent's TP52 Pace that came out on top. On corrected time she was 2 hours 20 minutes ahead of the Swan 80, Plis Play, with the furthest travelled yacht, Geoff Boettcher's Reichel Pugh 51 Secret Men's Business 3.5 from South Australia, claiming third place.

Pace's victory came despite being upwind most of the way to the Rock with a shift to the south then putting them on a tight reach back. "We knew we'd be alright downwind against the other boats," said the team's Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator, Jules Salter. "The last bit from Bishop Rock was pretty fast."
Inmarsat Fleet Broadband on board eight competing yachts allowed competitors to send back audio, video, stills & blogs direct from the race course.
Another British boat came out on top in IRC One, with Andrew Pearce's Ker 40, Magnum 3, finishing ahead of Frenchman Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor, with the other three Ker 40s all in the top seven.

"Tactically it was an upwind race, which caused us some concern, because this is more of an off-the-wind, surfing-type boat," said Pearce of his steed. "We were thinking this race would be better for the classic 40 footers."

They pulled into the lead crossing the Celtic Sea outbound to Fastnet Rock and enjoyed a blistering ride to Bishop Rock, on the edge, under fractional spinnaker. "We were coming down there at 17 knots, on our ear, in the driving rain and a black-as-ink night - it was very challenging," recounted Pearce. "We had to rotate drivers every hour or less, because it was very difficult."

Otherwise the race was a clean sweep for the French. The impeccable Gery Trentesaux, sailing the M34 Patton, Courrier Vintage, came out on top in IRC 2 despite this powerful Marc Lombard design preferring stronger conditions. "We didn't sail so badly," said Trentesaux. "We were lucky to have some reaching between the Pantaenius mark and the Scilly Isles. We hit 15 knots - not bad for a small boat."

Two handed winner

On the Thursday afternoon it became clear that history was in the making with the first ever doublehanded crew set to take the top prize under IRC.

Cherbourg-based father and son team, Pascal and Alexis Loisin, and their 33ft JPK 1010, Night And Day, had already made an impression, when, again sailing doublehanded, they had won the RORC Channel Race outright at the end of July.

Pascal, a 53-year-old surgeon and past competitor in the Transquadra transatlantic race and Alexis, 29, who is a professional Figaro sailor, had won the Rolex Fastnet Race doublehanded class in 2005 aboard a J/105. This time they were 20 minutes faster on corrected time than Noel Racine's second placed JPK 1010 sistership, Foggy Dew - no mean feat, given Foggy Dew was well sailed by a full crew.

The smaller boats, like Night And Day, benefitted from sailing the latter part of the crossing to the Fastnet Rock on a reach and were able to reach back. They then enjoyed good breeze all the way to the finish.

Night And Day was certainly well optimised for IRC, with a short fixed bowsprit and a spinnaker pole instead of the standard JPK 1010 retractable prod, however Alexis said of the reasons for their victory: "We sail together all the time and we have good tactical knowledge - our tactics were good all time. We made sure we slept well and we had good weather."

Impressively while Night And Day claimed IRC Three, lower rated JPK 1010s, all fully crewed boats, took the top four spots in IRC Four, with Foggy Dew beating the Belgium crew on Vincent Willemart's Wasabi - the same positions the two boats occupied at the top of IRC Three two years ago.

Overall France took the five top spots under IRC and eight of the top 10, and all of the Grand Prix classes, with the exception of the Figaro class, won by an Anglo-French doublehanded team of Nikki Curwen and Charlie Dalin. Andrew Pearce's Ker 40, Magnum 3, was the top British boat.

Generally the move across the Cattewater to Plymouth Yacht Haven to accommodate the bigger fleet was considered a success, while the Friday afternoon prizegiving on Mountbatten Green coinciding with the arrival of Jolie Brise, made for a memorable conclusion to another historic Rolex Fastnet Race.

The next and 46th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race will start from Cowes, Isle of Wight, on 16th August 2015.

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#FastnetRace - A legend of British sailing has slammed the BBC for "sea-blindness" in failing to cover the start of last week's Rolex Fastnet Race.

As The Daily Telegraph reports, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston told Yachting World that the start of this year's race from Cowes to Fastnet Rock and back "could not have been more spectacular or received more publicity all over the world.

"However, there was one major exception - the national BBC news and sports news. It was full of football, athletics and cricket, but unbelievably ignored the start completely."

Sir Robin added that he feels "we have forgotten we [British] are a maritime nation surrounded by waters and sailing is one of our most successful sports. Sailing is not elitist."

His comments were echoed by Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie, who conceded that improvements could be made in the presentation of sailing events to make them easier for TV viewers to follow.

The 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race was won last Thursday by father-son duo Pascal and Alexis Loison, the first time a double-handed crew has won the race in its 88-year history.

The Daily Telegraph has much more on the story HERE.

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#fastnet – Of the record breaking-sized fleet of 337 boats that set sail from the Solent last Sunday at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the majority has now finished in Plymouth. Just 14 boats are still racing with the classic Fife gaff yawl, Duet, bringing up the rear, having only broken the '200 miles-to-go' barrier earlier this morning.

One of the latest arrivals this morning has been the Sigma 33c, Elmarleen, sailed by Will Sayer and Tim Paull. Significantly Sayer won the Two Handed class in the Rolex Fastnet Race two years ago aboard Elmarleen.

He had been hoping to repeat his success this year. Unfortunately conditions conspired against Elmarleen, as Sayer observes: "We have come in about six hours ahead of last time but this time we haven't done half as well. This year it was neither a big boat nor a little boat race - Class 2 and 3 have dominated."

The smallest, slowest boats in the fleet had to endure a very light first 48 hours. Sayer adds that they were unlucky after passing Portland Bill, when the bulk of the fleet managed to duck into Lyme Bay to get out of the worst of the foul tide, while Elmarleen had remained offshore.

While the Maxis were being becalmed off the Scilly Isles on the way back from the Fastnet Rock, the smaller boats suffered the same fate only with the return journey across the Celtic Sea still ahead of them. Sayer reckons it took them a whole day just to crawl from Land's End to the north of the Scillies. "We were lolloping around doing 2-3 knots, knowing that everyone else was in better wind ahead - it was very painful."

Finally the breeze filled in for Elmarleen on Tuesday afternoon. "It was fantastic to finally get going, but watching our average speed it was horrifying. At one point we were lying 255th and I was hoping to be in the top 5-10."

Thankfully from here, Sayer believes that they could not have sailed a quicker Rolex Fastnet Race, white sail reaching up to the Rock and back again and finally able to hoist the spinnaker from Bishop Rock on.

For the final run from Bishop Rock into the finish Elmarleen was flying. "Last night we were surfing at up to 11 knots - two handed in the dark. I am absolutely shattered, even though we got some sleep yesterday during the day knowing that we'd be putting up the big kite once we got to the Lizard."

Sayer was delighted to hear that the Rolex Fastnet Race overall had been won for the first time ever by a Two Handed crew, in Pascal and Alexis Loisin's Night And Day. "It's fantastic news for them."

Two-Handed racing continues to grow in the UK. This year there were 45 boats entered in the doublehanded class, compared to 36 last year, and this excludes the seven doublehanded IMOCA 60s and the nine Figaros.

It appears this is one area where British crews are holding their own. While overall under IRC there are French boats among the top 10 finishers (with Britain and Belgium on one apiece), in the Two Handed class, only four of the top 10 were French, with three British, two Dutch and one Spanish.

Figaro entente cordiale
This year the doublehanded Figaros were competing in their own class. This was won by the Anglo-French pairing of professional French sailor Charlie Dalin and Nikki Curwen, the latter of the Artemis Offshore Academy, enjoying her first proper Figaro race.

"It was really intense, very different from what I am used to - I think 1.8 miles was the furthest we got away from another boat in the class," enthused Curwen. "We could see someone the whole way round so we were constantly fighting for it.

"We had a much faster run to the Rock than most of the other boats. Then we had a tight reach in 25-26 knots all the way back from the traffic separation scheme (TSS) off the Scillies, with the big kite up. It was touch and go, edgy, with everything stacked up and pilot on and just played the sails."

While the Figaro turn-out was relatively small compared to the fleet sizes typically seen during Figaro races in France, there were some key players competing. In addition to the strong turn-out from the Artemis Offshore Academy, the line-up included Xavier Macaire, who finished second in this year's Solitaire du Figaro.

While Macaire and co-skipper Yves Ravot led for the first part of the race, Dalin and Curwen pulled ahead coming into the TSS to the south of the Fastnet Rock. From there on, the two boats match- raced around the remainder of the course with Dalin and Curwen always just a nose in front. They arrived into Plymouth yesterday morning, just 5 minutes 28 seconds ahead of the Artemis Offshore Academy's Ed Hill sailing with Figaro Race Director and former Mini Transat winner, Gilles Chiorri, with Ravot and Macaire third.

Curwen hopes victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race will help her raise the remaining funds to enable her to compete in the Mini Transat in October. In this she intends to follow in the footsteps of her father Simon, although she will have quite a job to keep up with her father's record: Simon Curwen finished second on the 2001 Mini Transat and is the highest ever British finisher.

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#fastnet – Up to a dozen boats of Irish interest are among those bunched up this evening in Poole Bay as the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013 set sail from Cowes this afternoon. Top performer this evening is Irish champion yacht, Anthony O'Leary's Antix lying in sixth overall (and third on IRC one) but with over 560 miles still to sail there is a long way to go in the 45th edition of the race. 

Off Cowes, the rain stopped and the sun came out for today's start of the world's largest offshore race, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial Race.

Skipper of one of the Irish yachts, Discover Ireland (lying 38th overall according to the tracker here), reported back to Afloat.ie at 1800hrs: "We're just off St albans now with 3knots of tide pushing to make portland. Antix just ahead, Gaia just beside. 18 kts wind, said Aodhan Fitzgerald.

In the end, 335 boats set sail for Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock off south-west Ireland, with 292 racing for overall honours under IRC rating and a further 43 non-IRC boats.

As is tradition, the start was upwind into a West-South Westerly that for the first starts was around 10 knots, but slowly built to 15 as the sea breeze developed.

First away were the Multihulls, including the world's two fastest trimarans, Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's 40m long, Spindrift 2, and Armel le Cleac'h's 31.5m, Banque Populaire, with the latter very late starting. Meanwhile the Sidney Gavignet-skippered, Oman Air-Musandam, was charging along up the mainland shore. Four hours in and Gavignet's team had managed to fend off the two larger trimarans as well as the new 80ft, Prince de Bretagne, trimaran campaigned by double Route du Rhum winner Lionel Lemonchois.

peterolearyfastnet

Peter O'Leary, tactician on Antix, currently lying sixth in the early stages of Fastnet 2013. Photo: Daniel Forster

Among the IMOCA 60s it was fellow Vendée Globe winners François Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux aboard the former's, MACIF, that nailed the start line to perfection. They continued to lead four hours into the race with the Vendée Globe boats approaching St Alban's Head. At this point Marc Guillemot's Safran was taking a more offshore course, as two-time Velux 5 Oceans winner Bernard Stamm on Cheminées Poujoulat had opted to shave the coast at Swanage.

The third group away were the Class40s and Figaros. The Spanish team on the brand new Marcellino Botin-designed Tales II, skippered by Botin brother Gonzalo, also benefitted from heading down the mainland shore of the Solent and at 1600 BST was neck and neck for the lead with the Anglo-American couple Dan Dytch and Emma Creighton on Momentum Ocean Racing, both boats just off Swanage. Catherine Pourre's Earwen was also performing well, having taken a more offshore course.

The double-handed Figaros were still in the middle of Poole Bay at 1600 BST with the Artemis Offshore Academy's Sam Matson and Robin Elsey level pegging with British Solitaire veteran Nick Cherry and Lizzy Foreman on Magma Structures, both boats closest to Swanage.

The IRC classes set off from Cowes with the smallest first, the boats in IRC Four bunching up at the favoured mainland end of the line. At 1600 they too were in the middle of Poole Bay with the French JPK 10.10, Alkaid III, of Gerard Quenot leading the charge inshore, while another French JPK 10.10, Leon, of Jacques Pelletier was in front of the offshore group.

Having started 10 minutes after them, the IRC Three fleet was in the process of overtaking IRC Four. Ian Kirkpatrick's X-37, Fatjax, was ahead in the inshore group with the J/109 sisterships, Kevin Armstrong's Jazzy Jellyfish and Stephen Morris' Jambol, front-runners among those offshore.
Again in IRC Two, the bulk of the fleet was sticking to the shortest course further inshore. This group was being led on the water by two French boats with Samuel Prietz's A-40, Vitaris, inshore and Guy Sallenave's X-442, Ster Wenn 5, doing well further out into the Channel.

 

The bigger boats in IRC One were also pulling ahead of the smaller, slower boats with overall Season Points Championship leader Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, out in front, also on the direct route, close to Swanage. In this class the in shore boats are clearly doing better than those offshore, where the Clipper 68, Edinburgh Inspiring Capital, is ahead.

The IRC Zero boats have already overhauled the smaller boats and, as expected, the 72ft Mini Maxis American Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and Niklas Zennström's Rán 2 are locked in their own private match race, hugging the coast off Swanage. The Volvo Ocean 60, Team Heiner One, is on a flier offshore. Prior to leaving the Solent, there was disaster in IRC Zero for the brand new Botin 65, Caro, which went hard aground on Salt Mead Ledge.

Among the canting keel boats, the 100 footer Esimit Europa 2 is ahead, but not that far in front of Mike Slade's similarly long, but substantially heavier ICAP Leopard, both having just passed St Alban's Head. In the inter-Volvo 70 fight it is the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing that is ahead of the (mostly) female crew on Team SCA.

Looking ahead

This evening, the crews are expecting the wind to veer increasingly into the north-west putting them on to a starboard tack-favoured beat down the south coast of the UK.

Prior to leaving, Andrew Cape, navigator on Esimit Europa II, reckoned that it would take the biggest, fastest monohull in the fleet just over two days to complete the course, while he believed the forecast was favouring 40 footers. "Towards the end, it is not looking great for us. I don't think it will be a big boat race, but things change and we'll just get out there and do our bit. I'd say it would be a small boat race because, on average, they will have better shifts getting to the Rock and back. We will have a lot of beating and running, we won't be able to sail a direct course and we'll be sailing through a light patch."

Belfast navigator Ian Moore, on the IRC 72, Bella Mente, also felt that the present forecast wasn't playing to their strengths, with the forecast lining up to be a "very classic 2.5-3 day race. It is not playing to our strengths: We are fine going upwind, but we were hoping for a bit more breeze and a bit more reaching. Right now, the TP52s are looking pretty good, because they get to come home in some decent pressure, a lot better than our run home in the light air."

At the smaller end of the fleet, Alexis Loison, is sailing doublehanded with his father Pascal on the JPK 10.10 Night and Day, which won the RORC's Channel Race not only in the double-handed division, but also overall. "For my boat it is good weather I think, not strong wind, good conditions for us," said Alexis. "It is south-westerly to the finish into the Fastnet, with 20-25 knots which will be good."

Nigel Goodhew, racing double-handed with his son Tim on the Sigma 38, Persephone of London, predicted: "I think it will be a relatively slow race compared with the last few, and very tactical. The headlands are going to be decisive and it'll be very interesting to see what happens when we go around the traffic separation schemes which are effectively two new marks of the course."
The smaller boats like Persephone will enjoy being able to sail directly across to the Rock in south-westerlies, however Goodhew predicts that they will miss the best pressure at the Rock which is due for the faster boats that arrive there on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

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#fastnet – A key feature of this year's Rolex Fastnet Race will be the number of high profile women taking part, when the world's largest offshore race sets sail from Cowes on Sunday 11th August.

Yet again the Royal Ocean Racing Club's flagship event is breaking new records in terms of the size of its fleet with 372 boats entered at present. The biennial race from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland and back around the Scilly Isles to Plymouth, is now by far the biggest of all the international 600 mile offshore races.

The largest on the start line will be the 40m trimaran Spindrift 2, which as Maxi Banque Populaire in 2011 romped around the course in just 32 hours 48 minutes. As she was finishing most of the fleet had still to round Land's End en route to the Fastnet Rock. Since the last race, the fastest offshore boat in the world, which holds the record for the highest ever 24 hour run (908.2nm or 37.84 knots average) has been sold to the Franco-Swiss Spindrift racing team. Her new co-skippers are Yann Guichard and Dona Bertarelli, whose brother Ernesto Bertarelli twice won the America's Cup with his Alinghi team.

Spindrift is obviously gunning to beat the existing record of its new trimaran. However even with a good forecast this shouldn't be taken for granted.

"This race is a big challenge for me and for the Spindrift racing team as a whole, not only because of its historical importance, but for several other reasons," explains Bertarelli, who has spent the last years campaigning the D35 catamaran Ladycat in Switzerland. "The Rolex Fastnet Race will be my first offshore experience, but it will also be our first race with Spindrift 2. We are competitors and even though we will have had little time to train, to get to know the boat and build a strong sailing team, our objective remains to win."

Team SCA is competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race as part of the Swedish campaign's rigorous training regime and selection process to mount the Volvo Ocean Race's best ever all-female campaign. As part of their training regime, they typically sail their VO70 training boat - formerly Puma Ocean Racing's mar mostro - with their male coaches on board. For the Fastnet this will comprise multiple Volvo Ocean Race winner Brad Jackson, Joca Signorini and Spanish bowman Pepe Ribes. Among the British crew is Vendee Globe skipper Sam Davies and Olympic match racer Annie Lush, two of the five women already selected for the team.

For Davies this will be her fifth Rolex Fastnet Race, having last competed with Sidney Gavignet aboard the IMOCA 60 Artemis Ocean Racing in 2009. On board she is navigator although as she points out "we are all in the watch system, so I will be sailing and navigating."

Team SCA is at present one of four VO70s competing, up against the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi, which set a monohull course record in 2011, plus the former Team Russia and the latest entry, Camper, being campaigned by an Australian crew led by TP52 owner Jason van der Slot.
How do Team SCA expect to get on against Abu Dhabi? "We have done a lot more sailing, but we are missing the Volvo experience still. I'm sure their crew will be made up mostly of people who have done the race before."

Likely to finish between Team SCA and Spindrift 2 will be another Vendee Globe competitor, Dee Caffari.

For Caffari this will be her seventh Fastnet, her first having been as skipper of the Challenge boat Group 4 in 2001. In 2007, her IMOCA 60 Aviva had to pull out with a ripped mainsail and a very sick quadruple Olympic gold medallist Matthew Pinsent on board, while last year she received her multihull baptism, hitching a ride on Steve Ravussin's MOD70, Race for Water.

"I'd never done the race that quick before in my life, so I am really delighted I'm back on a MOD70," says Caffari, who this year joins Sidney Gavignet's team on Oman Air-Musandam.

As part of Oman Sail's continued efforts to develop women's sailing in the sultanate, Omani sailor Raya Al Habsi will also be competing on board. She has previously competed in Sailing Arabia-The Tour in 2012 and 2013, and is currently part of the all-female Oman Sail entry at the J/80 Worlds. "Raya has been with us from the beginning of the girls' offshore sailing," says Caffari. "She has been working the bow on the Farr 30 and has been cold, wet and beaten up and still continues to smile, which is a good characteristic to have for a tough environment, which the Fastnet is. This is big deal for Oman Sail and for Arab women in sport."

As to their prospects this year Oman Air-Musandam will be up against another MOD70 in the Seb Josse-skippered Edmond de Rothschild. Caffari remembers two years ago when they match raced another MOD70 Veolia Environnement for the entire race. "I am really looking forward to being back in that intensity again."

Some way behind the grand prix speedsters will be another all-female team led by Lucy Reynolds. While husband Christian Reynolds will be campaigning the Swan 53 Northern Child, Lucy has entered the First 40, Southern Child. "One of our regular crew asked if I'd be interested in doing an all-female campaign and I went 'why not?'" says Lucy of how this came about. The Reynolds run a charter company and the crew of Southern Child is mostly paying guests.

"One of our crew has done the race before and another has done the ARC and various transatlantic and offshore passage, so it is a mixed level of experience, and we have a couple coming in from the States," says Lucy.

To date they have had a training weekend and competed in the RORC's Morgan Cup and have the St Malo and Channel Races ahead of them to build up their experience and qualification miles.

"It has been very enjoyable, everyone just growing and learning," explains Lucy for whom this will be her third Rolex Fastnet Race. "Quite often with female sailors, they do a task and they don't understand why they are doing it. So it has been a really enjoyable process empowering people to do things for themselves and understand why they are doing it."

At present there are six First 40s competing in IRC 2 and given that two, La Réponse and Lancelot 2 Logic finished just nine seconds apart on corrected time in the RORC's recent Morgan Cup, they can expect some close racing.

Published in Fastnet
Tagged under

#Clipper - A Fastnet Race veteran hopes to secure enough votes from the public to earn a place in a leg of the next Clipper Round The World Yacht Race.

Patrick Madden is applying for the Asia Pacific Challenge, the fifth leg of the global race from December 2013 to February 2014, via Gore-Tex Experiencer Tour's Clipper Ventures.

"This is quite simply the best opportunity to achieve my wildest dreams," he says. "I did the Fastnet Race in 2011 - a long held dream of mine ever since I sat in a caravan near Crookhaven being blown about in a storm force gale back in August 1979. My brother was doing the that race. I have never seen my father look so frightened in his whole life.

"Now I have nothing but the greatest respect for the sea," he adds. "And I can think of no greater honour than doing a race like this one. It is the true test of a person, no one can do a race like this and not be changed by it. This is my wildest dream and I would truly love to win a place onboard."

You can show your support for Patrick by visiting his profile page and clicking the 'Vote Now!' button.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, a serving member of An Garda Siochána has also launched a bit to compete in the next Clipper race.

Conor O'Byrne, who describes himself as "a keen sailor" with a "burning desire of sailing around the world", has started a blog to record his preparations for and participation in the race.

Published in Clipper Race

#FastnetRace - UK-based Global Sailing is offering what it calls a "unique opportunity" to race in the 2013 edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

"Forget the concept of 'just taking part' and join a team dedicated to racing hard," says the company's website. "We do not require any previous experience but we need enthusiasm, commitment and fitness."

Full training in racing and sailing techniques comes with the race package, from helming and sail trim to boat handling and preparation, tactics and navigation.

For a crew berth fee of €3,840 (€4,489), prospective crew will take part in a training weekend in the Solent in April, as well as four qualifying races - including the Cervantes Trophy between Cowes and Le Havre - and the Fastnet Race itself.

The fee also covers a sea survival course, return passage to Cowes, use of all safety equipment and foul weather clothing, all food and drink on board during training and racing, and other general expenses.

Full details are available at the Global Sailing website HERE.

Published in Fastnet

#fastnet – Although the 300–boat entry limit for this summer's RORC Fastnet race was reached in 24 hours today it is highly likely that some places will be available in the weeks ahead because past experience shows that approximately 10 to 15% of the boats entered do not go on to compete in the race.

By midday, the Royal Ocean Racing Club confirmed online entries for the Rolex Fastnet Race had reached capacity. Less than 24 hours after the online entry system opened, 300 boats had registered for this classic race. This sets a new record previously held by the last race in 2011 when the limit was reached after 10 days.

Henny Abbenhues' First 42s7, Blondie was the first boat to enter, only 7 seconds after entries opened.

Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager confirmed: "It's been an astonishing 24 hours with the 300 boat entry limit for the Rolex Fastnet Race being reached in record time. We are delighted that the race is so popular and that the places have once again been taken up faster than ever before."

All is not necessarily lost for boats who have not been so quick off the mark to enter, as a waiting list can be joined at: http://remus.rorc.org.

Published in Fastnet
Tagged under

#RAMBLER 100 - The "dramatic and catastrophic" failure of the keel on the Fastnet Race yacht Rambler 100 triggered a series of events that ultimately delayed the rescue of the crew, according to the official report into the capsize.

Among the conclusions of the report by the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) were that the upturned vessel would have been visible from a much greater distance by rescue crews had the hull been painted with a bright colour.

The report also advised yachtsmen to look out for signs of keel failure on one-off design yachts, many of which in previous cases were found to be caused by weld fractures.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Rambler 100 capsized shortly after rounding Fastnet Rock during the 2011 edition of the Fastnet Race on 15 August last year.

Sixteen of the 21-strong crew managed to climb onto the upturned hull, while the other five were later picked up from the water after drifting away from the vessel. Photos of the rescue of the yacht's crew are available HERE.

The MCIB report found that the 100-foot racing yacht capsized very quickly once the keel had fractured, surprising the crew and leaving them no time to react other than to get to safety.

Because of this, a number of opportunities that may have hastened their rescue were missed, the report outlines.

Firstly, a 'Mayday' broadcast via the yacht's installed VHF received no response, possibly because the mast was quickly underwater. The navigator's handheld VHF radio was also lost while he was swimming out of the capsizing vessel.

It was noted that two grab bags containing EPIRBs were stored under the navigator's seats port and starboard which proved inaccessible once the boat was capsizing. The report concludes that had such equipment been located within reach of the companion way or by the helm, it would have proved easier for one of the crew to grab before leaving.

Two liferafts stored in containers on the aft deck were also inaccessible with the hull inverted. An alternate method of releasing them from their storage box would have made it possible to launch at least one of the rafts, the report asserted.

It was found that the leverage of the water ballast tanks contributed to the rapid inversion of the vessel once the boat lay on her side in the water. This left no time for the off-watch crew below deck at the time of the incident to reach either foul weather gear or personal flotation devices (PFDs).

The report also recommended that an escape hatch would have aided the off-watch crew's escape from the upturned hull, though thankfully they were able to remove themselves from below deck without becoming tangled in loose ropes or other equipment.

Although each crew member was issued with a safety pack containing a PLB and strobe light, only two were available to those on the upturned hull, and none to the five who drifted away. The report states that it "would have greatly aided the rescue services had each of the survivors carried their own PLB and activated it on entering the water".

Moreover, it was found that incomplete registration information for the two PLBs that were activated caused some confusion as to the identity of the vessel in distress, and led to a delay of around an hour before a full-scale search ad rescue operation was launched.

The report did not investigate the reason for the keel failure, only the fact that it caused the capsize, and that further analysis on the keel is being carried out by the appropriate authorities.

The MCIB also outlines a list of safety recommendations based on its conclusions which have been made primarily to the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) for inclusion in its special regulations for future offshore racing events.

The full report is available to download via the link below.

Published in MCIB
Page 6 of 7

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