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#calvesweek – As indicated yesterday (Tues), the Cork Dry Gin Calves Week Organising Committee decided to run the showpiece race of the week a day earlier than had been planned, and yesterday the six racing fleets set sail out through Roaringwater Bay to the Fastnet Lighthouse writes Claire Bateman. After a slight delay to the start to ensure the full fleet had assembled.

With a fair forecast, and a steady 15 knot northwesterly, Race Officer Neil Prendiville ensured a full day's racing for all. He sent the smaller boats in Whitesail 2, who were started first, and Class 4 around the Amelia and on a fast close reach out directly to the Fastnet Rock and back. Whitesail 1, and Class 3 included a windward leg through the Calf Islands and around a laid mark south of Long Island, before the turn towards the Rock. Classes 0/1 and 2 had to complete a further downward/windward leg from the Fastnet Rock around Clear Island, and a blustery run north through the Gascanane Sound and northwest around West Calf Island for the Class 2 fleet and Goat Island for the largest Class 0/1 boats before a spinnaker run to the finish.
Royal Cork's Colman Garvey in True Penance won IRC Class 0/1 ahead of WHSC's Rob McConnell in Fools Gold and yesterday's winner, Kinsale's Conor Doyle, in Freya. In ECHO, three different boats took the spoils, with Peter Boylan's Sweden 45 , Annabella RIYC, ahead of Tom Roche's Meridian from Kinsale and local sailor Gabby Hogan's Grand Soleil 43, Growler. In Class 2 IRC, The McEneff/Madden/Hobbs Dexterity from Foynes YC won the day ahead of local rival Big Deal Derek Dillon, also fromFoynes YC and John O'Regan's The Main 4 from Kinsale. In ECHO Royal Cork's Ernie Dillon on Silke Breeze scored one up on his brother's result in IRC, ahead of The Main 4 and Raphael Crowley's Huntress from Tralee Bay.
The different racing conditions suited different boats in both Class 3 and 4. Dungarvan's Dan O'Donovan on Seconds Count was ahead on corrected time of both Gary Fort's J24, Jaguar from Tralee Bay and Jimmy Nyhan of Royal Cork on Outrigger. Bombora had a great win in ECHO Class 3 with Kinsale's Padraig O Donovan on Chameleon having a great regatta to date with a second placing in ECHO ahead of Frank O'Hara's, SHSC First 300, Chinook.
Michael Murphy's Shelly D won Class 4 IRC and was placed third in ECHO behind two local rivals, Schull's Kevin Murray on Dovita of Colla and Oonagh Buckley on Tete a Tete (SHSC).
In the fleet of larger whitesail boats, John Downing in Samba (RCYC) received his second first place in IRC ahead of the Roche/O'Leary/Andrews Act 2 and Bob Rendell's Samaton. ECHO honours went to Royal Cork's Conor Phelan in Endeavour ahead of Ken Burke from Howth Yacht Club on Savarna and Don McCarthy on VSOP (SHSC). In Whitesail 2, Tom McCarthy on Ashanta again took IRC honours, with local boat Dreamcatcher Frank Murphy, SHSC ahead of Michael Hearn on Summerfly and Cork boat, Tuna Brendan Buckley, RCYC.
Light winds are forecast for the remainder of the regatta, but as ever who can really tell and West Cork can be full of surprises.

Published in Calves Week
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#lasolitaire2014 – Leg Two of the 2014 Solitaire du Figaro is upon us. We are currently in balmy Plymouth with incredible weather about to be given the race briefing for the next leg. 535 miles from here to our very own Fastnet Rock and back to Roscoff. Exciting for me as any leg is but especially because we are going to be close to home for me. I sailed around the Fastnet Rock in the Fastnet Race last year with Olaf Sorensen but that was two-handed. This of course is different. 39 boats in the fleet, all of us on our own and all of us fighting for places in the most important race of our year.
So what's it going to be like? Well all of us are enjoying major summer weather which inevitably means not too much wind. It's going to take a long time. Although we will have reaching and spinnaker conditions for most of the way out and back it isn't going to be physical, it will be mental. There are a few obstacles on the way some of them real and some of them virtual. We have to respect the Traffic Separation Zones of which there are three large areas to the West and South of Lands End, at the Fastnet Rock and North of Ushant. If we stray into there areas it is instant disqualification. But we can only see them on our navigation charts and computer screens. There are no lines on the water!
We will start in Plymouth with an hour long inshore element around the buoys in Plymouth Sound before heading out to the West. The start is at 18:30 on Saturday, just as the local sea breeze is dropping off and the gradient is re-establishing itself from the other direction. So eventually Northerly going North East 10-15 knots all the way to Ireland.
I'm pretty sure the wind will drop considerably as we approach the Rock as it is almost coincident with the centre of the high pressure you are enjoying this weekend and next week. We will have to be careful as there will be light winds and transitions from gradient to sea breeze as we approach the Irish coast. We will make landfall somewhere between Castletownsend and Loch Hyne as we have to round The Stags South Cardinal buoy before making our way to the Rock. The reason for this little detour is to keep us safely away from the Traffic Separation Zone just to the South of the lighthouse. There may not be any wind and plenty of strong current flowing which might take us into the TSS, and that would mean instant disqualification. No messing. So if you around on Monday morning in that part of the world look out for the boat with the tricolor and the shamrock on the mainsail...
The way back to Roscoff from the Fastnet is the best part of 300 miles in a straight line. That's a long way in a straight line and the further we go the windier it will get which basically means those who are infront will go faster earlier. It will turn into a beat at the end in quite a bit of breeze and we should arrive in Roscoff sometime on Wednesday.

Published in Figaro

#Fastnet – For the first time in its 88–year history, the Rolex Fastnet Race has been won by a double–handed crew.

The father and son team of Pascal and Alexis Loison from Cherbourg, France on the JPK 10.10, Night and Day, arrived at 07:19:57 BST this morning making their elapsed time 3 days 18 hours 29 minutes and 57 seconds for the 611 mile race.

Winning the overall IRC prize in the Rolex Fastnet Race means that Pascal Alexis Loisin will receive the Fastnet Challenge Cup as well as a Rolex Chronograph.

History has been made at the Rolex Fastnet Race. Pascal and Alexis Loison's JPK 1010 Night And Day from France has won the 2013 edition and is the first doublehanded crew ever to do so. A remarkable, near unthinkable achievement, which sets a new milestone for the mythical 88-year old race.

Arriving in Plymouth at 07:19 BST Thursday morning after four long nights at sea, Night And Day enjoyed a blistering return leg from the Fastnet Rock. In the process the dynamic duo overhauled the corrected times posted by the crews arriving ahead of them and left no room to overtake for those still on the course. Victory represents a historic feat for the father and son from Cherbourg whose unforeseen triumph is a pure demonstration of teamwork, determination and preparation.
"Nobody said this was impossible to achieve," reflected Pascal. "It's extraordinary, like a dream. I am very happy to have won this race with my son. There are so many factors required to make it happen. We simply hoped to win the two-handed class. This is superb."
"(The Rolex Fastnet) is one of the most prestigious races in the world, with some of the most refined boats there are," said Alexis, a professional sailor and regular single-handed Figaro competitor. "We competed against over 300 boats, many professional with big crews. Our preparation was really good."
Victory crowns an already successful season for the two who have only owned the boat since February. "This is our second Rolex Fastnet together," explained Pascal. "We know the English Channel very well having done a lot of races here. The racecourse is very complicated and fascinating. There is always something to think about at each point, turn, bay."
Night and Day's closest rival on the water was fellow French JPK 1010 Foggy Dew which crossed the finish line in Plymouth seven minutes later. "We found ourselves in a battle with them for first place," reflected Alexis. "They are guys we know well, our friends, who are very experienced and a worthy rival."
Offshore yacht racing is gruelling; a mental and physical challenge even for the crews with the most resources. Double-handed sailing is even tougher. Alexis revealed a simple strategy for conquering the inevitable fatigue: "During moments the boat was going well, we would take it in turns to rest. There is no rigorous organization (or watch system)." Confidence in their approach is natural: "It comes from sailing together for a long time."
The pair's only regret is that they did not experience a dramatic view of the Fastnet Rock. "Every time we pass the Fastnet it's foggy," joked Alexis. "I'm not sure if it really exists!" "It was raining with 300m of visibility," added Pascal. "We only saw the beam of the lighthouse. There were boats everywhere, stunning. It wasn't a great advert for Ireland but a wonderful, quite surreal memory."
Night And Day's victory heralds a dominant performance by the over 50-strong French boats in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race. The top five boats and twelve of the current top 15 finishers on corrected time are from across the Channel.
This is a victory that fully captures the spirit and ethos of the Rolex Fastnet Race. "The most important thing is that the race can be won by anyone," said the Royal Ocean Racing Club CEO Eddie Warden Owen. "Everyone thinks the professional, big boats are going to have an advantage but the 2013 race has just proved what the appeal of the Rolex Fastnet is all about. They are all here because they know they have a chance of winning."
By 17:40 BST, 244 of the 336-strong international fleet had crossed the finish line in Plymouth. All remaining yachts have rounded the Fastnet Rock, including the last placed Duet and the 100 year-old former winner, Jolie Brise. There have been ten retirements.
The final prizegiving will be held on Mount Batten, close to the Rolex Fastnet Race Village at 17:00 BST on Friday, 16 August 2013.

The writing was on the wall when they claimed the RORC Channel Race outright at the end of July, but the French father and son team of Alexis and Pascal Loison have pulled it out of the hat again, successfully winning the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race.

While the Royal Ocean Racing Club's premier offshore event has featured a doublehanded class for a long time, this is the first occasion in its 88-year history that the Rolex Fastnet Race has been won by a doublehanded crew.

Night And Day, the Loisin's 33ft long JPK 1010, crossed the finish line off Plymouth Breakwater at 07:19:57 BST this morning (Thursday 15 August), with an elapsed time for the 611-mile course of 3 days 18 hours 29 minutes and 57 seconds. Under IRC, their time corrected out to being 33 minutes and 17 seconds ahead of the second placed yacht, another example of the French-built JPK 1010, Noel Racine's Foggy Dew.

Stronger winds and less headwinds later in the race certainly benefitted the smaller boats, but the JPK 1010 is clearly a competitive boat under IRC - five finished in the top 11 under IRC this year. "The JPK is an excellent boat in every condition - both upwind and downwind," agrees Alexis.

However the Loisins are clearly special too. Their victory this year follows competing in the 2005 Rolex Fastnet Race aboard their previous Night And Day, a J/105, when they again won the doublehanded classes and were second overall in IRC Two.

From Cherbourg, Pascal, 53, is a surgeon while his son Alexis, 29, is a professional sailor who has spent the last eight years competing in the Figaro class. In La Solitaire du Figaro, effectively the world championship of solo offshore racing, his best result has been eighth last year, and ninth this year.

"Alexis is a very nice guy - he's low key, but good fun and performs very well in the Figaro," describes Gilles Chiorri, Race Director of La Solitaire, who competed in the Figaro class in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race. "And the conditions we had weren't easy for doublehanded crews - a long reach under spinnaker, which is not easy to manage with only two on board."

Many top Solitaire du Figaro sailors competed in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, including 2012 and 2013 winner Yann Elies, racing on the IMOCA 60 Cheminées Poujoulat, triple winner Michel Desjoyeaux, who was on the IMOCA 60 MACIF, while another double Solitaire du Figaro winner, Armel le Cleac'h, skippered the maxi-trimaran Banque Populaire.

"I think the boat is a good reason," says Alexis of why they won. "Plus we sail together all the time and we have good tactical knowledge - our tactics were good all the time. We made sure we slept well and we had good weather."

Otherwise, compared to the fully crewed JPK 1010s, Alexis said he couldn't put his finger on why they performed better than the fully crewed boats. "With Foggy Dew, it is not the tactics, I think we have a better spinnaker and speed."

During the race the toughest decision they had to make was over which side of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) they should go around off Land's End.
While it is Pascal's boat, Alexis is a professional sailor, so come crunch time, who makes the decision?

"Over big decisions we talk...but we don't always agree," admits Pascal. His son nods: "We talk..."
In the end they went north up the west side of the TSS, then tacked to head west leaving the Scilly Isles to port. When they tacked back to north for the Fastnet Rock it was into a big lift that caused them to sail a beautiful parabolic towards the turning mark.

After rounding the Pantaenius spreader mark, it was "fast, but not furious" as Alexis jokes. "We came back from Fastnet very fast under the small spinnaker. It was a great moment."

Like all the fast smaller boats, the passage to Bishop Rock was a tight reach, followed by a run down towards the Finish - both legs sailed directly to the mark and in good breeze, unlike the stop-start-stop sailing the bigger boats experienced on this part of the course.

A significant result

Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of the RORC was amazed by the Loisins' performance. "I think they have done a brilliant job. It is the first time that in the history of the race a doublehanded boat has won the race, so that is a very significant result.

"Night And Day's amazing achievement for me is that in a very tactical race they beat a fully crewed boat - and a really good one - of the same type." Foggy Dew was second overall this year and second in IRC Three in 2011.

However Night And Day's victory also highlights that it is still possible for well sailed small boats to win the Rolex Fastnet Race, just as the last French overall winner, the Nicholson 33, Jean-Yves Chateau's Iromiguy, did in 2005.

"That's one of the reasons the Rolex Fastnet Race is so successful," continues Warden Owen. "For people, family and friends, sailing in the middle of the pack and at the bottom, it is not just a challenge - they have a realistic chance of winning."

For their efforts Pascal and Alexis Loison will be awarded the Fastnet Challenge Cup as well as a Rolex Chronograph at tomorrow night's prize giving.

Published in Fastnet
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#fastnet – As the miles are whittled away and the bulk of the fleet converges on the Plymouth breakwater finishing line, Irish interests in podium positions are best represented by Inis Mor (Ker 39, Laurent Gouy, Clifden BC), who is 7th in IRC overall and 2nd in the IRC1 class.

Discover Ireland (Reflex 38, Aodhan Fitzgerald, GBSC), is 18th overall and 6th in class, while Spirit of Jacana (J/133, Alan, Bruce & James Douglas, Carrickfergus SC) is 26th overall and 10th in class and Antix (Ker 39, Anthony O'Leary, RCYC) is 30th overall and 12th in class.

At teatime, Galway's Fitzgerald reported into Afloat.ie : ' Just around the Bishop [rock]. Kite up now for Lizard. We chose the easterly option around tss on way home. Boat very wet after today and last night. Truly miserable night at Fastnet.

There is a good showing by Lula Belle (First 36.7, Liam Coyne, NYC) who is 16th in the two-handed division.

With the wind forecast to be relatively steady or increasing over the night, there is unlikely to be any "parking up" that could give rise to an upset in the predictions, unlike the Dun Laoghaire Dingle race earlier this summer.

It's looking likely to be an all French podium with MC34 Patton Courrier Vintage followed by the 2 JPK10.10s – Night and Day and Foggy Dew, the former's performance remarkable in that there are only two crew, making them a shoo-in for top honours in the two-handed division.

RORC Update:

Doublehanded IMOCA 60 leaders finish less than a minute apart, ahead of Mini Maxis and VO70

Hiding amid the big monohull finishers that arrived into Plymouth this morning in the Rolex Fastnet Race's, the closest was between the top IMOCA 60s.

Vendée Globe winners François Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux on the former's MACIF and her sistership Maître CoQ (formerly Armel le Cleac'h's Banque Populaire), sailed by Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt, crossed the line off Plymouth breakwater, separated by just 57 seconds after 611 miles of racing.

Most impressively MACIF, sailed doublehanded, arrived at 07:32:19 BST this morning. To put this into context, on the water she beat both of the leading Mini Maxis, Bella Mente and Rán 2, as well as the VO70 Team SCA; all of these boats at least 10ft longer and being sailed with a full crew.

Alex Thomson and Spaniard Guillermo Altadill on Hugo Boss, arrived six minutes after MACIF, behind Team SCA but still ahead of the Mini Maxi. By coincidence this IMOCA 60 podium was the same as this year's Vendée Globe, with Alex Thomson doing an excellent job to hang on to the coat tails of the newer VPLP-Verdier designs.

This was the first major event for Gabart, since he won the 2012-3 Vendée Globe in February. "Of course, it is always a pleasure to win," he said. "But mostly it's nice to get back to some sailing! Plus, when it is with Michel [Desjoyeaux] it's just perfect. We still have to tweak a few details, but we have already seen that the work done this winter is going in the right direction. With the new mast, we have gained some extra speed."

Gabart observed that not only was the finish order identical to the Vendée Globe podium, but also the difference between the finishers. "It promises for an interesting Transat Jacques Vabre."

Second placed Jérémie Beyou commented: "We were second for almost the entire race - that was really good. We sailed well tactically, but François and Michel are faster. At the Fastnet Rock, we crossed MACIF, and she was well ahead of the rest of the fleet. But when we cracked off, the other competitors caught us up."

Alex Thomson agreed that the repeat of the Vendée podium was strange. "Guillermo and I felt we sailed a very good race. There were times when we struggle a little bit compared to the new boats."

Their crossing of the Celtic Sea was intelligent and in their older generation IMOCA 60, Hugo Boss, they rounded the Fastnet Rock two miles behind the front runners, falling back further, to trail them by six miles at Bishop Rock.

They made up ground on the approach to Plymouth. "It was a crazy finish!" recounted Thomson. "When we came round Ram Head we were only expecting to see a couple of boats and we could see ICAP Leopard and everyone was right there!"

They ghosted across after overhauling some potentially much faster fully crewed boats. "It was a very tactical race," Thomson concluded. "We didn't make any mistakes but we didn't benefit from any luck either. I am really happy."

Meanwhile, back on the race course...
At present, of the 336 starters, there have been just eight retirements, the last being the Nicholas 43, Emily. There have been 21 finishers in the IRC fleets and 13 in the non-IRC boats.

Of the boats that have finished, Johnny Vincent's 52ft Pace is on top followed by Vincente Garcia's Swan 80 Plis Play (the top two boats in IRC Zero) and the Nicolas Groleau-skippered Cartouche, the winner in IRC Canting Keel.

Jules Salter, navigator on Pace, said that the crew was confident in their performance downwind against the competition. The only issue was that three quarters of the race were upwind - even after passing the Fastnet Rock they were tight reaching after the wind backed into the south.

Unlike the bigger boats, Pace rounded Bishop Rock in 15-20 knots of wind and from there had a fast run to the finish at Plymouth breakwater. So will they win? "I think the little boats will do it - they reached in and reached out from the Fastnet Rock," said Salter. "We'll win our class hopefully."

After the French 1-2 in the IMOCA 60 class, another Breton boat, Cartouche, skippered by Nicolas Groleau, ended up beating the Maxis, Mini Maxis and VO70s to the IRC win in the Canting Keel class. Groleau runs the JPS Production boatyard in La Trinité-sur-Mer, and Cartouche is an example of the biggest boat they produce - the Sam Manuard-designed Mach 45.

With a crew from La Trinité, including round-the-world sailor Ludovic Aglaor, Groleau also complained about there being too much upwind work in this Rolex Fastnet Race, despite seeing the wind back into the southwest en route to the Fastnet Rock. Their win in IRC Canting Keel was down to their fast finish. "Coming into the Bishop Rock we were very fast, reaching at over 15-16 knots and then it was downwind from the Scillies to Plymouth, full speed under spinnaker at 20 knots, always over 16. I imagine the big boats in our class were very slow around the Scillies, at Land's End and when they finished."

It was generally a good day for Groleau's company. It also made the Rolex Fastnet Race winning Class 40, Sebastien Rogue's Mach 40, GDF Suez.

Of the boats still at sea, three boats have been doing consistently well today in Gery Trentesaux's Courrier Vintage and Andrew Pearce's Ker 40 Magnum III and Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor.

Having shipped his boat all the way from Australia to compete, Goeff Boettcher was pleased with the third place for his Reichel Pugh 51, Secret Men's Business 3.5 in IRC Zero.

"It was a great race. It is a pity there was so much on the nose work and at the Fastnet Rock we ran into a no wind situation," said Boettcher. "If we'd had a bit more running and reaching... but overall I think we ended up where we thought we would."

Boettcher now plans to ship the boat back to Australia for this year's Rolex Sydney Hobart. "I'm glad we did the Rolex Fastnet Race - it is totally different, a lot of scenery. There are a lot of places to go and see! I was surprised - the seas were quite flat. Coming to new places on the yacht is cool."

Published in Fastnet
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#Fastnet – Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39, Antix, rounded the Fastnet Rock on 13 August at 19:10:54, an emotional moment for the all-Irish crew. From the bow to the stern of the boat, Antix personifies the long history and passion of the Rolex Fastnet Race

On the bow, 22 year-old Jamie Donegan is the fifth generation of his family to have taken part, Henry Donegan having competed in the first Fastnet Race in 1925, aboard Gull, which was built in 1895 as WM Nixon recounted in his Sailing on Saturday blog last weekend.

"Henry Donegan was my great great Grandfather and on board was his son, also called Henry; it's a bit of a family name," smiled Jamie. "It wasn't until 1983, that Yellow Scampi raced around the Rock with Jim Donegan and his son Peter on board and I am the fifth generation to take part. I have been on the bow of Antix for the last two years and I have grown up with Anthony O'Leary's son Robert.

"The Fastnet Rock is so close to my home and it will be hard to turn around and go back, but I intend to do my family proud and enjoy the race and hopefully, this race will be the first of many."

Jamie Donegan may be the only sailor in the Rolex Fastnet Race to count a five-generation Fastnet affair but Peter and Robert O'Leary are the fourth generation of their family to have competed in the iconic race as their father, and skipper of Antix, Anthony O'Leary, explains.

A marriage of yachting dynasties
"This will be my first Fastnet since 1977. My wife Sally competed in the notorious 1979 race. She is the daughter of Sir Robin Aisher and by that lineage, Robert and Peter are fourth generation competitors. I proposed to Sally straight after the 1979 race and we have three boys from our marriage but this year is the first time I have taken part in the Fastnet Race with any of them. When we pass the Rock, we will be just 3 miles from Cape Clear and I am sure we will hear the clinking of glasses in Baltimore, as we round the Rock."

As Antix rounded the Fastnet Rock on Tuesday evening, Sally O'Leary was there, in appalling weather, cheering on her husband, her sons and the proud Irish crew on board. "I didn't shed a tear but it is a moment I will never forget; watching them in the rain, hiking hard after a 400-mile beat. To be honest I was happy not to be on board.," observed Sally, as Antix turned back across the Celtic Sea, to finish the 45th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Antix has three Baltimore Lifeboatmen amongst the crew, who assisted in the rescue of the Rambler 100 crew in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race.

Antix crew: Anthony O'Leary, Pat Collins, Cathal Cottrell, Fred Cudmore, Jamie Donegan,Youen Jacob, Ross McDonald, Darragh O' Connor, Robert O'Leary, Peter O'Leary, Ian Travers.

Published in Fastnet
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#fastnet – With the smaller boats returning from the Fastnet Rock in better conditions, they are becoming increasingly favoured for the overall win of the Rolex Fastnet Race under IRC. Andrew Pearce's Ker 40, Magnum 3, was ahead first thing this morning, but has since been overtaken by Inis Mor, the Ker 39 of Frenchman Laurent Gouy. It could be at least another 48 hours before a winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013 is finally decided.

Maxi-monohull match races play out

Like the animals in Noah's Ark, the biggest monohulls have spent the last days travelling two by two around the Rolex Fastnet Race course.

Between the pair of 100ft long Maxis - Esimit Europa 2 and Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard - it was the more nimble European maxi that led around the course to claim monohull line honours, finishing at 02:17:49 BST, with an elapsed time of 2 days 12 hours 27 minutes and 49 seconds.

Weighing in at a svelte 27 tonnes, compared to ICAP Leopard's 50, Esimit Europa 2 was the pre-race favourite for monohull line honours win and, after being forced to retire from the 2007 Rolex Fastnet Race in her previous incarnation as Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo, this time she didn't disappoint. According to her skipper, multiple Olympic medallist Jochen Schümann, the Esimit Europa 2 crew was concerned sailing down the Channel, because the moderate to strong upwind conditions favoured ICAP Leopard. In fact the closest ICAP Leopard got to them was around a mile.

Then, Schümann recounted: "At the Scillies we made a big gain and at the restricted area next to the Fastnet, we split - we went to the west, and then reached around the Rock, while they went east and there they lost quite a bit. We were 15 miles ahead at the Fastnet Rock. From then, it was like a bungie - we stopped, they stopped, etc."

The race was relatively simple in terms of crew work - there was only one jib change outbound to the Rock on board Esimit Europa 2, and downwind on the way back the conditions never exceeded 12 knots. But after all the hard work around the course, the outcome was only decided in the last moments when, like so many night time arrivals, Esimit Europa 2, was becalmed on the approach to the finish, as the boats behind approached, bringing the wind in with them.

"It would have been very easy to stop and let some other people come with momentum and pass you, but we passed the headlands in the right place and stayed in some breeze. It was much more difficult than I remember in the past," said Schümann.

Esimit Europa 2's owner, Slovenian businessman Igor Simčič, commented: "The Rolex Fastnet Race is a very important race, a very long race - it is a test of many things, not only a boat and crew. I am very happy to have such a boat and such a crew that know how to manage this potential."

"At the beginning I was expecting to have more wind, because the Fastnet is known for very strong wind, but even in this case it wasn't so easy. I also very much appreciate the effort of all the other boats - the smaller ones who will be spending four or five days at sea to complete the race."

Frustrating park-up
If Esimit Europa 2 suffered a slow down approaching the finish line, it was far worse for ICAP Leopard, as Mike Slade's line honours winner from 2007 and 2009 was becalmed off the finish for the best part of two hours, as boats closed in from behind.

Much to the chagrin of the ICAP Leopard crew, they were once again beaten by the Ian Walker-skippered team on the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing VO70, which pipped them to the post crossing the line at 07:25:03, just four and a half minutes ahead of them.

"There was no wind as is often the case," explained Walker, the double Olympic silver medallist. "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."

Ian Walker, Skipper, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.Credit: Rolex / Daniel Forster
Of greater consequence for the Abu Dhabi team is that they successfully fought back from being more than five miles behind the women's team on Team SCA at the Fastnet Rock, to regain the lead just coming into Bishop Rock.

Team SCA navigator Sam Davies admitted that returning from the Fastnet Rock they had made a mistake in heading too far east in light winds allowing Abu Dhabi to make a big gain. "Then once we were near each other it was pretty clear that we were missing a spinnaker. They have an inshore free-flying spinnaker, which we did not - so they were sailing lower and faster all the way down there."

Ian Walker agreed that the speed difference came down to this sail, but it also represented the 39 point difference in IRC rating which ensured Team SCA beat Abu Dhabi on handicap and yesterday afternoon Team SCA not only led the IRC Canting Keel class, but the Rolex Fastnet Race in its entirety. However this morning, with the smaller boats returning from the Fastnet Rock, the overall lead has now shifted back to the 40 footers, while in IRC Canting Keel, the leader is the Baltic 78, Lupa of London, although one more boat in this class is still to finish.

The match race between the two Judel Vrolijk 72 Mini Maxis took a dramatic turn further back up the course. American Hap Fauth's newer and more powerful Bella Mente had led and extended over Niklas Zennström's 2009 and 2011 overall Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Rán 2, on the way to the Fastnet Rock.

"We were very happy with our beat, possibly because we are a bit more powerful, but we orientated the boat to beat them to the Rock," explained Bella Mente helmsman and former Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper, Mike Sanderson of their race with Rán 2. "We all know that if you can lead to the Rock, you are normally in pretty good shape." For example, this included taking 18 crew compared to the 12 they sailed with in the Giraglia Rolex Cup or the 16 for the RORC Caribbean 600.

After looking to be in good shape, Bella Mente suffered late yesterday afternoon when they fell into a patch of light wind short of the Bishop Rock. "The others were bringing breeze down - MACIF was doing 16 knots, Rán was doing 14 knots and we were doing 12 knots," explained Sanderson. This caused the fleet to compress and from holding a comfortable 8 mile advantage over Rán and leading IRC Zero, Bella Mente's lead reduced to 3.5 miles.
"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," concluded Sanderson.

While Rán 2 succeeded in beating Bella Mente under IRC, she has been knocked into second place in IRC Zero by Johnny Vincent's TP52, Pace. Overall she holds third place under IRC and sadly is no longer in with a chance of entering the history books by securing her third consecutive overall win in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

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#fastnet – Jochen Schümann, Skipper of Esimit Europa 2, Maxi RP100: 30.48m (100ft) (SLO), crossed the finish line of the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race at the Plymouth Breakwater at 02:17:49 on Wednesday, 14th August after an elapsed time of 2 days, 12:27:49.

The largest yacht in the IRC class, Esimit Europa 2, has so far claimed 25 line honours of all attended races, and set 6 course records.

At 17:00 BST she was 85-nm from the finish line in Plymouth, with the crew reporting an ETA of 01:00 BST Wednesday morning. In the prevailing light conditions, Esimit Europa 2 has a natural advantage over her nearest rival, Mike Slade's heavier ICAP Leopard (GBR) and consequently throughout the day has been able to build what looks like an insurmountable lead. It currently stands at 20-nm.

Volvo 70 Team SCA (SWE) is making good progress on the heels of ICAP Leopard currently finding itself in a strong position with the IRC rating system taken into account. "Since the Fastnet Rock we have been pushing into this lighter stuff," reported Team SCA's Brad Jackson. "The boats behind us keep coming at us but we eventually hit some breeze and keep getting away. We'll keep trying to do that for a while." It was the first time some of us have seen the Rock, which is pretty cool.

Among the chasing group is Bella Mente who continues to prevail in the clash between the two 72-ft Mini Maxis. Hap Fauth's American crew rounded the Fastnet Rock at dawn this morning and, despite having to repair a broken mainsheet, the crew were in good spirits, reporting: "It was the first time some of us have seen the Rock, which is pretty cool. Rán 2 rounded the Rock a good distance behind us so we need to build on that lead a bit more for the anticipated light air finish." Rán 2's slow passage around the Rock bordered on tedium. "All this hard work for a small rock in the [Celtic] Sea!," they jokingly blogged. "After rounding the Rock we are racing back towards Plymouth hopefully with more wind." Bella Mente continues to enjoy a 5-nm advantage, 140-nm to finish.

The bulk of the 336-strong fleet is still en-route to the Fastnet Rock, the 611-nm race's emblematic halfway point. It is proving a highly tactical, challenging race with numerous wind shifts to respond to. Crews are having to strategically manage their resources with many long hours at sea still forecast. Andrew Pearce's Ker 40 Magnum 3 (GBR) currently 10-nm from the Rock reported: "Last night was much colder, although the increased fatigue probably played a part. We are reduced to a three-watch system of two hours instead of three in order to make sure a fresh watch is always on deck. Nevertheless, the relentless pace and difficult conditions mean tiredness is relatively inescapable."
A sentiment likely to be felt throughout the fleet as they head into a third long night. At 17:00 BST, 29 yachts had rounded the Fastnet Rock. To date, there have been eight retirements.

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#fastnet – Current Round Ireland race champion Inis Mor, sailed by French skipper Laurent Gouy with connections to Clifden Boat Club in Connemara in County Galway, leads the prestigious Rolex Fastnet race this morning in the approach to the famous rock turning point off the south west coast of Ireland. 

Although multihulls completed the course in the early hours of this morning no less than 300–boats are still racing at the mid–point of the 605–mile course for the overall handicap prize.

This morning's leaderboard (at 0730) on the race tracker showed the Irish champion leading, heading 340 degrees and making a speed of 6.10 knots. In 2012, in another race off the Irish coast, Gouy produced a magnificent final leg in the Irish Sea to win the Round Ireland race off Wicklow. 

In a race that has so far featured many challenges and changes in wind conditions, it is the second time Inismor has taken the lead in the massive offshore fleet.

In a further boost for Irish fans, Inismor's sistership, the Ker 39, Antix skippered by Royal Cork's Anthony O'Leary lies fifth overall in class and mounting a serious challenge for the lead this morning.

Meanwhile David Kenefick and Olaf Sorensen are ninth in class in the Figaro double–handers.

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#fastnet – Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard, co-skippers of Spindrift 2, a VPLP 131 Trimaran racing in the Multihull Division, crossed the finish line of the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race at the Plymouth Breakwater at 02.53.58 BST on Tuesday 13th August after an elapsed time of 38hr 53m 58s.

It was a fiercly fought battle at close quarters right down to the wire against Spindrift 2's main rival, the maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire VII.

At 14:03 BST Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's 131-ft Maxi Trimaran Spindrift 2 was the first boat to round the Fastnet Rock, the symbolic halfway point of the 611-nautical mile Rolex Fastnet Race.
Spindrift 2 rounded the Rock on the south-western tip of Ireland mere seconds ahead of the Armel le Cleac'h-skippered Banque Populaire as the two multihulls enjoyed a intriguing tactical tussle, attacking the final approach to the Rock from opposite directions. The speed machines are currently engaged in a gripping duel to the finish in Plymouth. At 17:00 BST Spindrift 2 retained a narrow lead, travelling at a consistent 30 knots some 200-nm from the finish. The arrival of the first multihull is expected in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
As forecast, Esimit Europa 2 has assumed leadership of the monohull fleet. The 100-ft Maxi guided by Jochen Schümann moved ahead at 19:30 BST on the first evening having taken time to force her way through the fleet after starting in the final group. She is expected to reach the Fastnet Rock later this evening. Her nearest rival on the water is Mike Slade's two-time line honours winner ICAP Leopard with the two Volvo 70s Team SCA (SWE) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (UAE) stacked narrowly behind.
Niklas Zennström's Rán 2 (GBR), in pursuit of a third straight overall Rolex Fastnet Race victory, is currently second best in the duel with fellow 72-ft Mini Maxi Bella Mente. At 17:00 BST, Hap Fauth's American crew had created a 5-nm gap between the boats still some 360-nm from the finish. With the light conditions forecast for the continuation of the race, a third win for Zennström is in the balance. Despite the intensity of the contest, there was still time for some humour from the Bella Mente crew: "We seem to be an enjoying an English summer: overcast, upwind and cold!"
The bulk of the fleet is clustered on the approach to Land's End facing a second tactically demanding night at sea as they make slow progress to the Rock. Of the 336 race starters, seven have retired, the most high profile being the Maxi multihull Prince De Bretagne who reported a technical failure.

The atmosphere on the water at the finish was likened to a match race. The whole teams nerves and strength were tested to the last. It was a moment of satisfaction and relaxation when the cannon sounded as the maxi crossed the finish line, only a few seconds ahead of the blue trimaran. The 605 nm course, starting in Cowes , rounding the Fastnet rock and finishing in Plymouth Sound, was completed in 38 hours 53 minutes and 58 seconds.

Yann Guichard, co-skipper of the Maxi Spindrift 2 «The decisive moment of the race was here at the finish. We were in close contact throughout the race with Banque Populaire VII. In the Irish sea there was a time where they were ahead of us. Everything, as usual, played out in the last two miles, where we were very anxious because of the light conditions.. This race is a sprint. You have to be on the ball from start to finish, and that is what makes this race special. Every went really well onboard, everyone remained focused on their objectives, and Xavier Revil prepared good freeze-dried meal for the crew.. We managed two weeks of solid training since the launch of the boat. We are very proud and happy to win this Rolex Fastnet race! ».

No less than 340 boats remain on the course this evening..... Launched just over a month ago, this is the first victory in the colours of Spindrift racing for the trimaran. It is a good sign of things to come for Spindrift 2's projects and objectives and that of her crew. The giant of offshore racing will be on Standby from the beginning of October for the Route de La Decouverte. (Cadiz to Sansalvadour). Her first world record attempt.

 The crew on the maxi Spindrift 2 for the Rolex Fastnet :

Dona Bertarelli – Skipper
Yann Guichard – Skipper
Xavier Revil
Erwan Tabarly
Antoine Carraz
Christophe Espagnon
Nicolas Texier
Jean Baptiste le Vaillant
Thierry Douillard
Sébastien Marsset
Thomas Rouxel
François Morvan
Simone Gaeta
Erwan Israel

Earlier report from the race course:

With the wind resolutely in the northwest, the leading monohulls are hard on the wind as they head out west across the Celtic Sea. The Jochen Schuemann-skippered Esimit Europa 2 continues to lead the on-the-water battle of the 100ft maxis from Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard, both boats soon to tack north. Given the wind direction, several boats have continued west while staying to the south of the Scillies. This includes the Baltic 78, Lupa of London, which remains ahead on handicap in IRC Canting Keel, followed by the two VO70s.

In this particular match race, the women's Volvo Ocean Race team on Team SCA has managed to stay ahead of the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, since passing them at Start Point.

"It was a night full of tacks and sail changes," reported Team SCA's Sam Davies. "It has been physically hard work, but our training is paying off and we have done some nice manoeuvres." Directly upwind, Team SCA's ETA at the Fastnet Rock is not until 0400 BST tomorrow, as the gradient wind is getting lighter and with the wind from the northwest the Fastnet Rock is effectively in the lee of Ireland.

Davies reckoned that she had had one hour's sleep last night, although as navigator she is not part of the watch system. Unusually, as the VO70s are racing this year under IRC, the crew is not allowed to stack the sails and so there has been more emphasis on the crew sitting on the rail.

The Mini-Maxi competition in IRC Zero continues with both American Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and Niklas Zennstrom's Ran 2 both also heading west, waiting to tack north, but with Bella Mente now five miles ahead of her rival. Since this morning, the US Mini Maxi, with a crew that includes Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Mike Sanderson and Northern Irish navigator Ian Moore, has taken the lead in IRC Zero

 

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#fastnet – An intriguing dust-up is taking place between the world's fastest racing yachts competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

After an excellent start, the 40m trimaran, Spindrift 2, led the Multihull division along the south coast of England last night, but earlier this morning off Land's End it was the Damian Foxall crewed MOD70, Oman Air-Musandam, that had moved into the first place, despite being half Spindrift's length. Crossing the Celtic Sea, it was then the turn of the 31.5m trimaran, Banque Populaire, to edge ahead. But at the Fastnet Rock, Spindrift 2, just managed to get her nose in front, rounding at 14.03:08 BST with the Armel le Cleac'h skippered Banque Populaire right on her transom.

"It is a great match," enthused Spindrift 2's co-skipper, Yann Guichard, this afternoon. "Right now, Banque Populaire is just 300m to windward and we are doing the same speed and the same angle."

In theory the bigger boat should be faster, but Guichard says that in the 18-19 knot winds they have, the smaller Banque Populaire benefits from being lighter. "We are too heavy, so it is really close. We gybed first and she gybed just to windward, so it is like a match race - it is definitely not over yet."

Now she's cracked off, Spindrift 2 is making 35-36 knots of boat speed with an ETA into Plymouth of 02:30 BST tomorrow morning. Sadly as there has been less reaching this year, this will be substantially outside of her 32 hour 48 minute race record which this boat set two years ago.

With the wind resolutely in the northwest, the leading monohulls are hard on the wind as they head out west across the Celtic Sea. The Jochen Schuemann-skippered Esimit Europa 2 continues to lead the on-the-water battle of the 100ft maxis from Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard, both boats soon to tack north. Given the wind direction, several boats have continued west while staying to the south of the Scillies. This includes the Baltic 78, Lupa of London, which remains ahead on handicap in IRC Canting Keel, followed by the two VO70s.

In this particular match race, the women's Volvo Ocean Race team on Team SCA has managed to stay ahead of the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, since passing them at Start Point.

"It was a night full of tacks and sail changes," reported Team SCA's Sam Davies. "It has been physically hard work, but our training is paying off and we have done some nice manoeuvres." Directly upwind, Team SCA's ETA at the Fastnet Rock is not until 0400 BST tomorrow, as the gradient wind is getting lighter and with the wind from the northwest the Fastnet Rock is effectively in the lee of Ireland.

Davies reckoned that she had had one hour's sleep last night, although as navigator she is not part of the watch system. Unusually, as the VO70s are racing this year under IRC, the crew is not allowed to stack the sails and so there has been more emphasis on the crew sitting on the rail.

The Mini-Maxi competition in IRC Zero continues with both American Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and Niklas Zennström's Rán both also heading west, waiting to tack north, but with Bella Mente now five miles ahead of her rival. Since this morning, the US Mini Maxi, with a crew that includes Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Mike Sanderson and Northern Irish navigator Ian Moore, has taken the lead in IRC Zero.

The French onslaught continues

French boats still dominate the smaller IRC classes. Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau's Grand Soleil 43, Codiam, continues to lead IRC One, but in IRC Two it is Samuel Prietz's A-40, Vitaris, that has taken over from Nutmeg IV since this morning. At present there is the unusual situation where the leader in IRC Two is ahead of the leader in IRC One, both boats now due south of the Traffic Separation Scheme off Land's End.

At tea time the Discover Ireland entry Aodhan Fitzgerald skippered boat sent the following update: Just arrived at scillies now after glorius days sailing. Going north of scillies and the close to rhumb line for fastnet. Fleet tightly packed around us . Morale good. Sail repairs progressing well! 

However the overall leader of the Rolex Fastnet Race under IRC rating has now passed on from the IRC Two leader to the IRC Three leader, still Jean Jacques Godet's J/120, Rhapsodie V, now lying six miles astern of Vitaris. Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew, remains ahead in IRC Four, approaching the longitude of Land's End.

Currently lying seventh in Class 2 is Scarlet Oyster, whose skipper Ross Appleby reported that they hadn't had a great start yesterday, but had regained some ground since. "At Portland Bill we just sneaked through there before the tide shut us off as the breeze was a bit light." From their position just off the Lizard, Appleby said they were able to lay the south-west corner of the Traffic Separation Scheme just off Land's End.

Appleby was concerned by the weather ahead in the Celtic Sea with an area of high pressure forecast to encroach over the area tomorrow. This was leaving with him the decision of whether to sail directly towards the Rock in lighter conditions, anticipating a shift to the southwest, or to stay further east, in better breeze but sailing more miles. "It is a bit of a Catch 22," mused Appleby.

On board Scarlet Logic, despite being upwind since the start, the crew had managed to get some sleep in last night. "It is quite comfortable on deck. The stand-by guys have been able to sleep on the rail a bit. It wasn't too wet."

Meanwhile the Rolex Fastnet Race Village in Plymouth Yacht Haven is beginning to fill up with press, friends and relatives of crew, waiting for the boats to start arriving.

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Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore.

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

Dublin Bay FAQs

There are approximately ten beaches and bathing spots around Dublin Bay: Dollymount Strand; Forty Foot Bathing Place; Half Moon bathing spot; Merrion Strand; Bull Wall; Sandycove Beach; Sandymount Strand; Seapoint; Shelley Banks; Sutton, Burrow Beach

There are slipways on the north side of Dublin Bay at Clontarf, Sutton and on the southside at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, and in Dalkey at Coliemore and Bulloch Harbours.

Dublin Bay is administered by a number of Government Departments, three local authorities and several statutory agencies. Dublin Port Company is in charge of navigation on the Bay.

Dublin Bay is approximately 70 sq kilometres or 7,000 hectares. The Bay is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and seven km in length east-west to its peak at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the southside of the Bay has an East and West Pier, each one kilometre long; this is one of the largest human-made harbours in the world. There also piers or walls at the entrance to the River Liffey at Dublin city known as the Great North and South Walls. Other harbours on the Bay include Bulloch Harbour and Coliemore Harbours both at Dalkey.

There are two marinas on Dublin Bay. Ireland's largest marina with over 800 berths is on the southern shore at Dun Laoghaire Harbour. The other is at Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club on the River Liffey close to Dublin City.

Car and passenger Ferries operate from Dublin Port to the UK, Isle of Man and France. A passenger ferry operates from Dun Laoghaire Harbour to Howth as well as providing tourist voyages around the bay.

Dublin Bay has two Islands. Bull Island at Clontarf and Dalkey Island on the southern shore of the Bay.

The River Liffey flows through Dublin city and into the Bay. Its tributaries include the River Dodder, the River Poddle and the River Camac.

Dollymount, Burrow and Seapoint beaches

Approximately 1,500 boats from small dinghies to motorboats to ocean-going yachts. The vast majority, over 1,000, are moored at Dun Laoghaire Harbour which is Ireland's boating capital.

In 1981, UNESCO recognised the importance of Dublin Bay by designating North Bull Island as a Biosphere because of its rare and internationally important habitats and species of wildlife. To support sustainable development, UNESCO’s concept of a Biosphere has evolved to include not just areas of ecological value but also the areas around them and the communities that live and work within these areas. There have since been additional international and national designations, covering much of Dublin Bay, to ensure the protection of its water quality and biodiversity. To fulfil these broader management aims for the ecosystem, the Biosphere was expanded in 2015. The Biosphere now covers Dublin Bay, reflecting its significant environmental, economic, cultural and tourism importance, and extends to over 300km² to include the bay, the shore and nearby residential areas.

On the Southside at Dun Laoghaire, there is the National Yacht Club, Royal St. George Yacht Club, Royal Irish Yacht Club and Dun Laoghaire Motor Yacht Club as well as Dublin Bay Sailing Club. In the city centre, there is Poolbeg Yacht and Boat Club. On the Northside of Dublin, there is Clontarf Yacht and Boat Club and Sutton Dinghy Club. While not on Dublin Bay, Howth Yacht Club is the major north Dublin Sailing centre.

© Afloat 2020

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