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While it might be an exaggeration to say that all of the 21 crew members of Rambler 100 owe their lives to the Irish Search and Rescue service, there are certainly five people whose future prospects were greatly improved by the operation off the Fastnet Rock on August 15th. A lot of media focus has been on Coxswain Kieran Cotter and the crew of Baltimore Lifeboat as well as lifeboat mechanic Jerry Smith, whose dive boat, on charter to the media team of one of the competitors, was on hand to search and recover the five drifting crew. There is no question that this focus is appropriate. RNLI crews all over the UK and Ireland deserve the attention, not only because of their extraordinary voluntary dedication to the cause, but also because such publicity helps swell the coffers of the charity. The service could not operate without the generosity of the donors and incidents such as these help fill the blue boat-shaped boxes held by even more RNLI volunteers.

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Saved: Ireland's Rescue Services Answered the Call of the capsized Supermaxi Rambler 100 off the Fastnet Rock. Photo: Team Phaedo


The dramatic stories and pictures dominating the media show the front line of a quite wonderful resource that is Search and Rescue in Ireland today. Baltimore Lifeboat was at the coal face of an intricate network of operations, triggered by the crew's EPIRBs. Irish Coast Guard radio officers in Valentia responded almost immediately tasking the rescue resources, working the phones and computers to confirm that this was not an accidentally triggered EPIRB, contacting RORC HQ, determining search patterns and relaying the information to the scene. It was the backroom contacts between RORC and the Coast Guard in endeavouring to contact Rambler 100 using satellite phones that confirmed the possibility of a catastrophic incident involving the Supermaxi. The subsequent tasking of the Shannon and Waterford based Sikorsky helicopters led to the medevac of crew member Wendy Touton and timely treatment of her hypothermic condition, initially by the on-board paramedics and later at Tralee General hospital. And Coast Guard involvement didn't end with the successful rescue – the shoreside operation to provide food and shelter in Baltimore was coordinated by Coast Guard personnel and the salvage operation of the hull of Rambler 100 was overseen by the Irish Coast Guard.

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Rambler crew are recovered from the water after a SAR operation by the Irish Coastguard Photo: Team Phaedo. More photos here.


That Ireland has probably one of the best Search and Rescue services in the world goes back to the campaign initiated in 1988 by Joan McGinley, following the death, within sight of land of Donegal fisherman John Oglesby, whose leg was severed in a trawl winch. Eamon Doherty, the late former Garda Commissioner chaired the review group established in response to the campaign and his report led to the establishment of the Irish Marine Emergency Service, subsequently the Irish Coast Guard. Under the guidance of Director Capt Liam Kirwan, the new service moved quickly to become not only the central co-ordinating body for Search and Rescue, but developed its own resources, notably the helicopters, previously tasked in from Irish Air Corps and UK SAR.
Another element that will feature in the Rambler 100 incident is the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), set up from recommendations arising from a review of the handling of investigations into marine casualties.

It might be thought that the incident is now closed, but there are many unanswered questions and the investigation will be looking at these and making recommendations that should improve safety in this sector. These questions will include EPIRB performance, liferaft deployment and grab bag usage, but perhaps the key issue yet to be determined is why the response from fellow competitors didn't appear to happen. Even if Channel 16 wasn't being actively monitored, and if not why not, shouldn't the Mayday set off by the Coast Guard have set off the DSC alerts on the radios of Rambler 100's fellow competitors? Had the incident occurred several hours later or earlier when Rambler 100 could have been up to 100 miles from the nearest land, when conditions worsened, we could be looking at much more serious consequences.

It is heartening to think that, in this small country of ours in troubled times, not only do we have a shining star in our search, rescue, recovery and restore system, involving professionals and volunteers cooperating for the greater good, we also have a system that determines the nature of incidents so that we can all learn from the experience.
And let us not forget those people and services, such as the Gardai, Navy, Army and the community of Baltimore who are outside the media spotlight who contributed to this happy ending.

Afloat's Latest Coastguard News

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Published in Water Rat

Competing against one of the largest and most diverse fleets assembled in the history of offshore yachting, the Rolex Fastnet race saw the Australian boatbuilder McConaghy's built ICAP Leopard 3, the Reichel Pugh 65 Vanquish (crewed by the young American Oakcliff Offshore Team with average age of 25) and the new Ker 40 Keronimo finish at the front of the fleet. Leopard 3 second overall on IRC, Vanquish 3rd overall on IRC (plus second in class behind overall race winner RAN) and the smallest McConaghy entry Jonathan Goring's new Ker 40 Keronimo beating sixty five boats to secure first in IRC1 A - plus 16th on overall IRC, a massive achievement, says the builder, battling conditions from extremely light to 30 knots against a high quality fleet of two hundred and seventy yachts.
Keronimo success in the challenging 608 mile Fastnet race confirms the Ker 40's ability to beat larger opposition on the water - plus perform extremely well on handicap through a range of conditions offshore. This performance - combined with its immaculate build quality have driven worldwide sales of the Ker 40 to 9, with boats now purchased in Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and strong interest in The United States and South Africa.

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The prizegiving for the Rolex Fastnet Race took place this evening at the historic Royal Citadel on Plymouth's famous Hoe.

Dating back to 1660s and standing on the site of the fort built in the time of Sir Francis Drake, the Royal Citadel over the centuries has been one of Britain's most important defences and today is the base for the 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Fastnet Challenge Cup, was awarded this year to Niklas Zennström's Rán and this was presented along with a Rolex Yachtmaster Chronometer. The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer also won the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2009, making her the first back-to-back winner since Carina II in 1955/1957.

In addition, Rán won the Joe Powder Trophy for best corrected time at the Fastnet Rock, the Hong Kong Cup for first in IRC Zero, Erroll Bruce Cup for the first yacht home in IRC Zero.

Rán navigator Steve Hayles also won the Alf Loomis Trophy as the navigator of the yacht that wins IRC overall.

Mike Slade's 100 foot maxi ICAP Leopard picked up a large quantity of silverware including the Erivale Trophy for first yacht home in IRC Canting Keel; the Gesture Trophy for first overall in IRC Canting Keel; the Clarion Cup for the first British yacht home; the Kees van Dam Memorial Trophy for second in IRC Overall and the Royal Thames Yacht Club Spirit Cup for the first Royal Thames yacht home.

A magnum of champagne and a Rolex Yachtmaster chronometer was presented to Ian Walker's VO70 Abu Dhabi for the line honours win and set a new monohull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race of 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes, and 0 seconds.

The IRC class prizes included the West Mersea Yacht Club Trophy for first in IRC One to Nicolas Loday's Grand Soleil 43, Codiam; the Foxhound Cup for first in IRC Two to Rives Potts' McCurdy & Rhodes 48, Carina; the Favona Cup for first in IRC Three to Noel Racine's  JPK 10.10's, Foggy Dew; the Iolaire Cup for first in IRC Four to Jean Yves Chateau's Nicholson 33, Iromiguy.

The Brunskill Trophy for the best Two Handed boat overall and the Berrimilla Dog Bowl for the best two handed boat in IRC Four were awarded to Will Sayer and Matthew Glasgow and their Sigma 36, Elmarleen.

The Jolie Brise Cup for the first yacht home in IRC classes One to Four was won by Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens.

Yachts and Yachting Catamaran Trophy for the first multihull home was awarded to the 140 foot trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire, which set a new multihull record time of 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, while the MOCRA Musters Trophy for the first multihull home under 50 feet went to Will Claxton's 10m trimaran, Paradox and the MOCRA Crystal Trophy for the best multihull on corrected time under 50 feet went to Simon Baker's Dazcat D1150, Drama Queen.

The RORC IMOCA 60 Trophy for the first IMOCA 60 home went to Vincent Riou's, PRB, while the Philip Whitehead Trophy for first Class 40 home, for the second time running, was Initiatives - Alex Olivier, skippered by Tanguy de Lamotte.

A full Rolex Fastnet Race wrap-up report will be published tomorrow.

Published in Fastnet
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A shut-down of the wind and a foul tide just short of the finish line made for a challenging few hours for the Royal Ocean Racing Club race team as an armada of Rolex Fastnet Race competitors descended on the finish line. Between 0000 and 0200 this morning 105 boats, or just over one third of the record-sized fleet, crossed the finish line.
Patrick van de Ven, sailing doublehanded with Igor Quik on the X-43 Lady of Avalon (NED) in IRC 2, arrived at 00:54 BST this morning. Yesterday, while lying 20 miles shy of the finish line, they had been forced to anchor, along with two other boats, for ten frustrating hours. To manage this involved their tying together all their available warps, sheets and guys in order for their anchor to set in the 70 metres of water.

"When we put up the sails and got running, we looked behind and there was this massive fleet of smaller boats coming in with the wind," recalled van de Ven. "It was beautiful - there was this big cloud of red and green lights behind us. We were happy we were in front of them."

Another Dutch doublehanded pair, John van der Starre and Robin Verhoef, on the newly-launched J/111 J-Xcentric (NED), racing in IRC 2, had less dramatic, but no less a frustrating finish yesterday afternoon. Finishing just one minute behind a fully crewed J/111, they were forced to anchor 200 metres from the finish line for one-and-a-half hours.

Van der Starre and Verhoef led the 36-strong double-handed division for most of the race. They eventually lost first place in the double-handed class to the Sigma 36, British Beagle (GBR).

This was their first Rolex Fastnet Race and Van de Starre said he was impressed: "This is a great challenge of tactics, handling and everything. There is so much in it - I had a really good experience. Racing double-handed is about management - everything has to work well, you need a good autopilot, all the preparation in advance should be perfect, and we had it very well organised." The duo had a small problem that left them unable to charge their boat's batteries (and therefore unable to use the all-important autopilot) for 36 hours.

CLASS WINNERS ANNOUNCED:
Today the class winners have been announced. With Niklas Zennström's J-V72 Rán (GBR) claiming the overall IRC handicap prize ahead of Mike Slade's 100 foot maxi, ICAP Leopard. Rán also won Class Z ahead of the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team on Vanquish (USA) and the TP52 Near Miss (SUI).

In most other classes, France dominated. IRC 1 saw victory go to regular RORC race competitors Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau on their Grand Soleil 43 Codiam (FRA), ahead of Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor (FRA) and the First 47.7 Moana (BEL) of Francois and Mathieu Goubau.

Class 3 was claimed by two JPK 10.10 designs: Noel Racine's Foggy Dew (FRA), overall winner in the RORC's Myth of Malham Race earlier this year, ahead of Vincent Willemart's Wasabi (BEL). France also dominated Class 4 in the familiar form of Jean Yves Chateau's Nicholson 33, Iromiguy (FRA), overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2007, ahead of Persephone (FRA), Yves Lambert's Stand Fast 37/Tina .

One exception to the Franco-Belgium domination of this year's race was American Rives Potts, whose 48 foot McCurdy & Rhodes-designed Carina won Class 2, ahead of two French boats - the JND35 Gaia and the J/122 Nutmeg IV.

Despite his boat dating back to 1969 and originally having been the Nye family's replacement for Carina 2, back-to-back winner of the Rolex Fastnet in 1955 and 1957, Potts is a boatyard owner in Connecticut and has been constantly tinkering and upgrading Carina since he acquired her in the early 1990s. Less obvious is that he is also a five-time America's Cup sailor and winner, having competed on Freedom in 1980 and subsequent campaigns with Dennis Conner through until 1995, and who completed the 1979 Fastnet Race aboard the winner, Ted Turner's maxi Tenacious.

"It is fabulous," said Potts of his win. "This is a 71-boat class with some very good boats in it and we feel very fortunate. Our navigator Dirk Johnson did a fabulous job. He was always looking for where there was the most pressure and the least current. The race was probably 90% going to weather and that is our strong point. Had it been more off the wind I'm sure the lighter, more modern boats would have left us in the dust. It was a good race for us."

With Rolex Fastnet Race and Bermuda Race wins behind her, Carina is now off to Australia to attempt to obtain the last piece of what Potts described as the "triple crown", namely the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

With 248 finishers and 41 retirements, 25 boats remain on the race course this afternoon, with the prizegiving for the Rolex Fastnet Race due to take place this evening at the historic Royal Citadel. The Citadel, home to the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooks Plymouth Sound and Sutton Harbour, where the majority of the fleet are berthed.

CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Eddie Warden Owen commented on this year's Rolex Fastnet Race: "It's been a really interesting race because it offered everything: It's been a tough race - not just because of the wind conditions on the first two days, but also tough getting back for the little boats, because they had very little wind and parked up.

"And we had the Rambler incident (capsize and subsequent rescue of her 21 crew) and we had to get our act together very quickly because the first boat (the 40 metre trimaran Banque Populaire) arrived after 32 hours, so we'd only just got here and got the place set up.

"The fact that the Volvo guys finished within five minutes of each other is amazing. And the Class 40s had a really close finish as well. Just rounding the rock now are Maybird and Morwenna, the two classic pilot cutters - they are having their own battle out there. They'll finish in three, four days time. This Fastnet has been full of opportunities for people, an experience for everybody involved in it."

Published in Fastnet
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Niklas Zennström's RÁN have been confirmed as overall winners of the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race and the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup. Rolex/Daniel Forster

For the first time in more than 50 years, the Rolex Fastnet Race has a back-to-back handicap winner. Following on from her victory under IRC in 2009, this afternoon the Royal Ocean Race Club has confirmed that Niklas Zennström's Rán (GBR) is once again the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race and the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup.

Past double winners of the race include Jolie Brise (1929 and 1930), yacht designer Olin Stephens' Dorade (1931 and 1933), John Ilingworth's Myth of Malham (1947 and 1949) and most recently Richard Nye's Carina II (1955 and 1957). It should be noted that Carina II is not the same boat as the one of this same name being campaigned in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race by American Rives Potts.

The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72ft Rán finished in Plymouth on Tuesday at 12:53:44 and even then she was looking like a strong contender for the overall prize, but this afternoon her win was officially confirmed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

Under IRC, Rán's time corrected out so that she beat ICAP Leopard (GBR) by 4 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds, and Mike Slade's 100 foot supermaxi in turn a massive 10 hours, 40 minutes ahead of third placed Vanquish (USA), the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team's STP65.
"It's fantastic. It's still hard to believe almost. Everyone on the team is very, very happy and very pleased," said Zennström of his second consecutive Rolex Fastnet Race victory, adding that defending their title was one of his sailing team's primary objectives for the year. "You may say 'we're going to race to win', and that is really what we were going for, but also these races have so many different variables that you cannot really take into account. Its great when it works out."

Navigator Steve Hayles agreed: "We like the Fastnet Race and it has treated us well again on Rán. It was a bit of everything and felt like a pretty tough race at times. It was great."

While their campaign in 2009 was well planned, this year Zennström says he tried to take their campaign to a new level. "The way we sailed as a team - we've never sailed better and because we were very well prepared, I think we executed very well. We sailed the boat very hard, we were never relaxed, we were very focused all the time and we pushed the boat a lot. When we rounded the Rock, on the way back, we pushed the boat as hard as we could, and I think that we pretty much held our time on the water. I think we lost maybe 40 minutes or even less on Leopard on the way back, so we sailed very, very well. The strategy was great, well-implemented and we didn't have any crew mistakes. The team did a very good job."

Rán herself has seen a marked change compared to her two year old self with 500kg shed from her keel bulb at the beginning of 2010. Since then there haven't been any major changes, although the team have been constantly making small refinements.

According to Zennström, the boat is now well-developed and the crew very comfortable sailing her. "This is the third year we have been racing the boat, and we have done quite a few offshores and I think that is important because not only do we know the boat very well, but we also have very, very good confidence. Having done two Sydney Hobarts with the boat, and one Fastnet Race, and one very windy Middle Sea Race without breaking, we knew even if it was rough the boat could take it and we were confident we could push harder and harder. So that is very important: sometimes not making so many changes in a boat can be a good thing, because you feel the boat is in very good trim."

Navigator Steve Hayles felt the forecast, while favouring the upper echelons of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet, wasn't quite as favourable for them as compared to two years ago. "We knew there was a bit more reaching, and our boat is better upwind. We had to work hard on getting out of the Solent and the Channel and that went pretty well and then we hung on for dear life to be honest...as close as we could."

Their main competition had been Karl Kwok and Jim Schwartz's Beau Geste, and there was some friendly rivalry between the two boats as Gavin Brady skippered the Farr 80, but is also acting as tactician this year on Zennström's TP52 in the Mediterranean. "He slammed (tacked) on us a couple of times in the Solent and once down the Channel. It was a good race," recalled Hayles.

So will Rán be back to defend her title for a second time? Zennström says it is too early to decide at this stage, but it is something they would certainly strongly consider. "The achievement of winning two back-to-backs is pretty amazing and more than we could have hoped for. After the first win - and when we started to think about this year's planning - this was the thing we had to go for."

As of 1700 BST today, backmarker the Pilot Cutter Morwenna still is 30 miles short of the Fastnet Rock with 281 miles to go to reach Plymouth. At present 168 boats remain at sea with 39 retired and 107 finishers

Published in Fastnet
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UK and Ireland importers of J boats, Key Yachting Ltd are celebrating a good showing for both their J boats and Grand Soleil ranges in this week's Fastnet race. The UK firm has issued the following press statement capitalising on results to date:

The Key Yachting Fastnet Top Twenty – Grand Soleil 43 Codiam straight in at Number One

For those who love the Fastnet Race, and for many it is the highlight of the offshore season, the 2011 race has delivered on all counts. It has proved a hugely tactical race and competitors have fought for speed in a whole variety of conditions from 30 knots of breeze through to what was almost a complete shut-down in the pressure. Extraordinarily frightening for for some, gut wrenchingly frustrating for others, incredibly rewarding for those who got it right and extremely high-stress for many of the thousands and thousands of ‘virtual spectators’ who have spent the last five days perched on the edge of their office chairs watching the thrills and spills of the race online, whilst the UK economy grinds slowly upwind against the tide.

The fleet this year numbered well over 300 boats, one of the largest race entries on record. Of these, clients of Key Yachting, racing their J Boats and Grand Soleils made up a significant proportion, both in the fully crewed IRC Classes and also in the Double-Handed Class. Of course enormous credit is bestowed by the team at Key Yachting upon each and every skipper and crew member who arrived on the startline last Sunday to take part, irrespective of their choice of craft. However, one simply cannot fail but notice just how well the Js and Grand Soleils performed overall.

The huge numbers of entries, the massive variance in the type of craft taking part and the disparate sailing experience across the competing crews means that everyone who take part in this epic race can consider themselves a winner. Reviewing the race would be a dream job for any political spin doctor; it just depends on the angle of one’s approach. So, for our purposes here, let’s look at the top twenty overall. That’s the first twenty boats of the entire 300+ fleet under the most widely employed rating system in the world, IRC. In this top twenty, the number of Js and Grand Soleils was six, or put another way, 33% of the top twenty best performing crews in the Fastnet Race were sailing a J Boat or a Grand Soleil.

Topping the Key Yachting Fastnet Leaderboard is Codiam, the Grand Soleil 43 OT of Monsieurs Loday and Nicoleau.  Codiam was seventh overall under IRC, the best performing Grand Soleil in the race and they won Class IRC 1. This is a formidable racing team and this also happens to be their second consecutive win in IRC Class 1 on the Fastnet: they also took the bullet here in 2009. It’s hard enough to win, but even harder to do it twice. This is an absolutely amazing result.

The J/122 Nutmeg IV, owned and raced by Francois Lognone and his crew were the top J Boat overall in the Fastnet 2011. Another seasoned offshore campaigner, this is a well deserved and hard fought result for the French skipper and crew of this forty footer. Eighth overall translates to third in their class: IRC 2.

The Grand Soleil 43 OT, Quokka 8, the current UK IRC National Champion (having achieved eight straight wins around-the-cans back in July) used the Fastnet Race to prove that these beautiful Italian yachts are far more than one-trick ponies. Can they win inshore? Yes they can. How do they do offshore? Very well indeed: Quokka 8 was tenth overall in the Fastnet this year, a result which is all the more commendable because she was being sailed under charter by Philip Falle and his team from Sailing Logic. What a cracking job they did!

Another J/122, Neil Kipling’s Joopster crossed the finish line in very good shape indeed and dug straight in to the overall scores in fourteenth place, Yves Grosjeans’s bright red forty-three foot J/133 Jivaro was just a few steps behind in eighteenth place overall and Chaz Ivill’s Grand Soleil 54 John B closed the Key Yachting Fastnet Top Twenty.

Published in Fastnet
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After an extremely quiet 24 hours, from last night boats have been streaming into Plymouth, with over 50 boats finishing between midnight and noon. There have been some tight finishes in this Rolex Fastnet Race between the Volvo Open 70s and the IMOCA Open 60, but the closest by far occurred in the early hours this morning in the Class 40, where the top five boats arrived within six-and-a-half minutes of one another.

Having led for the majority of the race, there was a deserved win for Tanguy de Lamotte aboard his Rogers-designed Initiatives - Alex Olivier (FRA), which arrived two and a half minutes ahead of the new Kiwi 40 Peraspera (ITA), in turn just 30 seconds in front of Red (GER), skippered by Mathias Mueller von Blumencron, former Editor in Chief of Der Spiegel magazine.

Having led for most of the race, Initiatives - Alex Olivier was overtaken by Peraspera at the last headland coming into Plymouth and it was only because their last tack into the finish took them further south of the Plymouth breakwater, that they won. "We could go on one tack to the finish line and that is where we pulled away and overtook them again," recounted de Lamotte. "It was a literally a few hundred metres before the finish line. So it could have gone any way, anyone could have won it."

Finishing 3 hours and 13 minutes astern of the Class 40 leader and 12th in Class 40 was the Class 40 Dragon (USA), skippered by Michael Hennessy, who recently sailed his boat in the Transatlantic Race 2011. "It is pretty exciting stuff," said Hennessy of the close finish. "We had a tough race. It is challenging because no one on the boat knows English waters at all and local knowledge played a big part from Bishop Rock on. We had a couple of lead changes after that and the last one went against us."

Hennessy is a regular competitor in the US-equivalent of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Newport Bermuda Race. "That is great, but this is far more tactically challenging. You break it down and there are eight segments to this race and each has its own unique challenge to it. This was a really tactically challenging race and far more competitive than I had anticipated. It is the best race I have ever done."

Overnight the leaders in IRC 1 arrived in Plymouth, welcomed this morning by a prolonged and torrential rain. At present, French boats are looking to be the strongest contenders on handicap with the familiar Grand Soleil 54 Codiam (FRA) of Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau ahead of the Laurent Gouy's Ker 39, Inis Mor (FRA).

Inis Mor skipper Laurent Goyh said, "It was good. Going out of the Solent was fast and quick, but it was hard getting to the Fastnet (rock)." Goyh, whose last Fastnet Race was in 1997 aboard a Grand Mistral one-design maxi, said he felt they had sailed an extremely good race, despite running out of wind for 30 minutes at Bishop Rock, and was frustrated that their result wasn't better.

Peter Rutter's Quokka 8 (GBR), the UK IRC National Champion, arrived in at 07:31:12 this morning in IRC2, the boat on this occasion part of the seven-strong fleet entered by charter company Sailing Logic. Rutter and Sailing Logic's Philippe Falle were sailing Quokka 8 with a youth crew. "We did very well indeed," said Rutter on his arrival. "It was superb racing, as always with the Fastnet. It was quite a rough second night. After Bishop Rock we watched the whole fleet sailing up to us, we stopped and we managed to get slightly inshore of the rest of the fleet and then got 4 miles ahead in the space of about 1.5 hours, which was pleasing."

Just ahead of them on the water but sailing in IRC 1, was the Scheveningen-based Swan 42 Baraka Gp (NED) skippered by Piet de Graaf and sailed by a crew comprising many family members. "I think we sailed pretty well, especially in the first part of the race," said elder son Dirk de Graaf. "We worked well and our navigator and tactician did good preparation. We were off Land's End in a good position. In the Irish Sea we had some tough conditions and we saw 30 knots."

The Swan 42 is not known for being an offshore boat and it was the boat and the crew's first Rolex Fastnet Race. However the team had prepared extensively including competing in the North Sea Race earlier this year, along with some other qualifiers. "We have sailed some offshore (races) before, but not as big as this one. This is the best race I have ever done," concluded Dirk de Graaf.
At present the weather is being dominated by the Azores high bringing northerly winds across the race course. Over the next 24 hours the high pressure is expected to turn more into a ridge, and by tomorrow morning this will be on an NE-SW axis straight across the middle of the race track, with precious little wind in its vicinity through until Saturday, making for a slow finish for the tailenders.
As of 1200 BST today, 82 boats have finished the race; approximately 200 were still racing, and 32 have retired.

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Pace slowed on day 3 of the Rolex Fastnet Race. After a brisk first 48 hours, pace in the Rolex Fastnet Race has slowed up with high pressure encroaching into the Celtic Sea and towards the south of Cornwall, just west of the finish in Plymouth.

Since yesterday afternoon there have been just been five finishers: the last two IMOCA 60s completed the course with Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss reaching the line at 22:10:01 BST yesterday, while DCNS 1000 arrived at 00:22:22, skippered by round the world sailor Marc Thiercelin who was racing on board with Luc Alphand, the 1997 World Cup winning skier, who in 2006 also came first in the Paris-Dakar rally.

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

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

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

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

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

Like the boats that finished yesterday, Near Miss' timing around the Fastnet Rock went well, coinciding with a wind shift from the southwest to northwest. Briand said the most wind they saw was 25-29 knots, on the approach to the Rock. "The wind was okay, but the waves were 'enough' for the boat." The conditions abated for them last night as they rounded the Scilly Isles.

Unfortunately they lost their main competition, Johnny Vincent's TP52 Pace, after she retired on the first night.  Subsequently, they spent most of the race sailing on their own.

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

Another boat that reached Sutton Harbour yesterday was RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine's First 40 La Reponse, which retired overnight on Monday with steering trouble.

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

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

Similarly, the crew of the Ross Applebey's Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster were becalmed on their approach to the Scilly Isles, although Applebey said the reprieve had come when a light easterly had filled in. "We hope the wind holds until the finish - that is what the GRIB files have suggested. But, we've had consistently less wind than forecast all day today, so it is hard to tell. It would be nice if we don't park up again, as kedging a mile from the finish line could be a bit stressful!"

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

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After the drama of Tuesday's capsize of Rambler 100 finishers of the Fastnet race continue to arrive in Plymouth. Following the arrival of the 100 foot supermaxi ICAP Leopard (GBR) this morning, so the first of the Mini Maxis arrived in Plymouth this afternoon in the form of 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Ran (GBR).

The Judel Vrolijk 72 campaigned by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom crossed the line off Plymouth at 12:53:44 BST, in an elapsed time of 2 days 3 minutes, and 44 seconds.

Ran benefitted from the retirements yesterday of 80-foot Beau Geste (HKG) and 68-foot Alegre (GBR). According to Gavin Brady, Beau Geste was forced to pull out when some cracking developed in her deck and with conditions set to build around the Fastnet Rock and the onset of night, they chose to err on the side of prudence, the boat this afternoon was back in Gosport.

While they had been putting miles on Alegre behind them, Ran was on Beau Geste's tail when she retired. Navigator Steve Hayles says they would have had a tough time holding on to Beau Geste reaching back from the Rock; however, despite lively conditions with the wind peaking at 30 knots, their luck with the weather could not have been better for their rounding of the Rock.

According to Zennstrom, before the race start the forecast was indicating that this year's Rolex Fastnet Race would not just be a big boat race, but a 'very big' boat race, so they were looking ahead at Beau Geste, ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100, rather than at the smaller boats behind them. With two of these retired, Ran looks to be a strong contender for successfully defending her Rolex Fastnet Race title this year.

After the Volvo Open 70s arrival early this morning, later there was an equally close finish between the first three IMOCA Open 60s. This contest for the boats best known for being sailed singlehanded around the world in the Vendee Globe, was won by 2004-5 Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou in his orange PRB (FRA). She was less than four minutes ahead of Virbac Paprec 3 (FRA) skippered by Jean-Pierre Dick, two-time winner of the Barcelona World Race, in turn less than two minutes ahead of two-time Velux 5 Oceans solo round-the-world race winner, Bernard Stamm on his Cheminees Poujoulat (SUI).

The next boats set to finish in Class Zero are the STP65 Vanquish (USA), while the Swiss TP52 Near Miss late this afternoon was off the Scilly Isles. But based on times taken at the Fastnet Rock, Ran remains ahead on corrected time. In IRC 1, the Swan 62 Uxorious IV (GBR) leads under IRC, while of the eight boats to have rounded in IRC 2, the A40 Vitaris Response (FRA) was in front.

With an area of high pressure encroaching over the Celtic Sea, the wind is forecast to continue veering into the north and then northeast tonight and lightening over the next 24 hours, with, in stark contrast to what the frontrunners experienced, precious little wind at the Fastnet Rock tomorrow afternoon.

As of 1900 BST, 13 boats have finished the race; approximately 273 were still racing, and 28 have retired.

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While the multihull record fell last night to Maxi Banque Populaire (FRA), so earlier this morning the monohull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race was also demolished. Surprisingly the new record went not to Mike Slade's 100 foot supermaxi ICAP Leopard (GBR), which had established the record of 1 day, 20 hours, and 18 minutes in 2007, but the smaller Volvo Open 70 Abu Dhabi (UAE), skippered by double Olympic silver medallist, Ian Walker.

The black-hulled VO70 arrived at an overcast and drizzly Plymouth finish line at 07:49:00 BST this morning, just under 5 minutes ahead of Franck Cammas' VO70 Groupama 4 (FRA). In doing so she broke ICAP Leopard's 2007 record by 1 hour 39 minutes.

Despite this, for ICAP Leopard, line honours winner in the last two Rolex Fastnet Races, the race was still good as she had led her faster rival, George David's supermaxi Rambler 100, for more than 24 hours.

"It was a very good race," commented owner Mike Slade. "The weather at the beginning and the end, and the surge around the top were very, very exciting and we were all doing big numbers. I thoroughly enjoyed coming out of the Solent - we led Rambler there and led her most of the way up to the Rock. Rambler is a quicker boat in terms of righting moment and weight. So that was a great thrill."

In the fog, Slade says that they knew there was an issue with Rambler but not the full extent of what had happened (of her keel loss and subsequent capsize). When they passed the location of the incident, between the Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius offset mark, there had been thick fog.
The three Volvo Open 70s subsequently sped past ICAP Leopard in the 20-30 knot winds heading across to Bishop Rock.

According to Slade this may be ICAP Leopard's last Rolex Fastnet Race before she goes in for a major refit over this winter that will effectively transom her into a superyacht with a full luxury interior. "I have done about eight or nine Fastnet races but I think this is as good as it gets," said Slade.

Previous monohull record holder ICAP Leopard at Fastnet Rock Credit: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi
For the three Volvo Open 70s competing in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, this was the only occasion they will line up before they set off round the world this autumn. Their race around the 608-mile course was formidable, with Abu Dhabi, Groupama 4, and Team Sanya, skippered by former Volvo Ocean Race winner (and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year) Mike Sanderson, each holding the lead for parts of the race.

"It was wet," recounted Abu Dhabi skipper, Ian Walker. "From half-way across the Irish Sea to the [Fastnet] rock and back was flat out. I think our average was into the 20s, blast reaching, and we definitely hit 30 knots on a couple of occasions. And it was a great race."

They had shared the lead with the French VO70 along the south coast of the UK while Team Sanya pulled ahead after cutting the corner at Land's End. Abu Dhabi had regained the lead before rounding the Fastnet Rock, and were then overhauled again by Groupama 4 on the reach back to the Scilly Isles. However ultimately Abu Dhabi took the win, passing Franck Cammas' VO70 as they rounded the Lizard this morning, to finish just 4 minutes and 42 seconds ahead of them, with Team Sanya coming in an hour later.

"It is fantastic to win this race. When you have 100-footers, normally no one gets a look in, so to win it in a 70 foot boat is pretty cool," said a contented-looking Walker upon his arrival into Plymouth's Sutton Harbour. "And it is nice to do a race. I haven't done one for about a year and I can't remember the last time I won one! It is also especially good for the shore crew and all the people who have been working 12 hours a day to build the boat and get us here."

The Rolex Fastnet Race was not without its incidents and Walker reeled off a list including flooding the engine, ripping a block off the deck, dropping the media computer in the water, etc. But their troubles were small fry compared to those experienced on Team Sanya.

Ian Walker reported how while rounding the Fastnet Rock they had had to slow down from 25 knots in order to allow the bowman to change the headsail. When Team Sanya attempted this there were further complications that at one stage forced them to point their bow the opposite way back up the racecourse.  They also snapped their main sheet when it chafed through on a newly resurfaced winch, also forcing them into some downtime. Most dramatic of all was when one of the thru-hole fittings in the hull blew off causing a major flood.

"We had tons of water downstairs, so we were hovering bow down, but the rule is great because we have great pumps - although they have been used a bit too often in this program!" recounted Sanderson.

Having won the 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race, Sanderson was not involved in the 2008-9 event, but seemed elated by his return to the class that made his name. "I was a bit apprehensive about coming back and doing the race, but I love it and everything about it. It is a great team and you forget how cool the boats are; doing 30 knots in a 70-footer with another one beside you doing 30 knots. The Volvo boats - they never cease to amaze. You get back on them and it is like 'man, these things are quick'. And we are really pleased with the result."

Groupama 4 made a swift about-turn back towards her base in Lorient, France immediately after finishing. "We had a great race and we fought well. Unfortunately we finished just behind Abu Dhabi," said skipper Franck Cammas. "It was really interesting to find ourselves competing with our future rivals in the Volvo. Our performances are very close and there should be some interesting battles ahead."

Meanwhile more details have emerged of the keel loss and subsequent capsize of George David's maxi Rambler100 that occurred shortly after they rounded the Rock at 17:25 BST yesterday. Project Manager, Mick Harvey, who was on board at the time, said: "We were beating into big seas, launching Rambler off the top of full-size waves. I was down below with navigator Peter Isler when we heard the sickening sound of the keel breaking off. It was instantaneous; there was no time to react. The boat turned turtle, just like a dinghy capsizing. Peter Isler issued a Mayday and we got out of there as quickly as we could."

Crew on deck were able to clamber over the lifelines and onto the upturned hull and helped those that had ended up in the water. However the swell made it difficult for all the crew to get out and five, including skipper George David and partner Wendy Touton, were swept away and out of reach. This group linked arms, forming a circle, but ended up in the water for two and a half hours. Fortunately the Coastguard diverted a local fishing boat to assist, which winched the remaining crew on board. From there Wendy Touton, suffering from hypothermia, was airlifted to hospital for medical attention. The remaining four were taken to Baltimore Harbour where they were re-united with the 16 crew members who had been rescued from the upturned hull of Rambler 100 by the Baltimore Lifeboat.

As of 1200 BST, 12 boats have finished the race; approximately 275 were still racing, and 27 have retired.

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Page 8 of 11

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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