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With 312 entries in the IRC divisions alone, and numbers pushing towards the 400 mark when all classes are included, the record-breaking Fastnet Race 2017 was surely on the edge of becoming an unwieldy beast as it got under way in classic style westward down the Solent on Sunday August 6th. Add in the fact that the mountain of results was only being finalised on the following Friday, when the rhythm of the sporting week was already starting to bring major weekend arena events to the top of the demanding media agenda, and you inevitably have the prescription for a hasty allocation of subsidiary awards which risks seeing some trophies going to the wrong recipients. W M Nixon takes a look at how it all eventually came right in one very special case.

The Roger Justice Trophy is a handsome cup in the Rolex Fastnet Race array of silverware, yet it’s a cup for which nobody specifically competes. It goes to whichever offshore sailing school has done best in the overall results, and there were upwards of thirty boats eligible for it in 2017. But as Kenneth Rumball of the Irish National Sailing School tersely comments, if you’re racing a school boat in the Fastnet and you’re only interested in the Roger Justice Trophy, then you’re missing the point completely.

For as he sees it, the entire purpose of taking your training vessel in the Fastnet is to throw the tyro crew into open competition. You’re not seeking any special concessions because you’re a school boat. On the contrary, you’re there because this is the big boys’ game. You’re playing by the big boys’ rules. And you’re taking on the very best of them head-to-head, with no concessions expected.

jedi fastnet start2Head-to-head competition in the open fleet with no concessions expected. Jedi makes a dream of a port tack start in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. And yes, she did pass clear ahead of that boat (top left) romping in on starboard tack. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The story of how the Irish National Sailing School in its busy corner of the Inner Harbour of Dun Laoghaire came into being in the 1970s is now the stuff of legend. Our most recent detailed look at it came in this blog on 16th May 2015, when we headlined with an account of how school founder Alistair Rumball had expanded his additional advisory and boat provision role with the TV and movie business by organising the longships for the television series Vikings, thereby providing an additional income source to help the INSS through the depths of the economic recession.

In this he had the full support of his wife Muriel, who is the overall administrator of the school. And as it was a situation that demanded sacrifices in terms of working hours, pay and conditions which could never be expected from a non-family employee, their son Kenneth jacked in his job in Dublin as an accountant, and became the on-water principal.

By 2015 the light at the end of the tunnel had become a warm, steady and reassuring glow, and when we were there on a May evening, things were definitely on the up-and-up. In the basic but very functional premises, the first committee meeting of the recently-formed Irish National Sailing Club was being held. It had been set up in order to organize races and provide sailing school graduates with a club membership to comply with major event requirements, and to reflect that while the INSS was definitely a school, for many participants it had attractive elements of a club about it.

alistair muriel kenneth3Alistair, Muriel and Kenneth Rumball – the family’s devoted work with the Irish National Sailing School has made an enormous contribution to Irish sailing. Photo: W M Nixon

Alistair was busier than ever with Viking ships which had to be replaced from time to time just wherever he could find a builder who could comply with strict standards and a tight budget, and Kenneth was thinking ahead to further development of the uses of a fleet which included craft up to 1720s size, with the Reflex 38 Lynx in prospect as the school flagship with serious offshore racing possibilities.

In the intervening two and more years, many things have happened. Sadly, Alistair’s brother Arthur died much mourned in December 2016. He had been a cornerstone of the school structure as he was in charge of maintenance of the enormous, very varied and growing training fleet, but he’d trained his staff well, and his high standards have been maintained.

But by December 2016, the club’s fleet structure had been enhanced with the addition of the Reflex 38 which Kenneth had skippered to tenth overall in the fleet of 63 boats in the Volvo Round Ireland Race, winning the sailing schools division.

Yet despite this successful debut on what was now the international scene, they’d already concluded that the technically difficult Reflex 38 was not the ideal offshore racing boat for a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school to make the best use of the unique combination of possibilities which Dublin Bay and its adjacent long distance racing areas provided.

Longterm readers of don’t need reminding that we have been banging on for a very long time indeed about just how ideal is the J/109 to embody Dublin Bay’s noble One-Design tradition. So when word came through that the Irish National Sailing School had bought the 2002-built J/109 Jedi II with the aim of serious campaigning in the 2017 season, it was very good news indeed.

It’s the perfect package – a very manageable boat, straightforward to sail with a bowsprit and asymmetricals, plenty of sister-ships to pace yourself against offshore, and a cracking fleet in Dublin Bay to give INSS students a taste of inshore One-Design racing at its very best.

kenneth rumball4Kenneth Rumball in the INSS’s decidedly basic premises on Dun Laoghaire’s Inner Harbour this week. He took a 15-year-old J/109 and transformed her into a race winner. Photo: W M Nixon

But there was much to be done to bring Jedi up to Kenneth Rumball’s demanding requirements. At 29, he was already a successful veteran of the Round Ireland, Fastnet, Middle Sea and Sydney-Hobart Races. So a year’s campaigning culminating in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 demanded a programme of painstaking remedial work to optimize Jedi for the serious stuff.

In doing this, he was helped by two things. Arthur Rumball’s legacy was a skilled workshop staff who could assist Kenneth in reducing superfluous weight in Jedi – in all, about 350 kilogrammes of unnecessary equipment and “ornaments” came out of her, while her underwater hull was taken down to the gelcost and her keel got a proper fairing. But as well, Andrew Algeo had also recently also joined the Dublin Bay J/109 fleet with the newer Joggerknot. He too was engaged in optimizing her for the high standard of racing of the Dun Laoghaire fleet, so between them they provided a real Brain’s Trust for the exchange and implementation of ideas.

At a high point in January 2017, it looked as if the INSS might have two boats in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Kenneth had just come back from racing the Sydney-Hobart in a First 40, and was filled with enthusiasm for the potential of having the school’s two boats in the Fastnet. So he set up two Rolex Fastnet Race 2017s entry procedures side-by-side on two separate laptops on the school’s work table. There was just time to have everything in order as the closing date arrived, and for those who have had difficulty in even getting their Fastnet Race entry considered, it will be maddening to hear that both INSS boats made the cut.

But over the coming months, harsh reality intervened as the sheer logistics challenge of managing and manning two proper school entries from a base in Dun Laoghaire in a race starting off Cowes became apparent, and Lynx’s slot was returned to the RORC office.

Thanks to this slimming of the operation, things were looking very good for the season’s campaigning of the revitalized Jedi. Early races were providing increasingly encouraging results, and the places in the training programme towards participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 had been quickly snapped up and money paid up front by a diverse line-up of trainees. This meant they’d comfortably comply with the RORC’s fairly modest definition of a sailing school entry as a boat which was sailing school-owned, and had a 50/50 lineup between experienced and trainee crew.

It has to be remembered that this was all taking shape as the INSS was entering its busiest time of the year in its core activity of being a sailing school which gets hundreds of people from every background afloat in a wide variety of boats in Dublin Bay, a significant proportion of them for the very first time.

jedi leading5Jedi leading the offshore fleet. The combination of Dublin Bay One-Design sailing with the J/109s, combined with readily-available offshore racing, offers a superb opportunity to learn – but only for those who can stick the pace. Photo:

So it was a cruel blow when the wheels came off the Jedi programme on May 13th with the ISORA Holyhead-Dun Laoghaire Race. A rugged event with wind-over-tide conditions and the sea at its coldest, it may have seen hardened veterans like Paul O’Higgins and his tough crew in the JPK 10.80 Rockabill VI revelling in the going to win, and there was also good going by second-placed Transatlantic veteran Conor Fogerty in the Sunfast 3600 Bam. But aboard Jedi there was misery and seasickness rampant among the trainees, and at race’s end three of them pulled out of the Fastnet programme.

They’d already paid up, but in time an amicable financial settlement was reached, and Kenneth Rumball set about filling the empty places, though as the end of May approached, he was not feeling optimistic. Yet they managed to get a crew with the right configuration together for the vital Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race on 11th June, seen as a key qualifier and training event, yet here too things went pear-shaped.

The unbelievably rugged beat round Ireland’s rocky southeast corner took a savage toll with wholesale retirals, and one of Jedi’s crew became ill beyond seasickness. It was feared they were having a stroke, and the whole purpose on board became focussed on getting into Dunmore East as quickly as possible and getting the casualty to hospital, where recovery was complete. But by the time that had been done, it was clear they were out of the race, and they sailed disconsolately back to Dun Laoghaire to pick up the pieces.

Fortunately the rest of the crew were still more than game for the Fastnet challenge, and they’d ISORA’s Lyver Trophy Race on June 30th before the Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta from 6th to 9th July to provide the final necessary qualifier. But the race was postponed because of a severe gale, put back to a date three weeks hence, which would leave the final Jedi qualifier only a narrow window of opportunity.

Yet suddenly, they were in a time of hope. Jedi with many of her potential Fastnet crew on board had a great Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. They finished second in class, and the team were bonding in a very encouraging way.

Jedi vdlr6When it all finally started to come together. Alistair & Muriel Rumball with Jedi’s crew at the prize-giving ceremony for Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta, July 9th 2017. To celebrate Dun Laoghaire’s 200th Anniversary, one of the prizes was a picture of the first regatta at the harbour, in 1828.

Two weeks later, the Lyver Trophy was sailed on July 21st from Holyhead round Rockabill to Dun Laoghaire, and they’d a good race of it. Although the winner was the all-conquering J/109 Sgrech (Stephen Tudor), Rumball and his crew were right in the thick of it chasing in a three-way match race with sister ship Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), and they finished with the feeling that at last they had the basis of a proper Fastnet challenge, albeit with just a fortnight to go to the start.

So the fact that Kenneth Rumball finally filled in the form to define them as a sailing school entry with less than a fortnight to go to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 may have had something to do with the subsequent initial post-race mis-allocation of an award. He himself regarded the sailing school thing as very secondary to the core Jedei theme of being in the midst of the main fleet, and in any case he had the prodigious logistical challenge of transferring the focal point of the campaign from the school office in Dun Laoghaire to the Solent.

In times long past, anyone doing the Fastnet Race expected to spend the days beforehand berthed in Cowes. But with current entry numbers and the Solent area’s overcrowded situation, being in Cowes is if anything a disadvantage for a campaign from Dublin with limited resources and very extended lines of communication. In the circumstances, the way the Jedi team handled this was real textbook stuff.

Time and personnel resources were of the essence, so they arranged for the boat to be delivered on a semi-professional basis to the relative peace and quiet of Mercury Yacht Harbour well up the Hamble River over on the Solent’s mainland shore. And while the rest of the crew flew over in time to allow three clear days for final preparation, Kenneth and Lorcan Tighe stocked up a mini-bus to double as shore transport and a workshop/storeroom, and they took the Holyead ferry and drove it post-haste to the Hamble

jedi crew7Just ever so slightly nervous….Jedi crew in Mercury Yacht Harbour on the River Hamble early on the morning of the start of the Rolex Fastet Race 2017 

Lorcan Tighe (17) may have been be Jedi’s most junior crewman in terms of age, but he was one of the most experienced on board. From Killiney in Dublin, his family is non-sailing though his dad is into scuba diving. But when he was just six, Lorcan took a week-long course at the INSS, and was hooked. So although he now has his own Laser based at the National YC, his heart stays with the INSS where he instructs evenings and weekends and during holidays (he’s in final year at Marian College in Ballsbridge). And he’s mad keen on the offshore thing, taking on the hugely challenging job of being the bowman on Lynx during the 2016 Volvo Round Ireland Race.

He’s a talented helmsman too, so he was very much on the “experienced sailor” side of the equation aboard Jedi, where the co-skipper with Kenneth Rumball was Conor Kinsella (28), who’s from Tullamore and works in finance.

As for the “trainees”, they were very much of the Ireland of today. Deirdre Foley works in banking, Kylie McMillan (29) is in financial consulting, Keith Kiernan (41) is in insurance, George Tottenham (38) is in windfarms, and Fearghus McCormack – whom Kenneth Rumball reckons to be about 40 – is Mine Host of that splendid establishment, the Merrion Inn in the heart of Dublin 4.

Kenneth Rumball is refreshingly non-ageist, so apart from Lorcan Tighe who put us right on his young age, all those ages are only guesses. And Rumball is also refreshingly dismissive of the whole experienced/trainee divide. As far as he and his shipmates were concerned, they were a team, they were crew together, they had a joint mission to perform and everyone was doing his or her very best, and that was all there was to it. There were emphatically no artificial them-and-us divisions on Jedi.

jedi departs8Here we go…Jedi leaves the now-familiar surroundings of Mercury Yacht Harbour, heading for the start of the Fastnet Race

After such a saga of setback and breakthrough, the Fastnet Race itself could have just been just the concluding chapter in an extraordinary tale of triumph over tribulation. But of course for Jedi’s crew, it was the pinnacle. And it was high adrenalin stuff from the start. Kenneth Rumball set out to take on the best of the opposition head-to-head, and he’d the great Carlo Borlenghi to photograph the moment when Jedi made the sort of clear-away port tack start that is inevitable in traditional Fastnet conditions, yet few manage it so well.

As for the race itself, Deirdre Foley speaks for all with her enthusiastic memories: “I loved every minute of it. Superior planning and attention to tactics/routes etc, a great crew – great sense of humour and craic……on water we had some great wind overnight on our return journey to Plymouth – what looked to be a full moon, nice sea state, Jedi flying along like the wind, for me the best part of a wonderful race”

Young Loran Tighe takes, as you’d expect, a mature overview despite his youth. After all, this is a guy who was working the foredeck of Lynx at the age of 16, racing through the night off Ireland’s Atlantic coast:

“It was great to get the chance to experience the Fastnet Race, but also everything that led up to it including the ISORA series and Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta. Great boat, good plan, and in the end, a crew put together that made a super season of it”.

As to the actual race, the irony of it is that it looked as though they were having their closest race with sister-ship Mojito from the other side of the Irish Sea but the reality of a fleet the size of the Fastnet is that you’ve races going on at every side of you, and in the end the way that conditions of tide, wind and whatever pan out will mean that boats a certain size, type, and rating cohort will win out.

Thus everything was going the way of Jedi and her cohort after beating out to the Fastnet in classic style. The overall leader on IRC at the Rock was the JPK 10.10 Night and Day (Pascal Loison), with fellow French skipper Noel Racine second in sister-ship Foggy Dew, while third was Ireland’s Paul Kavanagh in the vintage Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan.

Their ratings are 1.003, 1.002 and 0.985 respectively, which tells us much. Mojito at the stage was at he best place in the race, she was ninth overall rating 1.010, while Jedi was in contention, rating 1.008 and in 11th place overall, just one place ahead of RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the RIYC racing the first 44.7 Lisa.

jedi fastnet9On top of the world….with 17-year-old Lorcan Tighe on the wheel, Jedi heads for Plymouth from the Fastnet Rock lying 11th overall in the 312-strong fleet

But on the fast sail back to Plymouth, it was boats around the 40ft mark which carried the favourable conditions best, and the JNA 39 Llan Ael 2 (Didier Gaoudoux, France) rose up the rankings from 29th overall at the Rock to become overall winner, while Lisa was remarkably consistent to move up from 12th to 8th.

But for the smaller J/109s, things became distinctly unfavourable, and though Jedi did indeed run like the wind, getting ahead of Mojito despite seeing her A3 blow out when it shouldn’t have, by the time she was in the final approaches to Plynouth the bite had long gone gone from the wind, and she cascaded down to 58th overall.

She was still very much the first J/109, and while she was 8th in IRC 3, she was first in IRC 3B for boats doing their first Fastnet. There was a cherished medallion in line for that, for a first in class in the greatest Rolex Fastnet Race ever held is something very special.

jedi plymouth approach10Aboard Jedi approaching Plymouth and the finish as night draws on, Thursday 10th August. The wind is slipping away, and she no longer holds a top overall placing, but is leading Class 3B.

On that crowded Friday afternoon in Plymouth with mountains of results figures still being assimilated and analysed, the Roger Justice Trophy went to a Sailing School Farr 60. Something strange here. A scan of the results showed that Jedi been well ahead of that Farr 60 on corrected time. But with everyone going their various ways with Conor Kinsella heading off to retrieve the mini-bus from the Hamble while Kenneth Rumball cruised Jedi home, sorting it out could be left to a later date.

With that Class 3B win under their belt, there was time enough to see about putting the record straight. And when they later contacted the RORC office, they were told that there had indeed indeed been an error, and the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy was Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire in the Sunfast 37 Desert Star, thereby repeating Ronan O Siochru’s success of 2015.

So then they’d to get back to the number crunchers again, and gently suggest to them that it was indeed a Dun Laoghaire-based sailing school which had won the Roger Justice Trophy, but it was a different one - it was the Irish National Sailing School and the boat was called Jedi.

jedi gets justice11Jedi gets Justice – RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, Committee Member Lucy Reynolds, and Kenneth Rumball as the Roger Justice Trophy finally reaches its rightful winner in RORC headquarters in London last week.

It’s understandable that it happened. After all, Jedi’s final fully-qualified crew list as a sailing school was only submitted to the race office with about ten days to go to the start of the race. The sheer weight of data flying about by this stage must have been smothering for those handling it.

But it all came right at the end, though admittedly it was the very end. At an awards ceremony in the RORC in London last week, at the last moment Jedi was finally called forward to receive the Roger Justice Trophy. Forget that old saying about justice delayed is justice denied. In sailing, it’s acceptable if justice is done in due course, and is seen to be done.

Published in W M Nixon

Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish Yacht Club is so successful in his multi-tasking as an impressive Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and a very competent and frequently-competing skipper in in its annual 12-race Mainseries Points Championship, that we risk taking his achievements for granted.

Yet in August he excelled himself with a brilliantly consistent Fastnet Race, well-placed at both the Rock and the finish in skippering the First 44.7 Lisa to place second in class, and becoming far and away the leading Irish skipper to win the Gull Salver and become our “Sailor of the Month (Offshore)” for August.

But the duties were only beginning for the RORC Commodore as the Fastnet finishers in this record fleet crossed the line. In Plymouth he recorded an early-morning video just after finishing which so eloquently expressed the deeper meaning of this great race that he spoke for all competitors in a memorable display of quiet yet very committed enthusiasm.

In this current weekend, Boyd and his crew – with includes some other noted Irish offshore racing names – are shaping up to place well in the RORC’s penultimate race of the 2017 season. But we would remind everyone that September finished on Thursday, then take two days for the adjudication process, and our current batch of awards refer only to achievement in August.

Published in Sailor of the Month
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An event as complex as the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 throws up so many facts and figures in a very short space of time that we have to make sense of it all on the hop as best we can writes W M Nixon. Thus it may well be that in the long run, people will remember that this year’s classic showed that when the Volvo World Race people said their new generation of boats were going to be completely and utterly one design, they really meant it – they finished as a group, and the winner Dongfeng was only 54 seconds ahead of second-placed Mapfre.

But with 312 boats racing in the IRC Division, trying to make sense of it takes quite a bit of doing, and every so often the Secret Angels of the Internet throw in a glitch which give us pause for thought, and then some.

fulmar fever2The yellow-hulled Fulmar Fever getting a good start in a WHSC event at Dunmore East
One such pause came at lunchtime yesterday. There we were, all wondering what were the chances of that decent man Ron O’Hanley from America holding on to his popular overall lead with his Cookson 50 Privateer, when up it popped on the Official Leaderboard: The winning boat was Robert Marchant’s Fulmar 32 Fulmar Fever from Waterford Harbour SC at Dunmore East.

fulmar fever3Her moment of glory. At lunchtime today, Fulmar Fever was on top

fulmar fever4And it seems it was no error. She may still have been at sea, slugging along towards the Fastnet, but the fates had decided it was Fulmar Fever’s day to be overall winner

Click over to the Tracker Chart, and it was further confirmed, even if somehow it had happened while the bright yellow Fulmar Fever was still slugging to windward in the middle of the Celtic Sea at a determined 5.4 knots.

By now, it has all been sorted out. But that little twist to events was a reminder of the sheer variety of the Fastnet fleet, and the gallant effort made by people like Robert Marchant and his Number One helm Dave Delahunt to get to Cowes, and then get themselves around the Fastnet course in a hefty boat of another era.

Meanwhile, in the zippier end of the fleet, for the Irish contingent it emerges the Donegal men have been doing well, and so has a top skipper from Belfast Lough. Best placed finisher at 30th overall is Sean McCarter of Lough Swilly in command of the Infiniti 46R Maverick, while his clubmate Richie Fearon in charge of Alan Hannon’s RP 45 Katsu is 32nd.

artemis ocean5Skippered by Mikey Ferguson from Bangor, Artemis Ocean Racing has managed to beat Rambler 88 by one place on corrected time

Mikey Ferguson from Bangor is skipper of the IRC-rated former IMOCA 60 Artemis Ocean Racing, and he has finished to place 34th, which puts him one place ahead on corrected time of the mighty Rambler 88, no less, so this is something to be savoured.

For many in the body of the fleet, there’s still a long way to go, but suggests you keep a close eye on the Tracker here 

And if those Secret Angels of the Internet are throwing more magic glitches, you never know what you might find...

Published in Fastnet
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The northwest to north breeze which filled in over the Celtic Sea overnight has refreshed the record Rolex Fastnet race 2017 fleet in every way, and the long beat from Land’s End out to the rock now has many nostalgic overtones of classic Fastnet Race in times past writes W M Nixon.

But in times past the fleet didn’t have to deal with the strict imposition of the enormous Traffic Separation Zone immediately west of Land’s End, which is like a large and awkward phantom island which is quite real enough to have a fundamental effect on tactics.

Yesterday it was Jean-Pierre Dick who first elected to go southwest of it with his IMOCA 60 StMichel-Virbec, and then go on north to northwest between it and the Isles of Scilly. It’s a tactic which many others have followed since, and it certainly seemed to do StMichel-Virbec no harm, as he currently nears the Fastnet Rock lying third in IMOCA 60, and well ahead of arch-rivals Alex Thomson and Nin O’Leary in Hugo Boss, who chose the eastern option.

The MOD 70 Concise 10 finished her lonely race (she’s the only MOD 70 in the game this time round) at 0700hrs in Plymouth this morning, so now attention can focus undistracted on the mono-hulls. George David’s Rambler 88 lead them round the rock at around 0400 hours this morning, very much out on her own by a huge margin, and sailing at the more familiar speed of 16 knots after a slow outward passage. Rambler is now well in front with 187 miles to the finish and 18 knots on the clock.

The mighty 115ft Nikita (Tom Brewer) has found the new going very much to her liking, and on IRC she leads both in Class Zero and overall, having rounded at 0644, while Rambler’s much zippier performance, albeit with higher handicap, means she’s second in both categories. Although pundits had talked of it becoming a big boat race, having a canting-keel 88ft footer and a 115ft Superyacht in the top positions is over-egging the cake more than somewhat, so it will be interesting to see how these positions stack up as smaller craft get into their stride.

Of the other biggies, the IMOCA Open 60 SMA (Paul Meilhat) continues to dominate her class, she’s now making 14.7 knots with the Fastnet astern, while the Volvo 65 Dongfeng Race team is in process of rounding the rock and leading these interesting new One Designs.

The new dominance of the biggies hasn’t totally upset the underlying pattern in the overall placings, as frequent fleet leader on IRC, the J/133 Pintia (Gilles Fournier), is currently in third, while of the Irish Paul Kavanagh of the Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan has had a great night of it, he currently lies fourth overall.

Slightly further down the line, the Pwllheli J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop and Vicky Cox), which races with half her crew from Dun Laoghaire’s National YC, has emerged smelling of roses from yesterday’s swampy calms east of Lizard Point, and currently lies tenth overall, while Michael Boyd with the First 44.7 Lisa is 12th.

Most of the fleet may have already sailed 250 miles and more of the 605 mile course. But with the boats finally out in relatively open water, it’s difficult to escape the feeling that the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 has really only just properly started.

Tracker here 

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Overnight the fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race has been made solid progress upwind, tacking on shifts and dipping in and out of the land according to whether or not the tide is favourable.

At 0900 Tony Lawson's MOD 70 trimaran Concise 10 was off the Irish coast just about to tack towards the Fastnet Rock while the next boat and leading monohull, George David's Rambler 88 had rounded Land's End, followed by SMA, the lead IMOCA 60, sailed doublehanded by Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet. The bulk of the handicap fleets were attempting to make progress around Start Point. With the exception of the fastest boats, all of the crews are scratching their heads about how the weather will pan out today with very little wind forecast around the Scilly Isles and a real risk of drifting into the prohibited zone that is the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) off Land's End.

Approaching Land's End this morning Sam Davies sailing, doublehanded on the IMOCA 60 Initiatives Coeur with Tanguy de Lamotte reported seeing 7 knots of wind from the southwest. How was her first night? "Busy! We did manage each to get two times one hour's sleep because today is going to be even busier!" They spent most of the night short tacking, no mean feat in an unfamiliar IMOCA 60, particularly with sail to re-stack each time.

Their next call was whether to go west or east of the TSS. Leader in the IMOCA 60 class, SMA had already opted for the easterly Land's End side along with IRC Z leader (and impressively within the top five overall under IRC), the 115 footer Nikata and Ludde Ingvall's maxi CQS. "Luckily we will have the tide with us. From then on we see the breeze building back up in the Irish Sea," said Davies.

There was some ladies' fist shaking this morning when Davies' old Team SCA crew mates Dee Caffari and Liz Wardley, aboard the VO65 Turn the Tide on Plastic, tacked right on top of them. "I thought they were going to sail across and say 'hi' and then tack like a nice friend would - because we are not in the same classes. But she tacked right on top of us, in the worst place you could imagine, when there was no reason to do it! And there was I about to say 'hi' to my best friend... Dee Caffari and Liz Wardley owe me a beer when I next see them..."

The Infiniti 46 Maverick, racing in IRC Z was half way between Start Point and the Lizard this morning. Tactician Michael Firmin was not only happy with their decision to bang the left side of the course yesterday after exiting the Solent. "We were hoping the models would play out and we'd see a big left shift which never really came, so there was stronger breeze and a slight right and people on the inside made out."

At 0830 they had tacked away from the Eddystone south of Plymouth and were sailing in 9 knots from the west in 0.5 knots of adverse current. Fermin continued: "We are taking a leg out in front of a squall line to get a bit more pressure and hopefully a bit of a lift, just waiting for the change to come through. We are hoping the model gives us something better than what we are currently seeing which is quite light round the corner with about 4 knots of adverse current!" At present a slow moving shallow cold front is lying across the course on a northeast-southwest axis. Firmin was also contemplating the Land's End TSS, the left possibly proving attractive as the side where the wind was expected to fill in first later today.

In a similar location to Maverick was Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia, leading IRC Two on the water as well as IRC overall, from the Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau on the Grand Soleil 43 Codiam. Both boats benefitted greatly from going inshore at Portland overnight.

In the same class, Ireland's Joan Mulloy and Cathal Clarke on board the Figaro Beneteau 2, Offshore Academy 21 were negotiating Start Point. "The night was good we made up some ground," Mulloy reported. "We went really in close to Portland Bill and we were happy with that because we were looking bad coming out of the Solent and we've been a bit slow going around Start Point." Clarke has spent much time below fixing a sail they had managed to blow up leaving the Solent.

"We are just trying to figure out what to do," Mulloy continued. "We are watching people on the AIS to see what's happening with the wind. There are two forecasts and there is a front and if that moved everything changes. I am trying to play it safe and stay in the middle."

Track the fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race here. 

Published in Fastnet
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After beating every inch of the way down the English Channel from yesterday’s spectacular start in the Solent, Rolex Fastnet Race mono-hull leader on the water Rambler 88 (George David) has this morning been facing lighter airs and much slowed speeds at Land’s End as the wind pattern flukes around before settling into the expected westerly which will in due course veer northwest to north writes W M Nixon

Although the original southwest wind held up for much of the night, it’s definitely not record-making weather. Having been marching her way up the overall IRC rankings in the small hours, Rambler 88 saw her speed fall back to less than 5 knots for a while as she approached mainland Cornwall’s southwest point, putting her back to 30th overall in IRC and 3rd in IRC Zero.

Now she has decided to pass to pass to the eastward of the enormous Traffic Separation Zone – an area forbidden to racing yachts - between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly, which will involve a long deviation in a northerly direction before she can finally get down to the serious business of making across the Celtic Sea towards the Fastnet’s famous turning point off West Cork.

Through the night in the 312-strong IRC Division, fortunes have waxed and waned depending on where the boat in question found herself as slight changes in wind speed and direction, and the underlying flow of the tides, affected overall placings. The most consistent performance in the IRC fleet has been put in by the biggest boat, the JV 115 Nikata skipper by Tom Brewer, which has sailed a wellnigh faultless race and has never been more than a dozen miles astern of the higher-rated Rambler 88.

The idea of a boat of this size mixing it in the hugely varied Fastnet fleet seemed slightly absurd at first. But the IRC is a broad church, so we should allow even the humblest Supermaxi to race against aristocrats of offshore racing such as Stuart Greenfeld’s Silver Shamrock, Half Ton World Champion in 1976 under Harold Cudnore’s command, whuch in the Fastnet 2017 has been showing very well from time to time both overall and in the Two-handed Division, where the leaders are previous winners, the Loisons father and son, in the JPK 10.80 Night and Day.

However, Nikata has been seldom out of the frame, and she approaches Land’s End at 7.4 knots just 8 miles behind Rambler 88, and lying first in IRC Zero and second overall in IRC. The IRC leader is currently the French J/133 Pintia (Gilles Fournier), at the moment off Plymouth laying seaward on starboard and making just 5.0knots, so the softening of the still southwest wind has spread back into the body of the fleet.

Harry Hiejst’s class S&S 41 Winsome continues to perform consistently with Laura Dillon as lead helm, and she is southeast of Plymouth but with Start Point clear astern, currently first in IRC 4 and fifth overall. However, she’s making only 4.9 knots while boats further inshore seem to be enjoying a slightly better breeze, but such fluctuations have been experienced by most through the night.

Of the other boats of Irish interest, Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan is in the hunt in IRC overall, she lies 17th and is 5th in IRC 4. The two J/109s Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox) and jedi (Irish National sailing Sschool) are well offshore sou’southwest of Start Point, and down the rankings after their good showing yesterday, while Irish Offshore Sailing’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star is still southeast of Start Point, she currently lies 29th in IRC 4.

Some of the most interesting racing has been in the nine IMOCA Open 60s and the seven Volvo 65s. The veteran Open 60 SMA(Paul Mailhat and Gwenole Gahinet) has sailed a blinder throughout, and is currently crossing tacks ahead of Nikita near the Runnelstone south of Land’s End. In the earlier part of the night, SMA was being challenged by Jeanne-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbac, but this has petered out, StMichel-Virbac is currently south of Lizard Point and lyng 9th in th Open 60s, while the other favoured contender, Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson & Nin O’Leary) is eight in class, and she’s close northeast of the Lizard, frustrated back to 6.3 knots.

Meanwhile Dongfeng Race Ream head the Volvo 65s after several lead changes though the night. We sign off at 0850 noting that Rambler 88 has shaken off the Land’s End sluggishness, she’s now making north along the east side of the TSZ at better than 11 knots and marching up the overall rankings once more, while SMA, Nikita and the 100ft CQS struggle to reach the crucial Land’s End corner.

Tracker here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in W M Nixon
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#FastnetRace - What does it take to win the Rolex Fastnet Race? That’s the question Yachting World posed to four former podium finishers in what’s arguably the world’s greatest offshore challenge.

For 2015 winner Gery Trentesaux, the key is keeping the yacht light — and manual routeing to stay on top of conditions.

For smaller crews, such as Pascal Loison and son’s winning two-handed partnership from 2013, it means having to “think carefully about how you sail the boat”.

Mixed ability teams work together more effectively, and achieve better results, according to Fastnet charter specialists — and podium regulars — Sailing Logic.

Meanwhile, for professional tactician Adrian Stead, a winner in 2009 and 2011, it’s all about doing the work well before the starting line.

“I think any well sailed, well prepared, well optimised boat has always got a chance of winning the Fastnet Race,” he says. “It’s about doing your preparation and not giving things away.”

Their advice might prove very useful for the 11 Irish entries confirmed thus far for the latest running of the Fastnet Race two weeks from tomorrow.

Published in Fastnet
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A potent line–up of Irish offshore performers will be lining up for the record breaking Fastnet Race entry – the world's largest offshore race that starts in less than three weeks time.

The 605nm race was full in under five minutes, creating another record. Up to 400 boats will be on the RYS startline in Cowes on Sunday 6th August.

Among the eleven Irish entries, among 28 participating countries, is a former Middle Sea Race class winner and some top ISORA performers. There's also two sailing school entries from Dun Laoghaire and two West Coast entries, one from Foynes Yacht Club on the Shannon Estuary and another from Westport in County Mayo.

Wakey Wakey ISORA j109 2033Roger Smith's J109 Wakey Wakey, a regular ISORA racer, is Fastnet Race bound. Photo:

Although listed as an entrant in the sell–out race, this year's Howth Yacht Club Ostar TransAtlantic winner is not competing. Conor Fogerty's Bam is still in America after Transatlantic success and won't be doing the Fastnet but it appears RORC have been slow to delete the entry. 

Fogerty told 'I'm hoping to do the Caribbean 600 instead, as the logistics make more sense'.

paddy dermot croninIn 2015, Malahide's Dermot and Paddy Cronin come ashore in Malta after winning the double-handed division of the Middle Sea race. Encore is entered for this year's Fastnet Photo: Barry Hurley

Kenneth Rumball will steer his Irish National Sailing School J109, Jedi. The top performer in the ISORA series, who was second in the offshore class of Dun Laoghaire Regatta, will be racing with a number of students who have been building up their offshore miles this season with a number of fixtures including the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race.

big dealFrom Foynes to the Fastnet – Sole Shannon Estuary entry Big Deal races double–handed. Photo:

Another sailing school entry is the Irish Offshore Sailing School's Desert Star. Skipper Ronan O'Siochru shot to offshore success in the 2015 Fastnet Race when he stepped on to the podium in class.

Joan Mulloy sailingWestrport's Joan Mulloy will be sailing double handed in a Cowes Registered Figaro entry

Mayo woman Joan Mulloy will be skippering the Cowes–registered Figaro 2 - 'The Offshore Academy 21'. Her co-skipper is Cathal Clarke and they will be racing double–handed in the IRC 2 class.

Originally from Westport, Co. Mayo Mulloy is currently living in Cowes having spent the last two years working with the UK's Offshore Academy. She has been the 'preparateur' for the British entries in La Solitaire Le Figaro race in France. Mulloy plans a solo sailing campaign of her own with an entry in the 2018 La Solitaire Le Figaro race and longer term ambitions for the Vendee Globe in 2020.

This weekend she skippers 'The Offshore Academy 21' in the RORC Channel Race as part of the Fastnet qualifying process.

The full list of Irish entries taking part is below

Irish in the Fastnet

IRL 8407 Encore 3 C Dermot Cronin First 40.7 Malahide IE
IRL 733 Thalia 3 C Grant Kinsman Sigma 400 2.33 Dublin IE
IRL 3516 Platinum Blonde 3 C Paul Egan First 35 Carbon Dublin 4 IE
IRL 8088 Jedi 3 C Kenneth Rumball J/109 Dublin IE
IRL 37737 Windshift 4 C Louise Gray Sunfast 37 Co. Monaghan IE
IRL 1397 Desert Star Irish Offshore Sailing 4 C Irish Offshore Sailing Ronan O'Siochru Sun Fast 37 Dun Laoghaire IE
IRL 3492 Big Deal 4 C Conor Dillon Dehler 34 Top-nova Listowel IE
IRL 45 Katsu 1 C Alan Hannon Rp 45 Downings IE
GBR 5909 Wakey Wakey 3 C Roger Smith J/109 Dublin IE
NED 8824 Trilogic M Hugo Karlsson-Smythe Multi 50 Tallaght IE

Fight to be first home

While the Judel-Vrolijk 115 Nikata will be the largest yacht competing among the 350 or so yachts starting on Sunday 6 August, the battle for line honours glory looks set to be between two titans of the grand prix racing world.

CQS IngvallLudde Ingvall still holds the double record set 22 years ago in the Rolex Fastnet Race, taking both line honours and handicap victory. He's back this year with the 100ft DSS foiling CQS © Andrea Francolini

Finnish Whitbread Round the World Race legend Ludde Ingvall returns having previously put in one of the most exceptional performances in the 92 year history of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's flagship event.

Firstly in 1985, the same year Simon le Bon's Drum famously capsized, Ingvall raced on the Whitbread maxi Atlantic Privateer when it won her class. But the race which has gone down in history was a decade later, when he skippered Nicorette, the former 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race maxi Charles Jourdan but much modified, to line honours, finishing a massive 24 hours ahead of the next boat. But significantly that year Nicorette not only claimed line honours but victory on handicap as well.

"We won it on CHS, we won it on IMS and we got line honours," Ingvall recalls proudly. "We walked away with 16 trophies, which was amazing. I still remember the speech at the prize giving where they said 'the Vikings have been here before and now they have come back to steal our silver!'" That race, 22 years ago, was the last occasion someone won the Rolex Fastnet Race line honours and handicap 'double'.

This time Sydney-based Ingvall is back with another weapon, and again one which is heavily modified. CQS was originally built in 2004 as the 90ft canting keel Simonis Voogd-design Nicorette aboard which Ingvall claimed line honours in that year's Rolex Sydney Hobart. During 2016, this boat underwent major surgery extending her to 100ft by fitting a new bow. Small wings were added at deck level to widen her shroud base to accept a larger, more powerful rig and she was also fitted with retracting lateral Dynamic Stability Systems foils to provide lift to leeward.

Since competing in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race, CQS has arrived in Europe and, weekend before last, set a new course record in Sweden's AF Offshore Race (Round Gotland), breaking the existing record which Ingvall had established on his previous Nicorette.

However Ingvall warns that he and the crew, that includes sponsor Sir Michael Hintze and Kiwi sailing legends Chris Dickson and Rodney Keenan, are still green when it comes to the new beast. "We are taking steps forward all the time, but everything still feels quite new and we really haven't had enough time with a regular crew." A week and a half's training with her race crew before the Rolex Fastnet Race will help rectify this.

CQS will face stiff competition from American George David's Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed Rambler 88. She may have a shorter waterline but in her long career racing Jim Clark's 100ft Comanche, this has seemed to have made little difference: In the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race, Rambler 88 crossed the finish line just four and a half minutes behind Comanche.

According to tactician Brad Butterworth, their fight with CQS is likely to come down to the weather. "If there is any breeze it will make a big difference as to who wins across the line. If there are any powered up situations then Rambler will do pretty well, but if it is light airs running or even upwind, it will be a struggle. The modern maxis like Comanche and Rambler have huge wetted surface so when they are not heeled you are carrying a lot of viscous drag around with you."

Like Ingvall, Butterworth is a veteran of countless Fastnet Races dating back to 1987 when he skippered the top-ranked Admiral's Cup boat Propaganda in that year's victorious New Zealand team. Two years later he claimed line honours on Peter Blake's all-conquering maxi ketch Steinlager II. He says Rambler 88 has changed little from her 2015 configuration other than some sail development and a weight loss program. "That is why we're hoping for a bit of breeze."

Ingvall agrees with Butterworth's assessment of their relative form going into the Rolex Fastnet Race: "Rambler is a bloody good boat with top guys and they have been sailing the boat for a long time whereas we are still learning about what we've got. CQS is very long and skinny, while Rambler is very wide and her hull stability gives her a huge advantage. We are still learning about the DSS foil which improves our stability. When it is a matter of stability and power they will be hard to beat, whereas if it is about light airs and finesse, then I think we will be pretty good because we are so narrow and low resistance in the water. It will be fun to race each other."

Published in Fastnet
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#FastnetRace - With the days ticking down till the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race, Ocean Safety has published its free Fastnet Safety Checklist to ensure your yacht is ready for the rigours of the challenging seas around Fastnet Rock.

One of the most important items for the race for the race undoubtedly the liferaft, which will need a service before setting out from Cowes on Sunday, 6 August.

Ireland's CH Marine is a leading supplier of liferafts and services, hires and sells rafts. Both for leisure and commercial vessels.

Published in Fastnet
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