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For a third time running the Rolex Fastnet Race has been a story of French domination, Le Tricolor flying on this occasion from the top spot in IRC 1, 2, 3 and 4, the Class40 and IMOCA 60, the Two Handed and IRC Overall. Even the Chinese boat, Dongfeng Race Team, that won Volvo 65 competition had a largely French crew writes James Boyd. This left IRC Zero to American Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50 Privateer, while, surprisingly, the only British class victory went to Tony Lawson's MOD 70 trimaran Concise 10, in the usually French-strong Multihull class.

Early on, the overall prize looked set to be a big boat affair with both the JV 115 Nikata and George David's maxi Rambler 88 leading until the run back from the Fastnet Rock favoured the medium-sized boats.

Ron O'Hanley's Privateer came close to making it a second Cookson 50 victory, a decade on from the overall win of Irishman Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain.

"This is a great race, an iconic race and we have had a great time even if we haven't won," said O'Hanley. "It was a fantastic start in Cowes - hard to see how you can get 400 boats out of the Solent at the same time! The weather conditions were good, not as light as it was last time and there was no drama coming out of the Solent."

As to where they did well, it was on the run back from the Rock said O'Hanley. "The big boats were leading, but then for a smaller boat to get into the lead was because of the very good conditions - tight reaching, we were planing most of the time and with the canting keel we could put a lot of miles on the clock."

However by Wednesday it became apparent that there was a new contender for the 2017 Fastnet Challenge Cup - the overall prize under IRC.

Didier Gaudoux's JND39, Lann Ael 2, struggled last year when she competed in the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, however then she was only six months old. Since then the team, based out of La Crouesty in southern Brittany has tweaked the boat considerably with the assistance of sailmaker and former Mini and Figaro sailor Fred Duthil.

"We had a fantastic race. We were lucky with the weather. The conditions were good for the team and the crew," said Gaudoux. "From Fastnet Rock to the Scilly Isles was perfect for us - the wind angle, the size of the waves, etc. It was windy and these boats enjoy big waves. We were doing over 20 knots- a new record for us!"

Prior to this, the French boat had benefitted by going so close in at the Lizard that "we could touch the rocks," said Gaudoux. Like the other boats that did well, Lann Ael 2 went east of the traffic separation scheme off Land's End, benefitting them greatly in terms of the distance to sail and favourable wind shifts. "Our navigator/tactician did a perfect job to tack on the right shifts," said Gaudoux.

The JND 39 is a heavily-chined design from Bernard Nivelt and ate up the miles on the run towards Bishop Rock. "It took 11 hours to cover 170 miles! We were surprised. We were two to three miles ahead of some good competitors at the Rock and by the Scilly Isles we were 30 miles ahead simply because we were going faster," said Gaudoux.

Paris-based Gaudoux was sailing with his son Thomas and daughter Coralie, navigator Fred Duthil, plus Nicolas Deberque, Nicolas Dore, Alois Kerduel, Pierre Louiset, Paulin Nicol and Christian Ponthieu.

As to the Rolex Fastnet Race, this is Gaudoux's fourth: "When I was 16 years old, the Fastnet was a dream. The RORC lays on very nice races. Although it is a long way to come, boats take part from all around the world. We receive a nice welcome and the races are always very well organised."

With the prizegiving for the Rolex Fastnet Race taking place tonight, boats continue to stream into Plymouth. Among them has been the Frers 46, Scaramouche, crewed by Greig City Academy in East London including eight students aged 15 and 18, plus two teachers, two skippers and a team manager.

The boys are almost all first generation Londoners, and embraced the unfamiliar challenge of ocean racing with huge enthusiasm. "It was a real test for them," said team manager John Holt. "They are true pioneers amongst their peer group."

17 year old Montel Fagan Jordan, whose family comes from Jamaica, was a helmsman on board. "I started sailing in dinghies three years ago, but now it's great to be on a big boat. We had some great surfing downwind after we got round the Fastnet Rock."

Bowman Camillo Oribo, also 17, agreed: "The way back was definitely the best bit. We flew with the spinnaker up. We don't get too tired once we've established a watch system."


IRC Z: 1. Privateer - Cookson 50, Ron O'Hanley (USA); 2. Lady Mariposa - Ker 46, Daniel Hardy (GBR); 3. Bretagne Telecom - Mach 45, Nicolas Groleau (FRA)

IRC 1: 1. Lann Ael 2 - JND 39, Didier Gaudoux (FRA); 2. Pata Negra - Lombard 46, Hermann de Graaf (NED); 3. Ino XXX - HH42, James Neville (GBR)

IRC 2: 1. Pintia - J/133, Gilles Fournier / Corinne Migraine (FRA); 2. Lisa - First 44.7, Michael Boyd (IRE); 3. Elke - First 40, Frans and Carla Rodenburg (NED)

IRC 3: 1. Dream Pearls - JPK 10.80, Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret (FRA); 2. Timeline - JPK 10.80, Marc Alperovitch (FRA); 3. Bellino - Sun Fast 3600, Rob Craigie (GBR)

IRC 4: 1. Night and Day - JPK 10.10, Pascal & Alexis Loison (FRA); 2. Foggy Dew - JPK 10.10 (FRA), Noel Racine; 3. Cocody - JPK 10.10, Richard Fromentin (FRA)

IRC Two-Handed: 1. Night and Day - JPK 10.10, Pascal Loison (FRA); 2. Ajeto! - J/122e, Robin Verhoef and John van der Starre (NED); 3. Bellino - Sun Fast 3600, Rob Craigie and Deb Fish (GBR)

VO65: 1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) - Charles Caudrelier; 2. MAPFRE (ESP) - Xabi Fernandez; 3. Team Brunel (NED) - Bouwe Bekking

IMOCA 60: 1. SMA - Paul Meilhat/Gwenole Gahinet (FRA); 2. StMichel-Virbac - Jean-Pierre Dick/ /Yann Eliès (FRA); 3. Malizia - Yacht Club de Monaco - Boris Herrmann/Pierre Casiraghi (MON)

Class40: 1. V and B - Maxime Sorel (FRA); 2. Imerys - Phil Sharp (GBR); 3. Campagne de France - Halvard Mabire (FRA) and Miranda Merron (GBR)

MOCRA Multihulls: 1. Concise 10 - MOD 70 trimaran, Tony Lawson (GBR); 2. R-six - HH66 catamaran, Robert Szustkowski (POL); 3. Hissy Fit - Dazcat 1495, Simon Baker (GBR)

Published in Fastnet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The detailed results are here

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

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

Read all of's 2017 Fastnet Race coverage here 

Published in W M Nixon

The harsh northwest to north wind that dominated the past three days of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 has softened its cough through Thursday. It’s settling in to be an Atlantic sou’west to west airflow, which eventually will bring rain over Ireland, but just for once there’s a chance it won’t rain in Plymouth writes W M Nixon.

That would be one for the books, as most of us recall the post-Fastnet celebrations as invariably involving the occasional deluge, but maybe climate change is for real. Whatever, the task of unravelling 312 IRC-rated results and getting everything set up for Friday night’s prize-giving is as hectic as ever. But at least the main man, RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, was comfortably finished well in time this morning (Thursday) in command of the First 44.7 Lisa, and he’ll have had a good night’s sleep before festivities begin tomorrow evening’s fiesta. During it, for the sake of ID, he is obliged to wear an old-fashioned white-topped yachting cap. You need to be well-rested and in the full of your health to do that with style and assurance. 

As to the racing, he has put himself in place for the Gull Salver for the best-placed Irish boat by being an impressive 8th overall and second in Class 2 to Pintia after sailing a very neat race. Lisa had logged just 669 miles for a 605 mile course, in which some other boats thought there was an awful lot of slugging to windward, with many tacks and many more miles to be sailed. But Lisa, and others whose performance we hope to be examining in more detail in Saturday’s blog, managed to shimmy round with very few extra miles sailed - her skipper gives his impressions of the boat and the race here:

Few did the minimal miles more emphatically than the Phantom Boat, which really did come out of nowhere to win overall. The French JND 39 Lann Ael 2 (Didier Gaudoux) didn’t show up at all on the entry list attached to the Tracker Chart. And her position was never indicated on the Tracker Chart itself either. Yet suddenly on Wednesday, she rose without trace on the leaderboard, shown as having the potential to snatch the veteran Cookson 50 Privateer’s overall win at the last moment.

And that, in the small hours of this morning, is precisely what she did. The Phantom Boat sailed only 662 miles to get round the course whereas Privateer – which will surely hang onto her second place overall – sailed 687 miles. But Lann Ael 2 came out of the darkness off Plymouth at just after two o’clock this morning, and bested Privateer by a pretty convincing 42 minutes. Yet where she did it and how she did it, heaven only knows. She has been and gone without leaving so much as a shadow. However, tomorrow night her crew will wrap themselves round the very real Fastnet Trophy, so who cares whether they cast a shadow or not?

lann ael2Is she leaving a shadow here? Lann Ael 2 in smoother conditions in the Solent.

Certainly not the Irish or Irish-connected boats in or near the finish as we sign this off at 2030 hours Thursday. When this great race started, we were interested particularly in the two sailing school boats, the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi, and Irish Offshore Sailing’s Sunfast 37 Desert Star, which won the Sailing School Trophy in 2015’s race.

Well, the Kenneth Rumball-skippered Jedi has had the best of it, finhshing tonght at 2100 hrs.. In fact, she’s done well every which way, as she also beat the Welsh/Irish J/109 Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox), although for the final hundred miles it was as though Jedi, Mojito and the classic S & S 41 Winsome, helmed by Laura Dillon, were glued together, so closely did they hold their relative positions.

Tracker here

But just who wins the Roger Justice Trophy for the best sailing school result won’t be known just yet, as the information as to which crew qualified as a sailing school appears to be kept under wraps. All will be revealed by tomorrow evening.

jedi racing3The Irish National Sailing School’s 29–year–old Kenneth Rumball–skippered J/109 Jedi has done best of the Irish sailing schools in the Fastnet Race, and has also managed to beat Mojito, one of the hottest J/109s in the Irish Sea.

Published in Fastnet

Overnight and into a magnificent West Country morning, boats have been streaming across the Rolex Fastnet Race finish line and into Plymouth Yacht Haven writes James Boyd. With this the leaders in the bigger classes have begun firming up along with the prospects for the boat will be the crowned overall winner under IRC in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship offshore race.

American Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer is the leader in the IRC Zero from the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa, and yesterday seemed to be in good shape to take the overall prize across the 312-boat IRC fleet vying for the Fastnet Challenge Cup. However overnight the IRC One leader Lann Ael 2, the JND 39 of Paris-based Didier Gaudoux pulled into the lead. In IRC One the powerful looking La Crouesty based boat holds a lead of more than two and a half hours on corrected time over the equally angular Lombard 46, Pata Negra, being campaigned by the Dutch de Graaf family of Baraka Ker 40 fame.

"We had a fantastic race - we were lucky with the weather," said Gaudoux. "The conditions were quite good for the team and the crew and the passage from Fastnet Rock to the Scilly Isles was perfect for us." However at present there are many smaller boats still capable of lifting the overall IRC prize off the IRC One leader.

Last night, first home on the water in IRC One was James Neville's Ino XXX, winner of May's Myth of Malham race. Like all of the planing boats, the HH42 enjoyed the downhill conditions enabling them to blast back from the Fastnet Rock, hitting speeds into the mid-20s and covering 75 miles in four hours. This made up for the headbang of an uphill struggle they experienced outbound to the Rock. As Neville recounted: "We found it quite challenging because the chop was quite short and the heavier boats, like the Italian boat [Vittorio Biscarini's magnificent Mylius-designed 50 footer, Ars Una], make better way in those conditions. Off the Lizard we went inside and they found more wind offshore. We were the last boat to go to the east of the TSS."

In IRC Two Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia is looking good for first prize following their arrival at the finish line at 05:33 this morning.

"We had some good results already in IRC Two this year," said Fournier. "But the Rolex Fastnet Race is the peak of the season. We have had an internal battle with our friends on Lisa, including Commodore of the RORC Michael Boyd, since the beginning of the season."

Due to the tidal state at the time, Pintia went to the west of the all-important traffic separation scheme off the Scilly Isles. Fournier said he enjoyed rounding the Fastnet Rock, even though it was at night. "You are pleased when you round that because it is an amazing place. You wouldn't want to spend your holidays there, but it is a legendary place and we are now part of the legend."

Nick and Suzi Jones' First 44.7 Lisa, skippered by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, finished 36 minutes after Pintia this time correcting out into second place, 1 hour 13 minutes behind of the French boat on corrected time.

Boyd acknowledged that Pintia had stolen a march on them at Portland Bill. "We failed to get to there in time. Pintia went in and we probably should have followed her and they just managed to get through the gap. We went outside and lost quite a few miles but we gained them back at Lyme Bay when an awful lot of boats went in and we were surprised to see some of our competitors at anchor there. We were further offshore, in the wind. That kept us up with the IRC One boats."

The boats in Lisa's group saw 25 knots on the nose, some of the strongest conditions crossing the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock, requiring the crew to live on the rail. Boyd described the Fastnet Rock, off his native Ireland, as "extraordinary, absolutely magical". While the First 44.7 isn't a weapon downwind, the boat had a bowsprit and asymmetric spinnakers added to her Banks sail inventory for this season, aiding their return journey back from the Rock.

Lisa currently lies second in IRC Two and eighth overall under IRC, results with which Boyd was pleased. "I don't know if we had the best of the conditions, but certainly it is a great result and does seem to show that we were very favoured. But we had a great group of guys, everybody very focused, very good food, lots of stories and lots of laughs."

Michael Boyd, RORC Commodore and Skipper of Lisa spoke to Fastnet TV after docking in Plymouth

This afternoon the leaders in IRC Three and Four are due, along with the Two Handed class, where the Loisin father and son, Pascal and Alexis, on their 2013 overall Rolex Fastnet Race winning JPK 10.10 Night and Day have taken the lead from Ajeto!, the J/122e of Robin Verhoef and John Van Der Starre.

Published in Fastnet

The Courtmacsherry RNLI Lifeboat completed the rescue of the 40–ft Fastnet Yacht Race competitor following the early morning callout at 3.21am this morning.

Both boats arrived to the Inner Harbour at Courtmacsherry in County Cork just after 8am this morning, after a three–hour tow from the casualty site, 13–miles east of the Galley Head.

The yacht got into difficulties after its mast broke earlier this morning.

Published in Fastnet

Heading into the third evening of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017, with much of the heavy metal now on the homeward leg with a fair wind from the Rock to Plymouth, all are aware there’s a strong north wind out to the west writes W M Nixon. But the point of intense interest is how much – if at all – will it spread in towards the route from the Fastnet to the next mark at the Bishop Rock on the Isle of Scilly? Or will this area of stronger wind instead head on towards the Bay of Biscay, and leave the Fastnet fleet with only moderate to fresh breezes?

For the majority of the fleet, in other words the smaller boats still slugging towards the rock, moderate to fresh headwinds are all that’s required right now, thank you very much. But for the biggies going the other way, the more wind the merrier, and none are looking for it with as much determination as Alex Thomson and Nin O’Leary aboard the foiling IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, which didn’t get round the rock until 3.00pm this afternoon. She was the last of her class, slowed to windward by her foils, but now she’s looking for big fair winds to get those foils working and hunt down the group ahead.

It’s a tall order, as the leading IMOCA 60, the veteran SMA, had worked out an astonishing lead of 72 miles, and even the other noted foiling IMOCA 60, Jean-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbec, somehow manages to be more than 60 miles ahead, and is clearly getting her foils to do the business as she’s been showing 19 knots.

But out to the northwest, Hugo Boss is skirting the stronger wind on the starboard gybe, and showing speeds of 21 knots-plus. Nobody else in the entire race has shown figures like that until now, though Rambler 88 was sometimes getting between 18 and 19 knots. But if Hugo Boss can stay in that stronger wind and still manage to get a bit of easting into her course, it will make for a very interesting evening.

As for Rambler 88, like the good all-rounder she is, George David’s all-conquering silver bullet just kept going away from everyone regardless of the wind direction. Thus she was taking her gybe at the Bishop Rock at exactly the same time as Hugo Boss was rounding the Fastnet, and though she slowed briefly to 9 knots in a soft patch south of Land’s End, she’s now back at 17 knots and closing on the Lizard, first on the water and first in IRC, and a finish in Plymouth before midnight on the cards.

In the diverse Irish contingent, Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan continues to do best, she lies 7th overall and first in class, while Michael Boyd with the First 44.7 Lisa is 18th overall and second in Class 2, though both of course still have quite a way to go before reaching the rock. As for Laura Dillon in the S&S 41 Winsome, they’ve been enjoying the open-water beat to haul the Harry Hiejst classic back up to 23rd overall, quite an achievement after being messed about by the calms east of the Lizard yesterday.

jedi crewThe crew of the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi on Sunday morning before the Fastnet Race start, from left to right: Fearghus McCormack, Deirdre Foley, Lorcan Tighe,Conor Kinsella, Kylie McMillan, Keith Kiernan, Kenneth Rumball and George Tottenham

Of our two sailing school boats racing for the Roger Justice Trophy as well as class and overall honours, the Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi is currently well clear ahead of Irish Offshore Sailing’s Desert Star, while in the J/109 turnout generally, Mojito (Peter Dunlop & Vicky Cox, Pwllheli and National YC) is in the frame and also lying fifth in IRC 3.

While overall positions in the main part of the fleet can fluctuate with remarkable speed, the class placings are now beginning to settle down, and tomorrow we can look at them in more detail, when most boats should be finally round the Fastnet. Meanwhile, it’s going to be an increasingly rugged slug getting there with those stronger winds out to the northwest. However, their localized nature at present is underlined by the fact that Hugo Boss has just taken the gybe to get her more on course for the Bishop, and she’s already experiencing a slight easing of the pressure, with her speed back to 18.8 knots.

Tracker here

Published in Fastnet

Unchallenged, Concise 10 blazed into Plymouth this morning, first boat home in the 47th Rolex Fastnet Race. Tony Lawson's MOD70 trimaran crossed the finish line off Plymouth breakwater at 05:55:00 BST with a race time of 42 hours and 55 minutes. This time didn't come close to the overall multihull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race but it was still respectable considering they sailed upwind all the way to the Fastnet Rock.

Dockside at Plymouth Yacht Haven, a beaming Tony Lawson commented: "To take the record for the Round the Island Race just a few weeks ago and then this... they deserve it, they have sailed well. Everyone thinks multihulls can't go to weather, but we led three state of the art monohulls around the Rock by about 100 miles and we led them into Plymouth by 200 miles. So if you want to go fast you have to get yourself a multihull!"

Skipper Ned Collier Wakefield said he had enjoyed the start, leaving the Solent amid the giant spectator fleet and the journey back from the Fastnet Rock: "Last night we gybed south and just sat there doing 30+ knots in flat water and brought that pressure all the way in. The moon was out so you could see what was going on." As to their exceptional performance to the Rock he added that the MOD70 was sailing upwind, typically making 21 knots at 50 degrees. "The MOD70 is an amazing machine. Every time we go out we still come back smiling."

Among Concise 10's crew were Paul Larsen, the world's fastest sailor (who sailed Vestas Sailrocket 2 at 65.45 knots average over 500m in 2012) and towering Rio 2016 Finn gold medallist and Land Rover BAR crew Giles Scott, sailing his first offshore race. "It was really good," said Scott. "Upwind, it felt like a long way out to the Fastnet, although I know a lot of the fleet have still got to go through all of that. On the turn round, when we started ripping downwind, Land's End didn't feel that far away at all. The fastest speed I saw was 36 knots."

But fairly pedestrian compared to the 40+ knot speeds he was seeing during the America's Cup in Bermuda? "Not at night in a seaway! These boats are awesome - get the boards set up right and they just fly. They are amazing bits of kit."

Ned Collier Wakefield said of his new crewman: "Giles enjoyed it. We scared him quite a few times! He's not used to heeling over quite so much! He was on the helm on that favourable run back from Bishop and he had a lot of fun. I think he might have the offshore bug - apart from the freeze-dried food... And the lack of sleep... And the cold..."

Back in the race proper the biggest monohulls are now round the Fastnet Rock and, thanks to their now sailing downwind are pulling ahead under IRC. At 0900 CET Rambler 88 was mid-Celtic Sea on a long gybe east, but had pulled into the lead, not just in IRC Zero, but overall under IRC, taking over the yellow jersey from the biggest boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the 115ft Nikata. These two giants displaced the smaller French boats Codiam and Pintia from the overall lead, although they remain ahead in IRC One and IRC Two respectively.

The bulk of IRC One is currently setting off across the Celtic Sea with Vittorio Biscarini's Mylius 15e25 Ars Una leading the charge on the water while handicap leader Codiam was astern and to weather. Overnight IRC One divided equally up the sides of the Traffic Separation Scheme off Land's End with the front runners on the water, Ars Una and James Neville's HH42 Ino XXX, taking the eastern route and Richard Fearon's RP45 Katsu and Dennis Maijer's Farr 45 Bucket List leading the charge up the west side, closer to the Scilly Isles. With the wind veering into the NNW, the boats have all tacked and are close to laying Fastnet Rock.

IRC Two are following a similar regime, however their lead trio on the water, Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia, Nick and Suzi Jones' First 44.7 Lisa (skippered by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd) and Frans and Carla Rodenburg's First 40 Elke, all headed up the west side of the TSS while James Sweetman's First 40 Joanna of Cowes led the group up the east side off Land's End. The leaders in both groups tacked at around 0400 when they were close to laying Fastnet Rock.

Conversely the first group of boats in IRC Three took the eastern side of the Land's End TSS with Ed Fishwick and Nick Cherry on their Sun Fast 3600 Redshift Reloaded leading (on the water) up the east side alongside Ian Hoddle's sistership Game On. Meanwhile yesterday's IRC Three leader on corrected time, Altikhan - Linxea Valoris & Benefits, the A-35 of France's Johann Bouic, was first on the water heading up the west side of the TSS. However Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret's JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls is now leading IRC Three on corrected time.

Incredibly, the leaders among the smallest, slowest boats in IRC Four are also up among the IRC Two and Three boats. Again, there have been significantly differing tactics here with the two French JPK 10.10s: the Loisins' 2013 winner Night and Day and Noel Racine's Foggy Dew taking the eastern route while the present IRC Four leader, Paul Kavanagh's Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan, had gone west.

Among the professional classes, the stand-out performance remains that of the doublehanded crew of Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet on the IMOCA 60 SMA, which is not only 23 miles ahead of the next boat in her class but also 7.5 miles in front of the first fully crewed VO65 Dongfeng Race Team. Among those VO65 crews competing on Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Chinese VO65 was first to round the Fastnet Rock at 07:58 this morning, followed eight minutes later by Team Akzonobel and then Mapfre. Bringing up the rear was Dee Caffari's fledgling crew on board Turn the Tide on Plastic at 08:55. All seven VO65s initially headed south with MAPFRE the first to gybe east.

In the Class40s Phil Sharp and Imerys were back in the lead this morning about two thirds of the way to the Fastnet Rock however, five other boats were looking threatening, especially yesterday's leader, Campagne de France, sailed by Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, the furthest north of the Class40s at present.

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The Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 fleet leader, the MOD 70 trimaran Concise 10 owned by Tony Lawson and skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, rounded the Fastnet Rock at 15.18hrs this afternoon in a nor’west breeze writes W M Nixon. But as none of the other active MOD 70s have come out to play this time round, Concise 10 is very much in a race of her own, and most interest focuses on the vast and varied mono-hull fleet which will be rounding the rock in the next two or three days.

The fleet ranges from the 115ft ft Nikata at one end down to the 30ft Silver Shamrock at the other, and the bulk of the boats – 312 in all – are racing in the IRC Division. The challenges of the 605-mile Fastnet course in typically northwest European summer weather have seen widely different boats top the leaderboard as each stage of the race passes through, with everything from the local wind patterns, the effect of nearby land, the sea state and the movement of the tides making an input into many separate moments of fleeting glory.

concise Fastnet rockRounding the Fastnet Rock on the southern tip of Ireland at 15:49 BST, Tony Lawson’s Concise 10 leads the fleet in the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race. The MOD70 became the first yacht to round the race’s emblematic landmark and is making rapid progress some 115-nm ahead of the next boat on the water, George David’s Rambler 88. With 242-nm still to negotiate, Concise 10 was forecasting arrival in Plymouth on Tuesday morning and some way outside the current multihull line honours record of 32 hours, 48 minutes.

It is a fact of life that in any of the great classic offshore races, at some stage a Cookson 50 will come out of the woodwork and amaze everyone with her sudden prominence on the leaderboard, a position she may then maintain to the finish. It all goes back to well beyond the time in the Rolex Fastnet Race of 2007 when Ireland’s Ger O’Rourke took the top slot with Chieftain, for the Farr-designed Cookson 50 first appeared in 1996, which means she has been upsetting her competitors’ calculations for 21 years now.

The latest instance came this morning around 11 o’clock at the Lizard Point, when everyone was wondering why the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss, with the not inconsiderable talents of Alex Thompson and Nin O’Leary on board, was going so slowly over towards Land’s’ End and was lying an ignominious 9th – or last if you prefer – in the IMOCA 60 Class.

Then suddenly observers became aware that a boat was coming round the Lizard at better than 8 knots, and passing that difficult headland with no bother whatever, proceeding on in pursuit of Hugo Boss and closing the gap to only five miles until the pursuer also slowed in the flukey winds and unsettled conditions.

But the private burst of speed of the American-owned Cookson 50 Privateer – for such it was – put her for a while in the top slot every which way. And though the boat – owned by Ron O’Hanley and skippered by Scott Innes-Jones – is now in the tricky conditons beyond the coast of North Cornwall, she’s still making 7.9 knots hard on the wind, and is still very much in sight of Hugo Boss.

The forecast is for the light west to northwest wind in the Celtic Sea to veer tonight, so the more northing the leaders can make while still on a course well west of north, the better it will stand to them when the new breeze firms in.

As expected, George David’s Rambler 88 leads on the water by more than twenty miles on the next group of biggies, and is currently on a course towards Youghal, but those astern will be waiting for her crucial tack as the veering calls the tune.

The star of the big boat group has to be the two-handed IMOCA 60 SMA (Paul Meihat and Gwenole Gahinet). She’s a gallant war horse of a boat which has been through a few traumas in her time, but Meihat and Gahinet have been sailing a race of genius. They not only have the IMOCA 60s well stitched up for now, but they’re sitting on top of every other big boat other than Rambler 88, including the mighty Nikata, the hyper-new 100ft CQS, and the Volvo 65s currently headed by Team Akzonobel.

The bulk of the fleet are still between Land’s End and Start Point, which is an awful lot of boats along an impressive distance of coastline. And with the local wind off the south coasts of Cornwall and Devon trying to be nor’westerly but with many flat patches, it may look like a lottery.

Yet the same two dozen names keep coming up at the front of the time sheets, and currently the fleet overall leader is the French J/133 Pintia skippered by Gilles Fournier with some formidable talents on board. They are currenty turning to windward in the middle of Mount’s Bay at 6 knots, first in IRC Overall and first in IRC 2.

Of the top eight boats, five are French, one is Italian, one is Dutch and one is British – make of that what you wish. Best-placed Irish is currently Paul Kavanagh’s Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan at 15th, while Alan Hannon’s Reichel Pugh 45 Katsu is in the top twenty, as too is Michael Boyd with the First 44.7 Lisa. But Harry Hiejst’s S&S 41 Winsome with which Laura Dillon had been having a scorcher of a race is in a flat spot east of the Lizard – as are dozens of other boats - and though fourth in IRC 4, she has slipped to 26th overall.

Tracker here

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Royal Cork David Kenefick's Fastnet Race ambitions lie in ruins this evening after a dismasting on his class 40 entry.  It's a disappointing outcome because Kenefick was in the mix in the top five of the ultra competitive Class 40 fleet. 'We lost are mast due to gear failure, Kenefick told

It's a shock for the Cork Harbour helmsman who last week posted the top Irish result at the Moth Worlds, as reported here.

'We managed to get the mast back on to the boat and headed into Weymouth, Kenefick told

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Following months of meticulous preparation for crews and organisers alike, a record-breaking edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race is underway and in some style. The largest fleet in the race’s 92-year history, comprising 368 yachts from 29 countries, were treated to kind conditions, blue skies and a consistent, building westerly breeze as they were divided across seven start sequences in front of the Royal Yacht Squadron’s clubhouse in Cowes.

The 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is truly diverse, a quality clearly evident to all of those watching on the shore in Cowes or the thousands following the live start of the race on the internet. First away were the nine multihulls with the MOD70 Concise 10 immediately asserting her status as favourite to arrive first in Plymouth. Speaking before the race skipper Ned Collier Wakefield was comfortable with this prediction, less so of setting a new race record. “The forecast has got a little slower. It’s not looking like record breaking conditions. We are expecting a 48-hour race.” The current multihull line honours record stands at 32 hours, 48 minutes. 

Following the departure of the multihulls, the subsequent starts provided a showcase for a range of boats from cutting-edge to historic, professionally-sailed to family-crewed, the IMOCA 60s, Class 40s, through to the bulk of the fleet embodied by yachts in the 30-50-ft range including a large number sailing double-handed.

The final start was reserved for the largest and fastest monohulls. In this class, the range of designs and size of yachts is remarkable. At 115-ft Nikata, a high-performance cruising yacht, has become the largest monohull to ever compete in the race. Her nearest rival in size, Ludde Ingvall’s 100-ft CQS, was built with the more single-minded objective of racing fast. “CQS consists of a lot of different and radical ideas at the same time,” explains Ingvall. “It’s a very interesting boat and we are still learning a lot.” Ingvall was the last skipper to claim line honours and overall victory in the same year. That 1995 success is one he self-deprecatingly puts down to ‘getting lucky with the weather’. George David’s Rambler 88 is an offshore racing yacht par excellence and has the added experience of finishing the last edition of the race. The final starting group also comprised the seven competing Volvo 65s. 

Jedi INSSThe Irish National Sailing School's Jedi crew ready for the off in Cowes. Photo: Alistair Rumball

The general consensus among weather forecasters points to a ‘big boat race’, with good breeze on the upwind leg to the Fastnet rock before a cold front sets in heralding lighter conditions which may thwart the ambitions of the chasing fleet in their quest to claim the Fastnet Challenge Trophy and Rolex timepiece awarded to the overall race winner on IRC handicap.

Shortly after the race start the fleet converged in the Solent to offer one of sailing’s most iconic vistas. Safely negotiating the first congested few nautical miles of the course is a challenge in itself. The 605-nm race is a constant and genuine test of seamanship, resources, tactics and navigation. “The course is fantastic,” explains Pascal Loison, race winner in 2013 on Night and Day. “There are several headlands, and at each headland you have a new challenge. This is unique to the Fastnet course. Other offshore races are more direct, less complicated.”

The Solent laid on 'classic' conditions for the start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's 47th Race. In brilliant sunshine and with brisk westerly winds gusting up to 20 knots, the giant fleet tacked up the western Solent before compressing through the usual bottleneck at Hurst Narrows. 

The first start got underway at 11:00 BST for the nine multihulls and within minutes, the blue three-hulled streak that is Concise 10 had pulled out a lead, frequently heeling to an alarming degree, just one hull immersed. By the time IRC One was starting at 12:20 Tony Lawson's MOD 70, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, was already off Poole. Crewman Paul Larsen, who five years ago became the world's fastest sailor setting a world record of 65.45 knots, reported Concise 10 was sailing under reefed mainsail and staysail. "We're making 20 knots tacking past Poole and just dropping into the watch system. Glamour start conditions in the Solent. I can just see the next boats clearing Hurst Castle." However Larsen warned that unless the wind freed up, there was little chance for them to break the multihull race record. By 1500 Concise 10 was already level with Portland Bill.

The multihulls were followed away from Cowes by two other 'non-IRC' classes - the nine doublehanded IMOCA 60s and twenty seven Class40s. Given the upwind conditions, the older, conventionally foiled IMOCA 60s were prevailing. At 1630 Paul Meilhat and Jules Verne Trophy record holder crewman Gwénolé Gahinet aboard SMA, the 2012-3 Vendee Globe (and the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race) winner as MACIF, were leading the 60s past Portland Bill. The first 'foil-assisted' IMOCA 60 was favourite Alex Thomson and Nicholas O'Leary on Hugo Boss in third place, taking a northerly route, close to the land.

In the Class40s present championship leader Phil Sharp on board Imerys led past St Alban's Head, but later there was little too choose with the British boat neck and neck for the lead in this incredible fleet with the Maxime Sorel-skippered V And B, Burkhard Keese's Stella Nova, Benoit Charon's LMAX Normandie and race veteran Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France.

The five IRC handicap classes, chasing the race's overall prize of the Fastnet Challenge Cup started with the smallest boats first at 1120.

This afternoon at 1600, the IRC One fleet had fanned out across the course to the southeast of St Alban's Head. James Neville's HH42 Ino XXX was leading the charge inshore as Staffan Wincrantz's Arcona 465 SALT 2.0 was ahead on the water to the south, just ahead of the venerable 1960s maxi Kialoa II, owned by Patrick Broughton.

Mid-afternoon, competitors in IRC Two were favouring the inshore route with Dutchman Frans Rodenburg's First 40 Elke, closest to St Alban's Head at 1620, with class favourite Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia nearby.

The IRC Three boats were following a similar tactic with the offshore tack being less popular. Having started 20 minutes earlier, they were still successfully fending off the advances of the larger, faster IRC Two fleet. The Russian JPK 10.80, Igor Rytov's Boyatyr, was leading the pack inshore while the brilliantly-named Seafarers Ale Anticipation, the First 40.7 of former 470 Olympian Pete Newlands, was ahead on the water offshore.

The inshore-offshore spread was more evenly distributed among the smallest boats in IRC Four. Here Noel Racine's impeccably sailed JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew was ahead inshore while Dan Rigden's Elan 37 Tacktic was furthest down the track out to sea.

The last to start were the largest in the IRC fleet, IRC Zero, including the line honours contenders George David's Rambler 88 and Ludde Ingvall's 100ft CQS. By 1520 Rambler 88 was off and close into St Alban's Head, leading IRC Zero on the water just ahead of the biggest boat in the fleet, the 115ft Nikata.

Among the seven one design VO65s competing in 'Leg 0' of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, it was very close, with the Charles Caudrelier-skippered Dongfeng Race Team a nose ahead and making 12.3 knots but facing a threat from Team Brunel, skippered again by Dutch race veteran Bouwe Bekking, making 12.5 as the boats passed St Alban's Head.

This morning Xabi Fernández, skipper of MAPFRE, looked forward to the race: "Once out of the Solent it will be upwind sailing up to the Fastnet rock, and finally we will sail downwind towards Plymouth. This is the first time I've competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race. It is a historic race, much like the Rolex Sydney Hobart."

Joan Vila, MAPFRE's legendary navigator confirmed the forecast: "Once we leave the Solent, the wind will blow at around 20 knots. From there, it will drop until tomorrow morning, with the probability of encountering areas of very light wind. As we get closer to Plymouth, the wind will build again."

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