#D2DRace – The Fastnet Rock may have a reputation for ruggedness writes W M Nixon. But ever since Lee Overlay Partners (Adrian Lee) got past it around midnight in the local area's increasingly fickle offshore wind, it has seen a succession of craft in the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race 2015 approaching it at a merry speed through the short summer night along the southern coast of West Cork, only to find the bite went out of the breeze the nearer they got to Cape Clear, with the iconic rock three miles beyond becoming no more than a great big pussy cat.
It's a situation which has inevitably resulted in an inversion of the leaderboard, with the J/109 Mojito (Shanahan family) taking over the lead from Anthony O'Leary's Antix during the small hours, then towards breakfast time the front runner became one of the oldest boats in the fleet, Jonathan Nicholson's Dehler db1 Red Rhum (RStGYC), which had been fairly steady around 5th overall through Saturday afternoon and evening.
She move up steadily throught the rankings to snatch first place overall, while astern of her second slot was taken over by the defending champion, the even older Oyster 37 Amazing Grace (Brian O'Sullivan & Frances Clifford, Tralee Bay SC).
Amazing Grace had been placed in the teens overall as she struggled to get through the adverse winds off the coast of West Waterford through Saturday afternoon. But once that fine night breeze came off the land, she was in business, romping along the coast of Cork on a fast smooth reach and hauling back boats which were slowing as they neared the Fastnet.
These in time included Red Rhum, so as we approach 1000hrs on a fine summer morning, it's Amazing Grace first with Red Rhum second, but the general reversal isn't total as Mike Murphy's delightful twin-ruddered JPK 9.60 Alchimiste (National YC) still lies third overall on IRC, a position she seems to have been in or near for most of the race.
With lots of TLC and a rating of 0.968, Red Rhum continues to be competitive, and her performance is sharpened with the addition of a masthead kite, which wasn't thought of in the original design from the van de Stadt office many years ago. Photo: W M Nixon
It was Antix which first experienced the slack effect around the Fastnet Rock as she closed in in on it towards midnight. She'd been hounding Lee Overlay Partners from between one and three miles astern virtually the entire length of the south coast, although at times they were significantly different distances offshore. However, they were well within contact of each other due south of the entrance to Baltimore in the final hour before midnight, but while Lee OP found a handy little zephyr in the offshore air to increase her lead from two miles to four in very short order, Antix struggled to get past the rock, which is not at all as it should be when you're the flagship of the Cork fleet.
However, both boats then found better speed in the night's nor'easter off the coast of West Cork as it veered into Kerry, but then in terms of overall placings things went pear-shaped in the middle of the mouth of Bantry Bay. The wind fell away then was all over the place in weak strengths, and that was when the lead which Antix had held since leaving Dublin Bay simply disappeared.
But now, approaching the 1000hrs deadline, the two biggies are rounding Skellig Michael to take on the often wayward final 25 miles up Dingle Bay, which is shaping up as a beat. Lee OP already has the mighty monastic sea mountain astern and is making slightly better than 7 knots close-hauled on starboard, but barely laying the Blaskets let alone Dingle Harbour, while Antix, four miles astern but just laying the turn at the Washerwoman Rock sou'west of the Great Skelig, is on 6.8 knots.
The O'Leary's boat's overall placing, having been right down the drain while getting through the calm patch off Bantry Bay, has now struggled back up to 23rd overall, but things are very far from over, as that pesky calm patch in the approaches of Bantry Bay currently has the next group of boats in its grasp, and contenders such as Aurelia, Aquelina, WOW, Ruth and Mojito are currently looking at frustrating speeds between two and four knots.
As the heat of the day builds up, the battle between sea and land breezes could make the situation even more confusing off West Cork and southwest Kerry, but further north crisper conditions often prevail in Dingle Bay where the two leaders are sailing. And while Lee Overlay Partners has such a stratospheric rating that it would need the remainder of the fleet to be set in concrete for half a day for her to get the top title, it's still all to play for as far as Antix is concerned, as current leader Amazing Grace is now slowed to 1.5 knots nearing the Fastnet Rock with 70 mies still to sail, while second overall Red Rhum is off Mizen Head and going rather sedately at 3.3 knots with 58 miles still to go.
Less than two miles astern of Red Rhum yet making 5.9 knots is the two-Handed Division leader, the Elan 340 Blue Eyes sailed by Howth's Colm Buckley and Simon Knowles. They've had a good night of it to consolidate their lead in the two-handed division while moving up the overall rankings to sixth. It will be adrenalin all the way to Dingle for little old Blue Eyes.