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Record Fleet in Fastnet Race 2017 Face More Windward Work from Land’s End to the Rock

7th August 2017
Rambler 88 – after a slow rounding of Land’s End, she has found better speeds close-reaching along the eastern edge of the Traffic Separation Zone off west Cornwall, and is leading the monohulls on the water and resumed climbing the ranks in IRC handicap. Rambler 88 – after a slow rounding of Land’s End, she has found better speeds close-reaching along the eastern edge of the Traffic Separation Zone off west Cornwall, and is leading the monohulls on the water and resumed climbing the ranks in IRC handicap.

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.

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Fastnet Yacht Race 

This race is both a blue riband international yachting fixture and a biennial offshore pilgrimage that attracts crews from all walks of life:- from aspiring sailors to professional crews; all ages and all professions. Some are racing for charity, others for a personal challenge. For the world's top professional sailors, it is a 'must-do' race. For some, it will be their first-ever race, and for others, something they have competed in for over 50 years! The race attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts, from beautiful classic yachts to some of the fastest racing machines on the planet – and everything in between. The testing course passes eight famous landmarks along the route: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater (now Cherbourg for 2021 and 2023). After the start in Cowes, the fleet heads westward down The Solent, before exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. The finish is in Plymouth, Devon via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland.

  • The leg across the Celtic Sea to (and from) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast-moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions
  • Flawless decision-making, determination and total commitment are the essential requirements. Crews have to manage and anticipate the changing tidal and meteorological conditions imposed by the complex course
  • The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point in the challenging race
  • Once sailors reach the Fastnet Rock, they are well over halfway to the finish in Plymouth.
  • The lighthouse first shone its light on New Year’s Day in 1854
    Fastnet Rock originally had six keepers (now unmanned), with four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Each man did four weeks on, two weeks off

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  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
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  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result

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