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Fastnet Yacht Race 2017 Refreshed by New Northwest Breeze

8th August 2017
With the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 fleet finally in open water between Land’s End and southwest Ireland, Paul Kavanagh’s classic Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan is doing best of the Irish at fourth overall. With the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017 fleet finally in open water between Land’s End and southwest Ireland, Paul Kavanagh’s classic Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan is doing best of the Irish at fourth overall.

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.

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Published in Fastnet
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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

At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 605 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Plymouth
  • A fleet of over 400 yachts regularly will take part
  • The international fleet is made up of over 26 countries
  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
  • Monohull course record: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi)
  • Largest IRC Rated boat is the 100ft (30.48m) Scallywag 100 (HKG)
  • Some of the Smallest boats in the fleet are 30 footers
  • Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001
  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result

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