For most sailors a fair wind from well aft of the beam is welcome. But if you happen to be a 100ft trimaran which three hours ago was registering 38 knots on a beam reach, the fact that the wind is now drawing from astern is bad news writes W M Nixon.
It was no surprise when the four Ultime 32s from France led the Fastnet Race fleet out of the Solent early this afternoon in a south to southeast breeze. They’d been first away with their start at 1230 to keep them clear of everyone else, and even in the Solent they’d been pushing towards 20 knots. Out in the Channel with a fine commanding southerly breeze on the beam, the fastest were showing bursts of 38 knots, including Maxi Edmond de Rothschild which seems to have recovered from the indignity of briefly kissing the Shingles Bank – not something to be encouraged when you come complete with all sorts of fancy appendages such as foils of various kinds.
But having hurtled away towards the western horizon, as they closed in towards the coast of Devon the wind may have stayed with them, but it backed into the east. Thus instead of making good progress on the direct line, they’d to resort to tacking to lee to maintain best VMG, yet for smaller slower boats which were hitting hull speed while dead running, the easterly breeze was just grand.
If the Ultime 32s can get themselves clear to the west of the Lizard Point this evening, they should begin to enjoy a worthwhile south to southwest wind which is forecast to settle in over the area between Land’s End and the Fastnet across the mouth of the Celtic Sea, and that will bring them to their rounding of The Rock tomorrow morning as predicted here, but the weather system is unstable, and the low pressure area settling over Ireland is distinctly anaemic.
Meanwhile, in the enormous and now spread out fleet, overall it seems that the ever-reliable products of the JPK workshops in Lorient continue to do the business – at the most recent check-in, former Fastnet winner and general sailing superstar Gery Trentesaux of France was vying for the overall lead on IRC with the JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommande against the JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls, with another JPK 10.80 also in the hunt. However, with a fleet this size at such an early stage of the race, the position changes by the minute.
Of the boats of Irish interest, the Swan 36 Finola with Graham Curran on board was 18th overall – only a matter of minutes behind the leader – while the Swedish Ker 40 Keronimo with Kenneth Rumball and Barry Hurley on the strength was waiting to pounce at 21st overall.