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The Ultime Trimarans Live Up to their Name as Leading Pair Finish Fastnet Race in Record Time

4th August 2019
The Maxi Edmund De Rothschild, has won multihull line honours in the 48th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race The Maxi Edmund De Rothschild, has won multihull line honours in the 48th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race

The new breed of Ultime 32 trimarans have lived up to their name and reputation with the leading pair of Gitana XVII and Macif slashing more than four and a half hours off the record time for the 608-mile Rolex Fastnet Race when they finished at Plymouth this afternoon just one minute apart, at 1632 and 1633 hrs writes W M Nixon.

The previous record was set in 2011’s breezy race by Loick Peyron with the 130ft trimaran Banque Populaire V at 1 day 8 hours and 48 minutes, an average of 18.5 knots. But despite being virtually becalmed for an hour and more on the outward passage, this year the smaller new designs have proven to be extremely potent machines, while having a significant proportion of the course sailed as a beam reach was very much to their advantage.

At the Fastnet Rock at 0630 BST this morning, Gitana XVII (aka Maxi Edmond de Rothschild) skippered by Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, was narrowly in the lead. But in some extra-swift sailing in an already fast leg to the next turn at the Bishop Rock, the western outpost of the Isles of Scilly, sister-ship Macif (Francois Gabart) took over the lead and hung onto it thereafter sometimes opening it up to as much as two miles. Yet at the finish Gitana snatched it back again by just 59 seconds.

Some idea of the relative speed of the multihulls can be gauged from the fact that at precisely the time they finished in Plymouth, the leading mono-hull, George David’s Rambler 88, was in process of rounding the Fastnet Rock, having opened out a half mile lead on Seng Huang Lee’s 100ft SHK Scallywag from Hong Kong, while Peter and David Askew’s Volvo 70 Wizard is now six miles astern of Rambler, but still leading IRC overall on corrected time.

The southwest breeze has now filled in along the south coast of Cornwall and Devon and the rest of the entire fleet is steadily on the move past the Lizard and on past the Isles of Scilly. In overall IRC placings, the boat of Irish interest currently doing best is the Ker 40 Keronimo with Kenneth Rumball and Barry Hurley on board – their 23rd overall means they’re fifth in IRC 1 and 4th in IRC 1A.

Although conditions are favourable going to and from the Fastnet, with winds at the rock south of southwest at the moment, an expected change will see a veer which may see the smallest boats racing in more difficult conditions with the wind forward of the beam, while tail-enders back at the Isles of Scilly may even find themselves hard on the wind tomorrow.

Meanwhile this afternoon’s last-minute victory by Gitana IV is another extraordinary episode in the story of Rothschild involvement in top level sailing. It began in 1965 when the Baron Edmond de Rothschild was persuaded to take his luxurious but surprisingly fast Sangermani yawl Gitana IV in the Fastnet Race.

At 90ft, Gitana IV was at the time the biggest boat ever to do the race, and naturally the baron brought his personal chef along so that he and his sailing friends could enjoy one of the legendary and leisurely Rothschild lunches every day. It was around 1.0pm on the second day when Gitana was approaching the Fastnet Rock, and the professional skipper went below to advise the owner of the impending historic moment.

The Baron and his friends were already well into lunch and an animated conversation, but he turned briefly to his skipper and said; “Please do not interrupt us when we are in the enjoying luncheon”, and he left the skipper to record the rounding of the rock.

These days, times have changed – those 59 seconds at Plymouth are going to get some deep attention at every level of the Rothschild world.

gitana four1 The 90ft Gitana IV – in the 1965 Fastnet Race, enjoying a proper lunch took priority over witnessing the rounding of the Fastnet Rock

Race Tracker & Leaderboard here

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WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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The Rolex Fastnet Race - This biennial offshore pilgrimage 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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