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Stronger Winds in Fastnet Race Give Smaller Boats a Tough Time But Faster Speeds to the Finish

6th August 2019
The new JPK 10.30 Leon rounds the Fastnet Rock at 5.0pm yesterday. Sailed by her builder Jean-Pierre Kelbert and Alex Loisson, she currently leads the Fastnet Race Two-Handed Division and is first in IRC3 and IRC3B The new JPK 10.30 Leon rounds the Fastnet Rock at 5.0pm yesterday. Sailed by her builder Jean-Pierre Kelbert and Alex Loisson, she currently leads the Fastnet Race Two-Handed Division and is first in IRC3 and IRC3B Photo: Rolex

Strong southwest winds last night – with Met Eireann issuing a Small Craft Warning at 2100 hrs – gave the more determinedly sailed smaller craft a fighting chance of significantly improving their overall standing in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019, though much of the fleet found that what had already been rough going had become decidedly challenging writes W M Nixon.

However, at this stage of an extraordinary race, boat size no longer seems relevant, as extra-special little craft are scampering along in clouds of spray beside boats twice their size, yet often with even more speed.

rambler approaching fastnet2As much wind as anyone might want – Rambler 88 approaching the Fastnet. Photo: Rolex

At the finish in Plymouth, at time of writing the only unassailable position is that of George David’s Rambler 88 as Line Honours Winner. While the overall leader corrected time leader continues with ever-growing strength to be the Volvo 70 Wizard owned by Americans David & Peter Askew and skippered by Charlie Enright, second overall is now held by the Mach 45 Bretagne Telecom (Nicholas Groleau), yet another French flying machine from specialist builders, and a boat which despite her size came sweeping into the finish among the likes of 72ft Mini Maxis and IMOCA 60s – a reminder that other speed disruptors are still racing and posing a challenge. 

rambler fastnet3George David’s Rambler 88 rounding the Fastnet at 1645 on Sunday

Third overall and finished is currently the Botin 52 Tala (David Collins, UK) which likewise punched above her length, but as we move down the rankings of finished boats, we’re increasingly getting among craft whose position is at risk from the way the wind is expected to hold up well enough to bring little boats in at good speed, and the night saw some formidable performances recorded when the wind was going strong.

"At this stage of an extraordinary race, boat size no longer seems relevant"

It has emerged that Conor Fogerty’s Raw is not alone of her type, she is one of three foiling Figaro 3s taking part, and for a while they were in fairly close contention with each other while suffering as a trio from their boats’ extraordinarily high rating.

jethou at rock4The Mini Maxi Jethou heads away from the Fastnet Rock under restless-looking skies late on Sunday evening. She has finished and lies 15th overall on IRC

But last night one of them with the unlikely name of Les Drus – Sl Maintenance (no, we don’t know either) sailed by Charmy Laurent got it all together on the foiling front, and did a horizon job on every boat around her, rocketing along at speeds pushing towards 15 knots and better, and moving up the fleet until this morning she’s approaching the Lizard (though now only at 11.2 knots) at 7th in IRC 1 and third in IRC 1B, though still shown as 24th overall in IRC.

Raw meanwhile is closing in on the Scillies, currently at 12.7 knots and placed 30th in IRC1, and 17th in IRC1B. Thus the best-placed boat of Irish interest continues to be the Ker 40 Keronimo with Kenneth Rumball and Barry Hurley on board, estimated 5th in IRC 1A and expected to finish at mid-morning.

Tom Dolan and Janusz Madej in the latter’s Sun Fast 3600 One Way continue to put in a good showing in the Two-Handed Class where they lie 5th, while they’re fourth in IRC4A, but for Irish observers as for everyone else, the story of the second night of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 has been the exceptional performance of the French-designed-and-built JPK range of boats in all the classes in which they’re represented.

In fact, if you’re in a boat-buying mood for a surefire race winner this morning, we’d suggest you try placing an immediate order for one of the new JPK 10.30s. But you mightn’t find anyone at the workshops in Lorient to take your order, as the boss Jean-Pierre Kelbert is racing the JPK 10.30 Leon in the Fastnet in the two-handed division with Alexis Loison, and at time of writing, they’re southwest of Land’s End closing towards the Lizard at 10.8 knots.

Currently, they’re first in the Two-Handed, and first in IRC 3 and in IRC3B, and will surely have improved on their 15th in IRC Overall if they can maintain this pace to the finish.

courrier recommande5Gery Trentesaux’s JPK 11.80 Courrier Reommande is providing a nail-biting finish at Plymouth this morning

That said, the current pace is slow by comparison with their overnight performance, when they were hitting 15 knots and better as the frontal system went through, and their performance has been emulated by seasoned JPK campaigner Gery Trentesaux with the JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommande, which is very likely leading IRC 2 and IRC 2 A, but as his Tracker has been on the blink, we can’t precisely say where he is for now, except that he’s very much at the races. And even as we finish writing this piece, he’s back in communication with 24 miles to the finish, 10.3 knots on the clock, and a good chance of second overall or even better on IRC, in addition to class victories every which way.

The JPK sweep is completed by Noel Racine with the veteran JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew holding first in IRC 4 and IRC 4A, making for a trio of success which puts pretty much everything else in the shade. For sure, the wonderful performance by the Volvo 70 Wizard is looking increasingly unassailable, for though the very brisk sou’wester should hold up well in the approaches to Plymouth today, the astonishing little boats are increasingly a long shot for the top prize. But their dominance within classes is unrivalled and of real interest to serious club sailors who go offshore racing.

Later today, the next report will include an overview of the performance of other Irish boats in this hectic race.

Race Tracker & Leaderboard here

Published in Fastnet
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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