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RORC Fastnet Race 2019: Wizard for Some, But Not So Wonderful For Others

6th August 2019
The Juan K-designed Volvo 70 Wizard, overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 The Juan K-designed Volvo 70 Wizard, overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019

When veteran French skipper Gery Trentesaux’s JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommande crossed the Rolex Fastnet Race finish line in Plymouth at 11.22 BST this morning and corrected into fifth place overall a clear 2 hours and 16 minutes behind Peter & Dave Askew’s all-conquering Volvo 70 Wizard, it was put beyond all doubt that the Charlie Enwright-skippered former Volvo round the world racer was unbeatable on the day as she added the Fastnet trophies to her victory in July on the Transatlantic Race writes W M Nixon.

Courrier Recommande had been in with a chance. And she did manage to sail an impressive 257 miles in the final 24 hours of her race. But the steam was going out of the southwest wind as the morning drew on, and the chance – always a fairly remote one - slipped inexorably away. So the race was Wizard’s for the taking, and the Askew/Enright crew thoroughly deserve their success.

courrier recommande2Former overall winner Gery Trentesaux’s JPK 1180 Courrier Recommande was in with a chance of another overall victory

On the outward leg getting through the very sticky patch between Start Point and the Lizard, Wizard was so tactically brilliant in calling her shots that we assumed Ian Moore must be on board. Not so. In fact, the great navigator/tactician sat out this particularly intriguing Fastnet Race, which is everyone’s loss as his insights from direct experience would have added greatly to our understanding of its complexities.

These continue for many boats at sea as they sail through improving conditions while knowing that by this weekend, seriously bad weather may well be sprung upon us all. By that time everyone will be long finished even though it will be of concern to anyone bringing a boat home to Ireland. But for now we see the final acts of the big race being played out knowing that the core of the drama has been resolved.

Or has it? Not at every level, it hasn’t. That’s the attraction of races like the Fastnet and the Round Ireland. The bigger the fleet, the more likely you are to find private duels developing which continue to the finish line regardless of where the duellers may be in the overall placings.

Thus this morning at around 0720, two well-used Jeanneau Sun Fast 37s came past The Rock with Sherkin 2 leading Desert Star by upwards of a couple of miles. Both these boats are with Irish Offshore Sailing of Dun Laoghaire which is in the forefront of introducing Irish people – and people from elsewhere too – to the world of proper sea sailing.

It was quite something that Sherkin 2 was leading Desert Star, as Sherkin is skippered by Daniel Smith, while Desert Star is under the command of school principal Ron O Siochru. On the long reach down to the Isles of Scilly, they’ve taken slightly different lines, but Sherkin 2 is still shown as ahead. And it may well matter a lot when they get to Plymouth tomorrow, as both are in contention for the Roger Justice Trophy for the best-placed sailing school vessel. 

fastnet variety3In the huge Fastnet fleet, private inter-boat races can maintain the interest to the very end regardless of overall placings. Photo: Rolex
Well ahead of them, just to the south of the Lizard, is Figaro star Tom Dolan racing two-handed with Janusz Madej of Poland in the much newer Sun Fast 3600 One Way. They’re making 9 knots and should be in Plymouth before dark, and meanwhile, they’re fifth in IRC 3A, and fifth in the two-handed division. 

Well finished already is the Ker 50 Keronimo with Kenneth Rumball and Barry Hurley aboard. They maintained their fifth in IRC 1A, but with the rush of boats from astern, they slipped to 32nd overall in IRC – still in the top 10 per cent.

Far at sea and still with many miles to sail though with the Fastnet now astern is Conor Dillon of Foynes with the little Dehler 34 Big Deal, racing in the two-handed division and sticking at it despite being very far down the rankings. Meanwhile up at the front of the fleet the battle of the three new Figaro 3s has been resolved as to winner with Charmy Laurent’s Les Drus finishing in impressive style well ahead, having got such value out of his foils in the big winds that he moved up to third in IRC1 B, while Conor Fogerty in Raw is at some distance astern, he has just passed the Lizard neck and neck with sister-ship Ethical Power (Jack Tigger).

fastnet multihulls4The four 100ft Ultime trimarans were in their own Fastnet world, but they carried it off with such style that everyone was with them. Photo: Rolex

Inevitably, there have been retirals. Michael O’Donnell’s new J/121 Darkwoood, overall winner of the RORC Chanel Race a fortnight ago, had to pull out at an early stage, and today in the final approaches to the Fastnet Rock, Keith Miller’s Yamaha 36 Andante from Kilmore Quay had to call it a day, and she’s headed home at 6 knots.

It will take some time before the final pieces are in place, and the eventual destination of the Roger Justice Trophy will be of special interest. The world meanwhile moves on. The word is that Wizard may be aiming to do the Hong Kong to Vietnam Race on October 19th, which is just about as different from the Fastnet experience as can be imagined, though it does leave them handily enough placed for the Sydney-Hobart on December 26th. But perhaps even as we think of it, the organisers of the Middle Sea Race out of Malta on October 19th – the 40th edition – are working on getting Wizard in their lineup. There’s a certain logic to it.

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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