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Organisers of the Rolex Fastnet Race have citied “infrastructre” issues in their decision to move the finish of the 2021 and 2023 races from Plymouth to Cherbourg.

And in a press conference announcing the move this afternoon (Tuesday 26 November), the Royal Ocean Racing Club said it “might consider” the traditional host city for the 100th anniversary of the offshore race in 2025.

“We place considerable value on the traditions of the race, and we respect Plymouth’s association with the race history, and indeed the formation of this club,” said RORC Commodore Steven Anderson.

“But we don’t believe that this should restrict the ability of the race to develop and to satisfy the demand there is for people to compete in the race.

“We have been working closely throughout this year with Plymouth City Council and we very much appreciate all they did for us this year in the 2019 edition.

“Plymouth are developing some plans for infrastructure and if and when they come to fruition, that would be something that we might consider for the 100th anniversary in 2025, and we will continue to work with them during that time.”

As reported earlier on Afloat.ie, the RORC announced that the French city of Cherbourg on the English Channel will host the finish of the biennial race’s next two editions — a move the organisers say encourages and secures the future development of a race that had a waiting list of 150 boats for this year’s running.

Rumours that Plymouth might lose its traditional hosting of the Fastnet Race began circulating over year ago.

More recently, the Devon coastal city lost its hosting of The Transat to France, with Brest set to host the start of the 60th anniversary of the four-yearly race next year.

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The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), organisers of the Rolex Fastnet Race, announced at a press conference today that the City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race for the 2021 and 2023 editions of the biennial race. The move encourages and secures the future development of the race and will open it to more competitors; in 2019 the race had a waiting list of 150 boats.

Details of the announcement were made online today in a Facebook Live broadcast that attracted 254 viewers, as Afloat reported earlier here.

In his announcement, RORC Commodore Steven Anderson said he would consider returning to the previous finish city of Plymouth for 2025, for the 100th edition of the race, if facilities can be extended.

The new course will be 90 nautical miles longer and RORC say there is no decision yet on whether or not it will run before or after Cowes Week in 2021.

Rumours of the move to France first surfaced a year ago and were reported by Afloat here. And in September 2018, Afloat's WM Nixon blogged: Is This The Beginning Of The End Of The Fastnet Race As We Know It?

Online comments were swift and not altogether positive: Gareth Evans stating the Fastnet is "a British Tradition and British Race" and that it should really finish in Great Britain. Facebook Live Viewer Adrian Gray stated that it was 'stomach-churning' and that '96% are against this change'. Paul Browning said it was 'Terrible news. Sell out of the many for the vested interest of the elite'. But Fiona Tully remarked online: 'I can understand why they are moving it..... To facilitate the ever-growing demand for sailors that want to compete in this historic race and Plymouth perhaps just does not have the infrastructure or facilities for this demand'. Chris Shipman said: 'Fantastic idea and great to share this event with the French who are such prominent participants in the Fastnet race".

Others like Paul Cunningham said 'A precedent has now been set, that the race finish can be moved to anywhere that is approximately 600+ NM from Cowes after rounding the Fastnet Rock'. Kenneth Sharp commented 'That’s a long sail back for Irish yachts!'.  Nick Barlow said that 'given the additional distance it will definitely favour the larger boats. This supports the need for a Corinthian Fastnet run by JOG and Plymouth clubs'.

The City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region have come together to support the race finish with a package that enhances the competitor experience with increased berthing, enhanced shoreside facilities, competitor functions and events in an exciting development for the race.

Since seven boats competed in the first race in 1925, the Royal Ocean Racing Club has continued to push the boundaries of participation in offshore racing. The 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race had 388 yachts on the start line from 27 different nations. The Club’s aim is to foster greater participation and improve access to the race. The enhanced facilities offered by Cherbourg will give the opportunity for more boats and sailors to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race in future years.

Speaking about the benefits of Cherbourg as the finish venue, RORC Commodore, Steven Anderson, said: “It is an exciting time for this iconic and extremely successful race. Finishing the Rolex Fastnet Race in Cherbourg will encourage and secure the continued growth of the Club’s most prestigious event and provide an enhanced competitor experience. The enthusiasm of the French for offshore racing is legendary, and the City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region have been hugely passionate and committed partners in this initiative.”

cherbourgThe City of Cherbourg will host the finish of the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2021 and 2023 Photo: JM Enault /Ville de Cherbourg en Cotentin

“The race has grown steadily over the past two decades and more and more people want to take part. We have had to limit entries in recent years because of berthing constraints, but Cherbourg offers significant additional berthing and improved facilities for competitors, so we will be able to take a larger number of entries and give more sailors the opportunity to compete in this very special race,” continued Anderson.

Jean-Louis Valentin, President of La Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin said: “Cherbourg is one of France’s great channel ports, closely linked to naval history and transatlantic adventures, and the Cotentin Coast is home to the many prominent water sports events. Bringing the Rolex Fastnet Race finish to Cherbourg means that the City and Cotentin are now part of the club of coastal territories linked to a mythical offshore race. The adventure of a great race, sailors in the City and beautiful entertainment, will make the finish a popular ocean racing spectacle for the public. A Race Village and many festivities have already been planned in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin to invite Normans and sailing enthusiasts to take part in this great ocean festival.”

RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen commented: “This is an exciting chapter in the history of the Fastnet Race and the founding fathers who competed in the very first race in 1925 will be proud that the race has survived all these years and seen unprecedented growth. City of Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, The Communauté d’agglomération du Cotentin, the Conseil départemental de la Manche and Normandy Region will give the sailors a warm welcome. The French are known for their passion for offshore racing and French sailors regularly compete in and have won the Rolex Fastnet Race. This is exciting times for the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Rolex Fastnet Race as we continue to evolve and expand for the benefit of our members and offshore racing sailors worldwide.”

Benoît Arrive, Mayor of Cherbourg-en-Contentin said: “Our City has a long history with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Many sailors from Cherbourg-en-Cotentin have competed in the legendary Fastnet Race and for many of them, the RORC Season’s Points Championship remains a major competition. Several Cherbourgers have distinguished themselves in the Fastnet Race, Alexis Lioisin in particular, a recent double winner with his father. The Solent is not far from our port and I am very happy that we can bring them together by hosting this very important sailing event for the first time. Our port is used to hosting major sailing events and is looking forward to being the arrival city for the next two editions. 2021 and 2023 will be exceptional for the Rolex Fastnet Race.”

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The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) is heralding big changes to its world's largest offshore race, the Rolex Fastnet Race at lunchtime today.

The offshore club has invited members of the press to a Briefing concerning the world's largest offshore race, at its London clubhouse where a 'major announcement' will be made.

The announcement will be broadcast Live on Facebook at 13.30. Visit: www.facebook.com/royaloceanracingclub

 

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The significant role played by the Irish Naval Service in the 1979 Fastnet Race Disaster has sometimes been overlooked in the dramatic images of helicopters and lifeboats in direct action writes W Nixon. But in fact the LE Deirdre under Captain John Kavanagh was on station and directing operations in the western section of the worst affected area for longer than any other vessel, and her reliable services were recalled at a ceremony yesterday on Cape Clear Island which brought to a conclusion the 16-day sequence of 40th Anniversary commemorations, a sequence which began with a Memorial Service in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes on Friday, August 2nd, the eve of the start of the 2019 Fastnet Race.

The Examiner today has the story here

The LE Deirdre’s story was also reported in more detail in The Irish Times at the 20th Anniversary in 1999 here

Published in Island News
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It was the 15th August 1979 by the time the full horror of the effects of the Fastnet Race storm had become apparent writes W M Nixon, and today is the most quietly poignant in 2019’s sequence of recollection and commemoration. It is a sequence which began with the Memorial Service in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes on the evening of Friday 2nd August before the 2019 Fastnet Race got under way at noon next day, and it will conclude with a Service of Commemoration on Cape Clear this coming Sunday, with the restored Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat of 1979’s heroic rescues, the Watson 47 The Robert which has been restored by Jeff Houlgrave, the most honoured craft among those visiting the island.

At Afloat.ie in recent weeks, we have covered the Fastnet events of forty years ago in considerable and developing detail. But today is one for quiet contemplation. We salute long-serving Cox’n Kieran Cotter and his crew of Baltimore lifeboat who put in the longest service of any of the rescue organisations, we salute all others involved in the large and complex international rescue operation, and we remember the 19 who were lost their lives, and their families and friends and shipmates.

Most poignant of all is that four of those who died were only accompanying the Fastnet Race. Such was the special nature of the race that some sailing enthusiasts felt sufficiently rewarded by simply sailing in the vicinity of the fleet, and they were to pay with their lives for their their fascination with this extraordinary event. All 19 names are commemorated in a plaque in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes, and a Memorial Stone on Cape Clear. They are remembered today, and they will be remembered again on Cape Clear with a special height of emotion within sight of the Fastnet Rock on Sunday.

kieran cotter2 Kieran Cotter, longtime Cox’n of the Baltimore Lifeboat

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Last weekend's popular documentary series on RTE Radio One dealt with the 1979 Fastnet Yacht Race disaster. 21 people died, many boats were dismasted, abandoned or sunk as the race became a fight to stay alive. 

RTE's Back To The Rock is a gripping and evocative adventure story, told from a unique perspective. A story of hurricane winds and waves the size of houses, it is also a story of fear and courage, survival and disaster, and the power and allure of the sea.

The docu interviews many from Irish sailing who sailed in the race that fateful year and who are still very much involved in the scene today such as Cork Harbour's Donal McClement, Sally O'Leary and Neil Kenefick. 

The podcast is available here.

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Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya from Kinsale – which placed tenth in Class IRC 1A - looks to be the 2019 winner of the Gull Salver for the best-placed Irish boat on corrected time overall in the current Rolex Fastnet Race as the hectic prize-giving swings into action in Plymouth this evening, with the hyper-busy RORC staff working against the clock to ensure that “only about forty cups and trophies” go to the right recipients writes W M Nixon

As it happens, Freya’s skipper will take possession of the Salver in the less frenetic atmosphere of the Irish Cruising Club AGM in the New Year. The Gull Salver is named in honour of Corkman Harry Donegan and his 17-ton cutter Gull. They took part in the first Fastnet race in 1925, placing third, and were also present at the founding of the ICC in Glengarriff in 1929.

Thus the Gull Salver is in the custody of the ICC, although it originated in a 1972 gathering of all Ireland’s Fastnet competitors, including Captain Jim Kelly who as a young man had been on Gull’s 1925 crew. Forty-three years later, this hugely convivial “Fastneteers Dinner” generated a surplus which was then very properly used to fund the Gull Salver, and the ICC has looked after it ever since.

For the past two Fastnet Races, Ireland has provided the winner of the Roger Justice Trophy for the top-placed sailing school boat, with Irish National Sailing School’s J/109 Jedi, skippered by Kenneth Rumball, winning in 2017, while Irish Offshore Sailing’s Sun Fast 37 Desert Star with Ronan O Siochru in charge won in 2015.

desert star fastnet2 Irish Offshore Sailing’s Desert Star at The Rock in the 2015 Fastnet Race, when she won the Roger Justice Trophy for best Sailing School boat. This year she was in contention again, but had to be content with a podium place narrowly ahead of sister-ship Sherkin Two

This year Irish Offshore Sailing had two boats in the race – a remarkable logistics effort for an organisation based in Dun Laoghaire. In addition to Desert Star skippered again by school principal Ronan O Siochru, sister-ship Sherkin Two skippered by Daniel Smith also took part. And however much they tried to avoid it, they ended up having a boat-for-boat duel, with Sherkin Two finishing last night just one minute ahead of Desert Star.

Yet as Desert Star has a slightly lower rating, in the overall rankings she finished ahead of Sherkin Two by two places. And though they were well down the fleet generally, in sailing school terms they were well placed. There was even a slight chance that Desert Star might win the Roger Justice Trophy again.

However, it was not to be, though everything points to them getting a podium place as third in the Sailing Shools division. But with the impending bad weather, they’d to leave before the awards ceremony in order to log some miles back towards Ireland before seeking storm shelter in Newlyn.

Meanwhile, although most of the cups and trophies were going to French boats, there were special cheers for two American boats which had found their journey well worthwhile – the former Volvo 70 Wizard (Peter & Dave Askew) which was lauded as overall winner to add the Fastnet trophies to her already remarkable 2019 record of winning the Transatlantic and the RORC Caribbean races in July and February respectively. And the 50-year old 48ft McCurdy Rhodes design Carina (Rives Potts), a veteran of the 1969 race and also the storm-struck 1979 race, which took the Dorade Trophy for top-placed Classic Yacht.

carina 2019 fastnet3The most golden oldie….Rives Potts’ 48ft Carina has won the Dorade Trophy in her Golden Jubilee year. Photo: Rick Tomlinson/Rolex

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The “Wimbledon Effect” is pretty well complete with the Rolex Fastnet Race generally, and with the 2019 event, in particular, writes W M Nixon. As with Wimbledon tennis itself, the English organize a jolly good event with this classic offshore challenge, though in the case of the Fastnet Race it’s with a little help from the Irish and our very useful rock, not to mention our weather - and welcome to it.

But in the end, all the main prizes have gone abroad, in the Fastnet Race’s case either across the Channel or across the Atlantic. They certainly haven’t come to Ireland. And yet it’s only a dozen years since Ger O’Rourke of Kilrush was totally triumphant every which way in winning overall with his Cookson 50 Chieftain.

"All the main prizes have gone abroad, in the Fastnet Race’s case either across the Channel or across the Atlantic"

Our only last hope is with the Roger Justice Trophy for the best sailing school boat, and our two contenders in this – both from Irish Offshore Sailing in Dun Laoghaire - are at the time of writing still racing, with the Sun Fast 37 Sherkin 2, skippered by Daniel Smith, slightly ahead of his boss Ronan O Siochru sailing sister-ship Desert Star, both with around 37 miles to go to the finish at Plymouth, and both sailing at 6.3 knots.

sherkin two2Irish offshore sailing’s Sherkin 2, skippered by Daniel Smith, is currently narrowly ahead of sister-ship Desert Star, skippered by Ronan O Siochru. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

Meanwhile, the rest of the results are more than clearcut in their message for Irish and UK sailors:

American boat first to finish? Check. It’s George David’s Rambler88.

American boat first overall on IRC? Check. It’s Peter and Dave Askew’s former Volvo 70 Wizard, skippered by Charlie Enright.

French boats dominating most of the other classes? Check. Here’s the Roll of Honour of French boats in the top three in all classes:

Class 0: 2nd Bretagne Telecom (French-designed and built Mach 45)

lange de milon3Jacques Pelletier’s Milon 41 L’Ange de Milon is winner of Class 1. Photo: Rolex
Class 1: 1st L’Ange de Milon (Milon 41), 2nd Lann Ael (Jnd39, overall winner in 2017, 3rd Tonnere de Glen

Class 2: lst Courrier Recommende (JPK 11.80), 2nd Nutmeg Solidaire En Peleton (MC34)

Class 3: 1st Leon (JPK 10.30), 3rd Dream Pearls (JPK 10.80)

Class 4: 1st Foggy Dew (JPK 10.10), 2nd Gioia (JPK 10.10), 3rd Sun Hill 3.

IRC Two-handed: 1st Leon (JPK 10.30), 3rd Raging-bee (JPK 10.80).

MOCRA: 1st Guyader Gastronomie

Open Multihull: 1st Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (Gitana XVII), 2nd Macif, 3rd Sodebo Ultim

IMOCA 60: 1st Charal, 2nd Prb, 3rd Banque Populaire

Class40: 1st Lamotte-Module Creation, 2nd Beijaflore, 3rd Earendi.

We can draw all sorts of conclusions from this, but if you think it must be something to do with a rigidly-controlled society, perish the thought. On the contrary, it seems to be the result of a society of hugely individualistic people who - in the case of sailing and particularly offshore racing – share a desire to create innovative boats and race them in the most skilled possible way.

jpk workshop4The essence of French enthusiasm – Jean-Pierre Kelbert in his boat-building workshop in Lorient.
The classic case in point is Jean-Pierre Kelbert, creator of the JPK range of successful offshore racers which really do perform as good and comfortable cruisers as well. In industry terms, his company is small. But with the Rolex Fastnet Race, JPK Yachts is global in its impact, and we can only hope some venture company doesn’t somehow get its mitts into it and spoil the magic with excessive expansion.

As it happens, the company’s successful boats are the saving of it. If you have a JPK yacht, you have absolutely no excuse for not winning. By buying one, you’re either going to race determinedly, or cruise far and wide with style. There’s no place for limp performance with a JPK. There’s no point in everyone trying to have a JPK.

leon finish5Enthusiasm afloat – Alexis Loison (left) and owner-skipper-builder Jean Pierre Kelbert after the JPK 10.30 Leon had crossed the finish line yesterday at Plymouth to achieve multiple wins. Photo: Rolex

The man himself seems to be super-human in his energy and enthusiasm, yet modest with it. He came to sailing through wind-surfing in which he was European champion in 1988 and 1999. But by the turn of the millennium, he was thinking about proper boats and found a kindred soul in designer Jacques Valeur, who designed the first JPK boat when the firm started in 2002, and continues to design a balanced range of performance boats in which the JPK 10.30 – introduced in April this year – is at one end and the JPK 45 – a lift-keel fast cruiser – is at the other.

Even today, Jean-Pierre Kelbert seems to be very personally involved in a direct hands-on way with every boat which his small but select workforce creates. But his enthusiasm doesn’t stop there, for he still relishes sailing.

Thus we watched with interest as the new JPK 10.30 Leon started in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 racing in both the Two-Handed Division and Class 3. And as she appeared with more regularity at the front of both fleets, we wondered who might be sailing her. It was the man himself, no less, sailing with Alexis Loison.

jpk fortyfive6 Another aspect of a remarkable product line – the JPK 45 fast cruiser has a lifting keel.

They just went better and better, putting in a stellar performance on the fast leg from the Fastnet to the Bishop, and at the finish not only had they stayed in front to win the Two-Handed Division and Class 3, but they shot up to sixth overall just behind Gery Trentesaux in the JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommande, and otherwise surrounded by much bigger boats.

Monsieur Jean-Pierre Kelbert, we salute you. Meanwhile, here’s a vid of George David’s Rambler 88 doing great things at the other end of the size scale:

 

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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

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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

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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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