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Here's video of the salvage and righting operation after the capsize of the super maxi ocean racing yacht Rambler 100 during the Fastnet race 2011.

The 100-foot yacht capsized shorthly after rounding the Fastnet rock, the result it appears of a catastrophic keel failure.

All 21 crew were saved thanks to the work of the Irish emergency services. The footage is taken by Baltimore Sea Safari. All our Fastnet and Rambler 100 coverage is here.

Published in Fastnet

It might have been the year that records tumbled  but 2011 wasn't a good year for the Irish contingent in the Fastnet yacht race. There were a dozen Irish boats or boats of Irish interest at least but all of them failed to shine in the massive 330 boat fleet. Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners - which as Ger O'Rourke's Chieftain was overall winner in 2007 - had been 10th overall at the Fastnet, but like Tonnerre de Breskens, which slipped back to 32nd at the finish, the Lee boat's race went south and she finished 57th. Full Results here.

This year's event living up to its reputation as the most gruelling and tactically challenging of the classic offshore races. As usual the 608 mile long course took the boats from the start line off Cowes, Isles of Wight towards the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland, back around the outside of the Scilly Isles off southwest England to the finish line in Plymouth.

On Sunday 14 August, 314 boats set sail - the largest ever Rolex Fastnet Race fleet - up from the previous record of 303. This was due to a new initiative from race's organisers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, to invite 'professional' offshore classes, able to compete under their own class rules, over and above the IRC fleet, that was capped at a maximum of 300 entries. The result was the most diverse selection of yachts ever assembled in a single offshore yacht race with the new initiative attracting many high-profile international racing teams. Thus in the same race some of the world's fastest multihulls such as the 140-foot long trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire were lining up with Contessa 32s and pilot cutters with the complete pantheon of racing yachts in between.

A coup for the event was the participation of three Volvo Open 70s, the only occasion these boats would race together prior to this autumn's start of the fully crewed round the world race. The 'pro' classes also saw the race debut of the two Multi One Design 70 foot trimarans, and attracted six IMOCA 60s, best known for competing in the singlehanded non-stop round the world race, the Vendee Globe, plus an impressive fleet of 20 of their smaller cousins, the Class 40.

Leading the charge in the IRC fleet were the two 100 foot maxis Rambler 100 and ICAP Leopard, followed by the Farr 80 Beau Geste and Mini Maxis such as the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Niklas Zennstrom's JV72, Ran, and Andres Soriano's Mills 68, Alegre, but the bulk of the record-sized fleet were more regular yachts with amateur crews from a total of 20 nations. For many, participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race was the highlight of their sailing seasons, for others the pinnacle of their sailing careers.

Off the Royal Yacht Squadron platform, the fleet starts began with the multihulls and culminating with the canting keel monohulls and VO70s, the boats enduring a stiff beat out of the Solent and into the English Channel in the best Rolex Fastnet Race tradition. With winds gusting to 30 knots at the exit to the Solent at Hurst Narrows, there were the first dramas of the race with the Class 40, Eutourist Serv-System and the trimaran, Strontium Dog (GBR) dismasting, plus two collisions.
As expected Banque Populaire, Gitana 11 and the two MOD70s trimarans set off at lightning speed down the race course. While Gitana 11, skippered by Vendee Globe and Volvo Ocean Race skipper Seb Josse was constantly nipping at her heels, the world's fastest offshore boat, Maxi Banque Populaire, skippered by French offshore legend Loick Peyron, as expected proved the pace-setter. After being on the wind all the way to the Rock, the trimaran took off on a reach on her way back to the finish in Plymouth. Crossing the line Monday evening in a time of just 1 day, 8 hours, and 48 minutes, the world's fastest racing trimaran established a new outright record for the Rolex Fastnet Race - some 7 hours and 39 minutes quicker than that of the best previous time set by a multihull.

Unfortunately as this was happening, drama was unfolding close by the Fastnet Rock. While Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard, two-time line honours winner in this event, led the monohull fleet down the English Channel and into the Celtic Sea, George David's Rambler 100 finally overhauled them on the way to the Rock. Rambler 100 rounded the Rock at 17:25 BST and turned south for the Pantaenius offset mark into 25-30 knot headwinds and a sizable short sharp sea. Shortly after this, the fin for her canting keel snapped just below the hull exit causing her to capsize almost instantaneously.

Three crew were lucky and climbed straight on to the upturned hull as she capsized, the rest ended up in the water, including four who had been down below at the time. With a massive struggle in the difficult conditions, the majority of her 21 crew, managed to clamber up on top of the upturned hull, while five, including skipper George David, alarmingly drifted away from the boat. Fortunately, the five tied themselves together, and they were recovered after having spent 2.5 hours in the water, while the remainder of the crew were picked up by the lifeboat from nearby Baltimore. Incredibly, everyone was rescued - this through the combined heroic efforts of the Valentia MRCC, the Baltimore Lifeboat, and the dive vessel, Wave Chieftain. The shaken crew were taken to Baltimore while David's partner Wendy Touton was airlifted to hospital, suffering from hypothermia, and later released. Remembering the 1979 Fastnet disaster, many local residents in Baltimore offered the shaken Rambler crew unparalleled hospitality upon their arrival.

After the terrible Rambler incident, Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard once again took the lead in the monohull fleet, but after rounding the Fastnet Rock and cracking off, the 100 foot maxi was rapidly overhauled on the leg back to the Scilly Isles by the three VO70s. After a spectacular race where each of the three boats, Abu Dhabi, Groupama 4 and Team Sanya held the lead at some point, Groupama 4 led back from the Fastnet Rock only to be pipped at the post by the Farr-designed Abu Dhabi, skippered by double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker - with just 4 minutes 42 seconds separating her from Groupama 4, skippered by French non-stop round the world record holder Franck Cammas. In the process, Abu Dhabi also broke ICAP Leopard's monohull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race with an elapsed time for the course of 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes.
Following them in mid-Tuesday morning, was a similarly tight finish between the IMOCA 60s with 2004-5 Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou completing the course in 1 day, 23 hours, and 21 minutes, ahead of double Barcelona World Race winner Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 2 and double Velux 5 Oceans winner Bernard Stamm aboard his new Cheminees Poujoulat, the top three separated by less than five minutes.

Prior to the start of this Rolex Fastnet Race the forecast for brisk winds for the first two days followed by light conditions mid-week, indicated that the event would favour the larger, faster boats on handicap.

After ICAP Leopard, the next IRC arrival was Niklas Zennström's Rán at 12:53:44 BST on Tuesday, in an elapsed time of 2 days 3 minutes and 44 seconds and even upon her arrival the silver hulled Judel Vrolijk 72 was looking strong to take the overall prize in the Rolex Fastnet for a second consecutive time. Her race had been made easier with her immediate competition retiring - the Farr 80 Beau Geste, with a crack in her deck and Andres Soriano's Mills 68 Alegre, with a broken rudder tip.

On Wednesday, pace in the Rolex Fastnet Race slowed with the onset of a high pressure system over parts of the race course, leaving many yachts becalmed, particularly around the Scilly Isles and along the south coast of Cornwall. The light winds continued into Thursday as the bulk of the fleet approached the Plymouth finish. Boats arrived with wind, only to be stalled on a foul tide, so there were several virtual restarts approaching the line and on Thursday night after the tide turned over a period of just two hours, an armada of 105 boats crossed the finish line, the crews arriving with tales of prolonged periods they had to anchor to avoid going backwards.

Niklas Zennström's Rán was confirmed as the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the first time a boat had won consecutive races since Carina II in the 1950s.

"It's fantastic, really, really good," said Zennström of his second victory. "Everyone on the team is very happy and very pleased. I think we've never sailed better as a team. We sailed the boat very hard, we were never kind of relaxed, we were very focused all the time and we pushed the boat a lot."

With the exception of Rán in IRC Z, ICAP Leopard in the Canting Keel class and Rives
Potts' McCurdy & Rhodes 48 Carina (USA) in IRC 2, French teams won the three other IRC classes and held the majority of positions on the podium. IRC 1 went to regular RORC race competitors Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau on their Grand Soleil 43 Codiam. Class 3 was won by Noel Racine's aboard his JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, while once again in IRC 4 victory went to Jean Yves Chateau's Nicholson 33, Iromiguy, overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2007.

Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, summarised: "It's been a really interesting race because it offered everything: It's been a tough race - not just because of the wind conditions on the first two days, but also tough getting back for the little boats because they have had very little wind, they've parked up. And we had the Rambler incident and the first boat arriving after just 32 hours. Then the Volvo guys finishing within five minutes was amazing and the Class 40s had a really close finish. Maybird and Morwenna, the two pilot cutters, are having their own battle out there - they'll be in next week. So this Fastnet's been full of opportunities for people, an experience for everybody involved in it."

As of 1200 BST there were six boats still racing, expected to finish today, including Edith Gray, Freebird, Brisbane Star, Rainbow UK, Morwenna, while Maybird is due in early Sunday morning.

 

 

Published in Fastnet
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While it might be an exaggeration to say that all of the 21 crew members of Rambler 100 owe their lives to the Irish Search and Rescue service, there are certainly five people whose future prospects were greatly improved by the operation off the Fastnet Rock on August 15th. A lot of media focus has been on Coxswain Kieran Cotter and the crew of Baltimore Lifeboat as well as lifeboat mechanic Jerry Smith, whose dive boat, on charter to the media team of one of the competitors, was on hand to search and recover the five drifting crew. There is no question that this focus is appropriate. RNLI crews all over the UK and Ireland deserve the attention, not only because of their extraordinary voluntary dedication to the cause, but also because such publicity helps swell the coffers of the charity. The service could not operate without the generosity of the donors and incidents such as these help fill the blue boat-shaped boxes held by even more RNLI volunteers.

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Saved: Ireland's Rescue Services Answered the Call of the capsized Supermaxi Rambler 100 off the Fastnet Rock. Photo: Team Phaedo


The dramatic stories and pictures dominating the media show the front line of a quite wonderful resource that is Search and Rescue in Ireland today. Baltimore Lifeboat was at the coal face of an intricate network of operations, triggered by the crew's EPIRBs. Irish Coast Guard radio officers in Valentia responded almost immediately tasking the rescue resources, working the phones and computers to confirm that this was not an accidentally triggered EPIRB, contacting RORC HQ, determining search patterns and relaying the information to the scene. It was the backroom contacts between RORC and the Coast Guard in endeavouring to contact Rambler 100 using satellite phones that confirmed the possibility of a catastrophic incident involving the Supermaxi. The subsequent tasking of the Shannon and Waterford based Sikorsky helicopters led to the medevac of crew member Wendy Touton and timely treatment of her hypothermic condition, initially by the on-board paramedics and later at Tralee General hospital. And Coast Guard involvement didn't end with the successful rescue – the shoreside operation to provide food and shelter in Baltimore was coordinated by Coast Guard personnel and the salvage operation of the hull of Rambler 100 was overseen by the Irish Coast Guard.

Rambler_rescue_phaedo_4

Rambler crew are recovered from the water after a SAR operation by the Irish Coastguard Photo: Team Phaedo. More photos here.


That Ireland has probably one of the best Search and Rescue services in the world goes back to the campaign initiated in 1988 by Joan McGinley, following the death, within sight of land of Donegal fisherman John Oglesby, whose leg was severed in a trawl winch. Eamon Doherty, the late former Garda Commissioner chaired the review group established in response to the campaign and his report led to the establishment of the Irish Marine Emergency Service, subsequently the Irish Coast Guard. Under the guidance of Director Capt Liam Kirwan, the new service moved quickly to become not only the central co-ordinating body for Search and Rescue, but developed its own resources, notably the helicopters, previously tasked in from Irish Air Corps and UK SAR.
Another element that will feature in the Rambler 100 incident is the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB), set up from recommendations arising from a review of the handling of investigations into marine casualties.

It might be thought that the incident is now closed, but there are many unanswered questions and the investigation will be looking at these and making recommendations that should improve safety in this sector. These questions will include EPIRB performance, liferaft deployment and grab bag usage, but perhaps the key issue yet to be determined is why the response from fellow competitors didn't appear to happen. Even if Channel 16 wasn't being actively monitored, and if not why not, shouldn't the Mayday set off by the Coast Guard have set off the DSC alerts on the radios of Rambler 100's fellow competitors? Had the incident occurred several hours later or earlier when Rambler 100 could have been up to 100 miles from the nearest land, when conditions worsened, we could be looking at much more serious consequences.

It is heartening to think that, in this small country of ours in troubled times, not only do we have a shining star in our search, rescue, recovery and restore system, involving professionals and volunteers cooperating for the greater good, we also have a system that determines the nature of incidents so that we can all learn from the experience.
And let us not forget those people and services, such as the Gardai, Navy, Army and the community of Baltimore who are outside the media spotlight who contributed to this happy ending.

Afloat's Latest Coastguard News

Afloat's Latest RNLI Lifeboat News

Afloat's Latest MCIB News

 

 

Published in Water Rat

Competing against one of the largest and most diverse fleets assembled in the history of offshore yachting, the Rolex Fastnet race saw the Australian boatbuilder McConaghy's built ICAP Leopard 3, the Reichel Pugh 65 Vanquish (crewed by the young American Oakcliff Offshore Team with average age of 25) and the new Ker 40 Keronimo finish at the front of the fleet. Leopard 3 second overall on IRC, Vanquish 3rd overall on IRC (plus second in class behind overall race winner RAN) and the smallest McConaghy entry Jonathan Goring's new Ker 40 Keronimo beating sixty five boats to secure first in IRC1 A - plus 16th on overall IRC, a massive achievement, says the builder, battling conditions from extremely light to 30 knots against a high quality fleet of two hundred and seventy yachts.
Keronimo success in the challenging 608 mile Fastnet race confirms the Ker 40's ability to beat larger opposition on the water - plus perform extremely well on handicap through a range of conditions offshore. This performance - combined with its immaculate build quality have driven worldwide sales of the Ker 40 to 9, with boats now purchased in Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and strong interest in The United States and South Africa.

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The prizegiving for the Rolex Fastnet Race took place this evening at the historic Royal Citadel on Plymouth's famous Hoe.

Dating back to 1660s and standing on the site of the fort built in the time of Sir Francis Drake, the Royal Citadel over the centuries has been one of Britain's most important defences and today is the base for the 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Fastnet Challenge Cup, was awarded this year to Niklas Zennström's Rán and this was presented along with a Rolex Yachtmaster Chronometer. The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer also won the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2009, making her the first back-to-back winner since Carina II in 1955/1957.

In addition, Rán won the Joe Powder Trophy for best corrected time at the Fastnet Rock, the Hong Kong Cup for first in IRC Zero, Erroll Bruce Cup for the first yacht home in IRC Zero.

Rán navigator Steve Hayles also won the Alf Loomis Trophy as the navigator of the yacht that wins IRC overall.

Mike Slade's 100 foot maxi ICAP Leopard picked up a large quantity of silverware including the Erivale Trophy for first yacht home in IRC Canting Keel; the Gesture Trophy for first overall in IRC Canting Keel; the Clarion Cup for the first British yacht home; the Kees van Dam Memorial Trophy for second in IRC Overall and the Royal Thames Yacht Club Spirit Cup for the first Royal Thames yacht home.

A magnum of champagne and a Rolex Yachtmaster chronometer was presented to Ian Walker's VO70 Abu Dhabi for the line honours win and set a new monohull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race of 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes, and 0 seconds.

The IRC class prizes included the West Mersea Yacht Club Trophy for first in IRC One to Nicolas Loday's Grand Soleil 43, Codiam; the Foxhound Cup for first in IRC Two to Rives Potts' McCurdy & Rhodes 48, Carina; the Favona Cup for first in IRC Three to Noel Racine's  JPK 10.10's, Foggy Dew; the Iolaire Cup for first in IRC Four to Jean Yves Chateau's Nicholson 33, Iromiguy.

The Brunskill Trophy for the best Two Handed boat overall and the Berrimilla Dog Bowl for the best two handed boat in IRC Four were awarded to Will Sayer and Matthew Glasgow and their Sigma 36, Elmarleen.

The Jolie Brise Cup for the first yacht home in IRC classes One to Four was won by Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens.

Yachts and Yachting Catamaran Trophy for the first multihull home was awarded to the 140 foot trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire, which set a new multihull record time of 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds, while the MOCRA Musters Trophy for the first multihull home under 50 feet went to Will Claxton's 10m trimaran, Paradox and the MOCRA Crystal Trophy for the best multihull on corrected time under 50 feet went to Simon Baker's Dazcat D1150, Drama Queen.

The RORC IMOCA 60 Trophy for the first IMOCA 60 home went to Vincent Riou's, PRB, while the Philip Whitehead Trophy for first Class 40 home, for the second time running, was Initiatives - Alex Olivier, skippered by Tanguy de Lamotte.

A full Rolex Fastnet Race wrap-up report will be published tomorrow.

Published in Fastnet
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A shut-down of the wind and a foul tide just short of the finish line made for a challenging few hours for the Royal Ocean Racing Club race team as an armada of Rolex Fastnet Race competitors descended on the finish line. Between 0000 and 0200 this morning 105 boats, or just over one third of the record-sized fleet, crossed the finish line.
Patrick van de Ven, sailing doublehanded with Igor Quik on the X-43 Lady of Avalon (NED) in IRC 2, arrived at 00:54 BST this morning. Yesterday, while lying 20 miles shy of the finish line, they had been forced to anchor, along with two other boats, for ten frustrating hours. To manage this involved their tying together all their available warps, sheets and guys in order for their anchor to set in the 70 metres of water.

"When we put up the sails and got running, we looked behind and there was this massive fleet of smaller boats coming in with the wind," recalled van de Ven. "It was beautiful - there was this big cloud of red and green lights behind us. We were happy we were in front of them."

Another Dutch doublehanded pair, John van der Starre and Robin Verhoef, on the newly-launched J/111 J-Xcentric (NED), racing in IRC 2, had less dramatic, but no less a frustrating finish yesterday afternoon. Finishing just one minute behind a fully crewed J/111, they were forced to anchor 200 metres from the finish line for one-and-a-half hours.

Van der Starre and Verhoef led the 36-strong double-handed division for most of the race. They eventually lost first place in the double-handed class to the Sigma 36, British Beagle (GBR).

This was their first Rolex Fastnet Race and Van de Starre said he was impressed: "This is a great challenge of tactics, handling and everything. There is so much in it - I had a really good experience. Racing double-handed is about management - everything has to work well, you need a good autopilot, all the preparation in advance should be perfect, and we had it very well organised." The duo had a small problem that left them unable to charge their boat's batteries (and therefore unable to use the all-important autopilot) for 36 hours.

CLASS WINNERS ANNOUNCED:
Today the class winners have been announced. With Niklas Zennström's J-V72 Rán (GBR) claiming the overall IRC handicap prize ahead of Mike Slade's 100 foot maxi, ICAP Leopard. Rán also won Class Z ahead of the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team on Vanquish (USA) and the TP52 Near Miss (SUI).

In most other classes, France dominated. IRC 1 saw victory go to regular RORC race competitors Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau on their Grand Soleil 43 Codiam (FRA), ahead of Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor (FRA) and the First 47.7 Moana (BEL) of Francois and Mathieu Goubau.

Class 3 was claimed by two JPK 10.10 designs: Noel Racine's Foggy Dew (FRA), overall winner in the RORC's Myth of Malham Race earlier this year, ahead of Vincent Willemart's Wasabi (BEL). France also dominated Class 4 in the familiar form of Jean Yves Chateau's Nicholson 33, Iromiguy (FRA), overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2007, ahead of Persephone (FRA), Yves Lambert's Stand Fast 37/Tina .

One exception to the Franco-Belgium domination of this year's race was American Rives Potts, whose 48 foot McCurdy & Rhodes-designed Carina won Class 2, ahead of two French boats - the JND35 Gaia and the J/122 Nutmeg IV.

Despite his boat dating back to 1969 and originally having been the Nye family's replacement for Carina 2, back-to-back winner of the Rolex Fastnet in 1955 and 1957, Potts is a boatyard owner in Connecticut and has been constantly tinkering and upgrading Carina since he acquired her in the early 1990s. Less obvious is that he is also a five-time America's Cup sailor and winner, having competed on Freedom in 1980 and subsequent campaigns with Dennis Conner through until 1995, and who completed the 1979 Fastnet Race aboard the winner, Ted Turner's maxi Tenacious.

"It is fabulous," said Potts of his win. "This is a 71-boat class with some very good boats in it and we feel very fortunate. Our navigator Dirk Johnson did a fabulous job. He was always looking for where there was the most pressure and the least current. The race was probably 90% going to weather and that is our strong point. Had it been more off the wind I'm sure the lighter, more modern boats would have left us in the dust. It was a good race for us."

With Rolex Fastnet Race and Bermuda Race wins behind her, Carina is now off to Australia to attempt to obtain the last piece of what Potts described as the "triple crown", namely the Rolex Sydney Hobart.

With 248 finishers and 41 retirements, 25 boats remain on the race course this afternoon, with the prizegiving for the Rolex Fastnet Race due to take place this evening at the historic Royal Citadel. The Citadel, home to the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooks Plymouth Sound and Sutton Harbour, where the majority of the fleet are berthed.

CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, Eddie Warden Owen commented on this year's Rolex Fastnet Race: "It's been a really interesting race because it offered everything: It's been a tough race - not just because of the wind conditions on the first two days, but also tough getting back for the little boats, because they had very little wind and parked up.

"And we had the Rambler incident (capsize and subsequent rescue of her 21 crew) and we had to get our act together very quickly because the first boat (the 40 metre trimaran Banque Populaire) arrived after 32 hours, so we'd only just got here and got the place set up.

"The fact that the Volvo guys finished within five minutes of each other is amazing. And the Class 40s had a really close finish as well. Just rounding the rock now are Maybird and Morwenna, the two classic pilot cutters - they are having their own battle out there. They'll finish in three, four days time. This Fastnet has been full of opportunities for people, an experience for everybody involved in it."

Published in Fastnet
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Niklas Zennström's RÁN have been confirmed as overall winners of the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race and the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup. Rolex/Daniel Forster

For the first time in more than 50 years, the Rolex Fastnet Race has a back-to-back handicap winner. Following on from her victory under IRC in 2009, this afternoon the Royal Ocean Race Club has confirmed that Niklas Zennström's Rán (GBR) is once again the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race and the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup.

Past double winners of the race include Jolie Brise (1929 and 1930), yacht designer Olin Stephens' Dorade (1931 and 1933), John Ilingworth's Myth of Malham (1947 and 1949) and most recently Richard Nye's Carina II (1955 and 1957). It should be noted that Carina II is not the same boat as the one of this same name being campaigned in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race by American Rives Potts.

The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72ft Rán finished in Plymouth on Tuesday at 12:53:44 and even then she was looking like a strong contender for the overall prize, but this afternoon her win was officially confirmed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

Under IRC, Rán's time corrected out so that she beat ICAP Leopard (GBR) by 4 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds, and Mike Slade's 100 foot supermaxi in turn a massive 10 hours, 40 minutes ahead of third placed Vanquish (USA), the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team's STP65.
"It's fantastic. It's still hard to believe almost. Everyone on the team is very, very happy and very pleased," said Zennström of his second consecutive Rolex Fastnet Race victory, adding that defending their title was one of his sailing team's primary objectives for the year. "You may say 'we're going to race to win', and that is really what we were going for, but also these races have so many different variables that you cannot really take into account. Its great when it works out."

Navigator Steve Hayles agreed: "We like the Fastnet Race and it has treated us well again on Rán. It was a bit of everything and felt like a pretty tough race at times. It was great."

While their campaign in 2009 was well planned, this year Zennström says he tried to take their campaign to a new level. "The way we sailed as a team - we've never sailed better and because we were very well prepared, I think we executed very well. We sailed the boat very hard, we were never relaxed, we were very focused all the time and we pushed the boat a lot. When we rounded the Rock, on the way back, we pushed the boat as hard as we could, and I think that we pretty much held our time on the water. I think we lost maybe 40 minutes or even less on Leopard on the way back, so we sailed very, very well. The strategy was great, well-implemented and we didn't have any crew mistakes. The team did a very good job."

Rán herself has seen a marked change compared to her two year old self with 500kg shed from her keel bulb at the beginning of 2010. Since then there haven't been any major changes, although the team have been constantly making small refinements.

According to Zennström, the boat is now well-developed and the crew very comfortable sailing her. "This is the third year we have been racing the boat, and we have done quite a few offshores and I think that is important because not only do we know the boat very well, but we also have very, very good confidence. Having done two Sydney Hobarts with the boat, and one Fastnet Race, and one very windy Middle Sea Race without breaking, we knew even if it was rough the boat could take it and we were confident we could push harder and harder. So that is very important: sometimes not making so many changes in a boat can be a good thing, because you feel the boat is in very good trim."

Navigator Steve Hayles felt the forecast, while favouring the upper echelons of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet, wasn't quite as favourable for them as compared to two years ago. "We knew there was a bit more reaching, and our boat is better upwind. We had to work hard on getting out of the Solent and the Channel and that went pretty well and then we hung on for dear life to be honest...as close as we could."

Their main competition had been Karl Kwok and Jim Schwartz's Beau Geste, and there was some friendly rivalry between the two boats as Gavin Brady skippered the Farr 80, but is also acting as tactician this year on Zennström's TP52 in the Mediterranean. "He slammed (tacked) on us a couple of times in the Solent and once down the Channel. It was a good race," recalled Hayles.

So will Rán be back to defend her title for a second time? Zennström says it is too early to decide at this stage, but it is something they would certainly strongly consider. "The achievement of winning two back-to-backs is pretty amazing and more than we could have hoped for. After the first win - and when we started to think about this year's planning - this was the thing we had to go for."

As of 1700 BST today, backmarker the Pilot Cutter Morwenna still is 30 miles short of the Fastnet Rock with 281 miles to go to reach Plymouth. At present 168 boats remain at sea with 39 retired and 107 finishers

Published in Fastnet
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UK and Ireland importers of J boats, Key Yachting Ltd are celebrating a good showing for both their J boats and Grand Soleil ranges in this week's Fastnet race. The UK firm has issued the following press statement capitalising on results to date:

The Key Yachting Fastnet Top Twenty – Grand Soleil 43 Codiam straight in at Number One

For those who love the Fastnet Race, and for many it is the highlight of the offshore season, the 2011 race has delivered on all counts. It has proved a hugely tactical race and competitors have fought for speed in a whole variety of conditions from 30 knots of breeze through to what was almost a complete shut-down in the pressure. Extraordinarily frightening for for some, gut wrenchingly frustrating for others, incredibly rewarding for those who got it right and extremely high-stress for many of the thousands and thousands of ‘virtual spectators’ who have spent the last five days perched on the edge of their office chairs watching the thrills and spills of the race online, whilst the UK economy grinds slowly upwind against the tide.

The fleet this year numbered well over 300 boats, one of the largest race entries on record. Of these, clients of Key Yachting, racing their J Boats and Grand Soleils made up a significant proportion, both in the fully crewed IRC Classes and also in the Double-Handed Class. Of course enormous credit is bestowed by the team at Key Yachting upon each and every skipper and crew member who arrived on the startline last Sunday to take part, irrespective of their choice of craft. However, one simply cannot fail but notice just how well the Js and Grand Soleils performed overall.

The huge numbers of entries, the massive variance in the type of craft taking part and the disparate sailing experience across the competing crews means that everyone who take part in this epic race can consider themselves a winner. Reviewing the race would be a dream job for any political spin doctor; it just depends on the angle of one’s approach. So, for our purposes here, let’s look at the top twenty overall. That’s the first twenty boats of the entire 300+ fleet under the most widely employed rating system in the world, IRC. In this top twenty, the number of Js and Grand Soleils was six, or put another way, 33% of the top twenty best performing crews in the Fastnet Race were sailing a J Boat or a Grand Soleil.

Topping the Key Yachting Fastnet Leaderboard is Codiam, the Grand Soleil 43 OT of Monsieurs Loday and Nicoleau.  Codiam was seventh overall under IRC, the best performing Grand Soleil in the race and they won Class IRC 1. This is a formidable racing team and this also happens to be their second consecutive win in IRC Class 1 on the Fastnet: they also took the bullet here in 2009. It’s hard enough to win, but even harder to do it twice. This is an absolutely amazing result.

The J/122 Nutmeg IV, owned and raced by Francois Lognone and his crew were the top J Boat overall in the Fastnet 2011. Another seasoned offshore campaigner, this is a well deserved and hard fought result for the French skipper and crew of this forty footer. Eighth overall translates to third in their class: IRC 2.

The Grand Soleil 43 OT, Quokka 8, the current UK IRC National Champion (having achieved eight straight wins around-the-cans back in July) used the Fastnet Race to prove that these beautiful Italian yachts are far more than one-trick ponies. Can they win inshore? Yes they can. How do they do offshore? Very well indeed: Quokka 8 was tenth overall in the Fastnet this year, a result which is all the more commendable because she was being sailed under charter by Philip Falle and his team from Sailing Logic. What a cracking job they did!

Another J/122, Neil Kipling’s Joopster crossed the finish line in very good shape indeed and dug straight in to the overall scores in fourteenth place, Yves Grosjeans’s bright red forty-three foot J/133 Jivaro was just a few steps behind in eighteenth place overall and Chaz Ivill’s Grand Soleil 54 John B closed the Key Yachting Fastnet Top Twenty.

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After an extremely quiet 24 hours, from last night boats have been streaming into Plymouth, with over 50 boats finishing between midnight and noon. There have been some tight finishes in this Rolex Fastnet Race between the Volvo Open 70s and the IMOCA Open 60, but the closest by far occurred in the early hours this morning in the Class 40, where the top five boats arrived within six-and-a-half minutes of one another.

Having led for the majority of the race, there was a deserved win for Tanguy de Lamotte aboard his Rogers-designed Initiatives - Alex Olivier (FRA), which arrived two and a half minutes ahead of the new Kiwi 40 Peraspera (ITA), in turn just 30 seconds in front of Red (GER), skippered by Mathias Mueller von Blumencron, former Editor in Chief of Der Spiegel magazine.

Having led for most of the race, Initiatives - Alex Olivier was overtaken by Peraspera at the last headland coming into Plymouth and it was only because their last tack into the finish took them further south of the Plymouth breakwater, that they won. "We could go on one tack to the finish line and that is where we pulled away and overtook them again," recounted de Lamotte. "It was a literally a few hundred metres before the finish line. So it could have gone any way, anyone could have won it."

Finishing 3 hours and 13 minutes astern of the Class 40 leader and 12th in Class 40 was the Class 40 Dragon (USA), skippered by Michael Hennessy, who recently sailed his boat in the Transatlantic Race 2011. "It is pretty exciting stuff," said Hennessy of the close finish. "We had a tough race. It is challenging because no one on the boat knows English waters at all and local knowledge played a big part from Bishop Rock on. We had a couple of lead changes after that and the last one went against us."

Hennessy is a regular competitor in the US-equivalent of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Newport Bermuda Race. "That is great, but this is far more tactically challenging. You break it down and there are eight segments to this race and each has its own unique challenge to it. This was a really tactically challenging race and far more competitive than I had anticipated. It is the best race I have ever done."

Overnight the leaders in IRC 1 arrived in Plymouth, welcomed this morning by a prolonged and torrential rain. At present, French boats are looking to be the strongest contenders on handicap with the familiar Grand Soleil 54 Codiam (FRA) of Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau ahead of the Laurent Gouy's Ker 39, Inis Mor (FRA).

Inis Mor skipper Laurent Goyh said, "It was good. Going out of the Solent was fast and quick, but it was hard getting to the Fastnet (rock)." Goyh, whose last Fastnet Race was in 1997 aboard a Grand Mistral one-design maxi, said he felt they had sailed an extremely good race, despite running out of wind for 30 minutes at Bishop Rock, and was frustrated that their result wasn't better.

Peter Rutter's Quokka 8 (GBR), the UK IRC National Champion, arrived in at 07:31:12 this morning in IRC2, the boat on this occasion part of the seven-strong fleet entered by charter company Sailing Logic. Rutter and Sailing Logic's Philippe Falle were sailing Quokka 8 with a youth crew. "We did very well indeed," said Rutter on his arrival. "It was superb racing, as always with the Fastnet. It was quite a rough second night. After Bishop Rock we watched the whole fleet sailing up to us, we stopped and we managed to get slightly inshore of the rest of the fleet and then got 4 miles ahead in the space of about 1.5 hours, which was pleasing."

Just ahead of them on the water but sailing in IRC 1, was the Scheveningen-based Swan 42 Baraka Gp (NED) skippered by Piet de Graaf and sailed by a crew comprising many family members. "I think we sailed pretty well, especially in the first part of the race," said elder son Dirk de Graaf. "We worked well and our navigator and tactician did good preparation. We were off Land's End in a good position. In the Irish Sea we had some tough conditions and we saw 30 knots."

The Swan 42 is not known for being an offshore boat and it was the boat and the crew's first Rolex Fastnet Race. However the team had prepared extensively including competing in the North Sea Race earlier this year, along with some other qualifiers. "We have sailed some offshore (races) before, but not as big as this one. This is the best race I have ever done," concluded Dirk de Graaf.
At present the weather is being dominated by the Azores high bringing northerly winds across the race course. Over the next 24 hours the high pressure is expected to turn more into a ridge, and by tomorrow morning this will be on an NE-SW axis straight across the middle of the race track, with precious little wind in its vicinity through until Saturday, making for a slow finish for the tailenders.
As of 1200 BST today, 82 boats have finished the race; approximately 200 were still racing, and 32 have retired.

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Pace slowed on day 3 of the Rolex Fastnet Race. After a brisk first 48 hours, pace in the Rolex Fastnet Race has slowed up with high pressure encroaching into the Celtic Sea and towards the south of Cornwall, just west of the finish in Plymouth.

Since yesterday afternoon there have been just been five finishers: the last two IMOCA 60s completed the course with Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss reaching the line at 22:10:01 BST yesterday, while DCNS 1000 arrived at 00:22:22, skippered by round the world sailor Marc Thiercelin who was racing on board with Luc Alphand, the 1997 World Cup winning skier, who in 2006 also came first in the Paris-Dakar rally.

Between the IMOCA 60s, the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team entry on the STP65 Vanquish crossed the finish line at 00:19:35, while Lloyd Thornburg's orange-hulled Gunboat 66 catamaran Phaedo pulled into Plymouth's Sutton Harbour after arriving at 03:03:24.

Phaedo's captain Paul Hand, from Tasmania, commented: "The most exciting part was the hull flying out off the Needles and the more anxious moments were during the beam reach up to the Rock in 35 knots of breeze, with 20 knots of boat speed and one hull in the air. No one was sleeping that much then..."

Hired guns, navigator Ian Moore and tactician Andy Beadsworth, were crucial in Phaedo reaching Plymouth so quickly, getting the most benefit from the tide and smallest wind shifts. Nonetheless, just short of the finish line their progress was slowed as they had to wait for the tide to turn.

The Phaedo team also played a vital role in the rescue of the Rambler 100 crew, as off southwest Ireland it was their media boat which picked up the five crew, including skipper George David, after they had been in the water for 2.5 hours, having drifted away from their capsized supermaxi.

The only arrival since dawn this morning has been Franck Noel's TP52 Near Miss from Switzerland which crossed the line at 10:46:05 BST. Skipper, French match racer and offshore sailor, Benoit Briand was pleased to have finished. "Last night we were stuck off the Lizard with tide and no wind. We spent four hours in a circle of one mile!"

Like the boats that finished yesterday, Near Miss' timing around the Fastnet Rock went well, coinciding with a wind shift from the southwest to northwest. Briand said the most wind they saw was 25-29 knots, on the approach to the Rock. "The wind was okay, but the waves were 'enough' for the boat." The conditions abated for them last night as they rounded the Scilly Isles.

Unfortunately they lost their main competition, Johnny Vincent's TP52 Pace, after she retired on the first night.  Subsequently, they spent most of the race sailing on their own.

"We were very happy to sail this legendary race," Briand summarised. "For us it was a challenge. Our TP52  is not made for offshore racing and we are very happy with the way we were sailing. We come back without damage, we had a very good time, and we sailed well. The boat is in good shape and we very much enjoyed this race."

Another boat that reached Sutton Harbour yesterday was RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine's First 40 La Reponse, which retired overnight on Monday with steering trouble.

"We were charging along about one-third of the way up the Celtic Sea with gradually increasing breeze, gusting 30 knots and quite big waves and we were down to a jib top and a reefed main, going really well," recounted McIrvine. "I was sitting on the rail and the next thing I knew the boat had tacked and I was half under water. The wheel had just gone loose and wasn't connecting with the steering at all." They managed to deploy their emergency steering, but sadly their race was over.

This morning, several of the boats rounding the Scilly Isles were more or less becalmed. Jonathan Goring, owner of the Ker 40 Keronimo reported that there was a band of very little wind around 10-20 miles from this group of islands off the southwestern end of Britain. They had just managed to keep moving in the light patch with the German-flagged Rogers 46s Shakti and Varuna and had been first into the new breeze.

Similarly, the crew of the Ross Applebey's Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster were becalmed on their approach to the Scilly Isles, although Applebey said the reprieve had come when a light easterly had filled in. "We hope the wind holds until the finish - that is what the GRIB files have suggested. But, we've had consistently less wind than forecast all day today, so it is hard to tell. It would be nice if we don't park up again, as kedging a mile from the finish line could be a bit stressful!"

The next boats due in are the Lithuanian Volvo Ocean 60 Ambersail and Chris Bull's canting keel Cookson 50 Jazz, both of which had just passed the Lizard mid-afternoon today. Meanwhile the remaining slower Class Z boats are still approaching the Lizard with on-the-water leaders in IRC 1, which are currently include the trio of the Ker 40 Keronimo, the Andrews 56 Norddeutsche Vermögen Hamburg and the Swan 62 Uxorious IV, all more or less neck and neck. On the water leaders in IRC 2, Quokka 8 and the French J/122, Nutmeg IV were making slow progress to the south of the Scilly Isles.

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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
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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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