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It was the dog what done it. A hound of mysterious powers has changed family fortunes for a Crosshaven sailing clan. The Murphy-Fegan family’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, the Royal Cork Yacht Club Vice Admiral’s Cleopatra-style gilded barge, so to speak, may have made a Fastnet Race start in Class 2 off Cowes a week ago so perfect that it was a case of “as seen on television” over and over again, as there was precious little else to see in a very murky Solent, and nothing half as good as Nieulargo’s beautifully-called start

And then on Thursday morning, just after 9.0am at Cherbourg, Nieulargo emerged from some very fast overnight sailing to topple Mike O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood from her long-time Number One position in the Irish flotilla, thereby ensuring that the Vice Admiral Annamarie Fegan and her family are the latest holders of the quietly prestigious Gull Salver in this its Golden Jubilee Year.

Nieulargo’s perfect port tack Fastnet Race start a week ago – every other boat in IRC 2 was under her lee, and she continued in the top three in class beyond the first 24 hours.Nieulargo’s perfect port tack Fastnet Race start a week ago – every other boat in IRC 2 was under her lee, and she continued in the top three in class beyond the first 24 hours.

Yet anyone tracking the race as it so ruggedly unfolded will have realised that, despite the magic start, things at times weren’t going so well for Nieulargo. In fact, sometimes not at all well, in a very wearing race. But although they had to live with slipping down the listings after spending the first day or two at second in IRC 2, as Cherbourg approached it all came together for a rousing finish.

So what had got their act together again? Well, as a rapidly circulating cyber-image has revealed, it was a favourable spell cast by the Holy Hound of West Cork, the amiable Bernese mountain dog known as Sandy O’Leary of Baltimore.

Baltimore SC’s Robert O’Leary was concerned that his friends and relatives racing aboard Nieulargo were on a streak of bad luck. But he reckoned that in a sailing context, it would be pointless making a pilgrimage with Sandy to the top of the nearest Holy Mountain of Mount Gabriel, let alone contemplating the annual sacred hike which takes place tomorrow (Sunday) up Croagh Patrick in Mayo, which people love so much they’re literally loving it to bits.

FASTNET ROCK THE “PERFECT PEAK”

On the contrary, the perfect peak from which to cast the runes was atop the Fastnet Rock itself, which Sandy (presumably so named for the vast quantities of local beaches which his thick coat brings back to the house from the neighbourhood’s golden and silver strands) did with dignity and modest perfection.

 The Holy Hound of West Cork – Druid Dog Sandy O’Leary casting the favourable runes atop the Fastnet Rock. Photo: Rob O’Leary The Holy Hound of West Cork – Druid Dog Sandy O’Leary casting the favourable runes atop the Fastnet Rock. Photo: Rob O’Leary

This may not have got Nieulargo back in the frame, but it put them 24 minutes ahead on corrected time over Darkwood. Now this may have been a matter of being 54th overall ahead of the boat, which was 55th, but as we said at the start of it all, one of the reasons that the mega-fleet Fastnet Race is so popular is that, no matter where you may be in the fleet, you’ll soon find there are maybe half a dozen boats that you’re really racing against.

And as people spill the beans in the post-race euphoria, it’s surprising how many shared experiences there are at every level of the fleet. For instance, anyone watching Max Klink’s overall winner, the Botin 52 Caro, powering along at sea during the race will have assumed that all was well on board.

SURVIVAL SAILING

Well, so it was - up to a point. But as Max Klink and his Dun Laoghaire crewman Cian Guilfoyle have recalled, for the first six hours it was survival sailing, mainly a matter of keeping “the asset” intact, which at times required the speed to be cut back to 6 knots with all the deck crew in the cockpit as the weather rail was a place of real hazard.

Then the sailing master Adrian Stead revealed that they’d allowed themselves to stray into the Portland Bill Tide Race, with seas so violent that the masthead wand for the electronic instrument was lost. This meant that they had to steer with old-fashioned skills to win the race, a feat probably not achieved since Ger O’Rourke of Kilrush won overall without instrumentation in the Cookson 50 Chieftain in 2007.

Caro finishes to win overall – everything may look okay on board, but it could well be the first time that a Fastnet Race win has been achieved without instrumentation since Ger O’Rourke of Limerick did it with Chieftain in 2007. Photo: Paul WyethCaro finishes to win overall – everything may look okay on board, but it could well be the first time that a Fastnet Race win has been achieved without instrumentation since Ger O’Rourke of Limerick did it with Chieftain in 2007. Photo: Paul Wyeth

THE LETHAL TIDE RACE AT PORTLAND BILL

Time was when boats moved that much slower, and the avoidance of the boat-breaking tide race off Portland Bill was a major factor in planning tactics. Successful two-hander Sam Hunt of Kinsale’s father Keith – a veteran of at least seventeen Fastnets – recalls racing with the great Adlard Coles in the prototype Nicholson 36 Cohoe IV in the 1963 Fastnet, when the star entrant was the new Clare Lallow-built S&S 43 Clarion of Wight, a boat on which no expense had been spared.

It was blowing a lot of wind out of the west, but the imminence of an anticipated veering meant Cohoe had to face going inside the Portland Race – where there’s a tiny relatively calm tide-free gap right inshore – in the dark, in order to stay along the land. They did this with a searchlight aimed at the rocky shore and a tack in the blackest of nights every four minutes or less.

Two-handed racing star Sam Hunt (left) at the recent Winners’ Party in Kinsale YC with his parents Poppy and Keith. With a tally of 17, Keith Hunt has probably done more Fastnet Races than anyone else in Ireland, and was with the legendary Adlard Coles aboard Cohoe IV in 1963’s stormy race, when they gave a textbook demonstration of how to take the inside passage at Portland Bill in the dark. Photo: Robert BatemanTwo-handed racing star Sam Hunt (left) at the recent Winners’ Party in Kinsale YC with his parents Poppy and Keith. With a tally of 17, Keith Hunt has probably done more Fastnet Races than anyone else in Ireland, and was with the legendary Adlard Coles aboard Cohoe IV in 1963’s stormy race, when they gave a textbook demonstration of how to take the inside passage at Portland Bill in the dark. Photo: Robert Bateman

In the end, the very special one-off Clarion may have won overall as expected, but it was only by six minutes from the production boat Cohoe IV. Her fearless yet calculated approach to rounding Portland Bill played a key role in her success, so much so that sixty years later, it is remembered every bit as well as Clarion’s win.

These intensely personal memories from the times when the Fastnet Race fleet was small enough for everyone to know everyone else were already becoming a thing of the past by 1971 when, as mentioned earlier this week, Reggie Walsh of Dun Laoghaire and Bob Fannin of Howth reckoned they’d one final chance to stage a manageable Fastneteers Dinner for everyone who had completed a Fastnet Race on an Irish boat.

“UNEXPECTED SURPLUS” BECOMES PRIZED TROPHY

The unexpected surplus from this monumental celebration resulted in the Gull Salver (named for Harry Donegan of Cork’s pioneering participant in the 1925 race) for the best-placed Irish boat in future Fastnets. And though its subsequent history at times became confused, in this the year of its Golden Jubilee, we can be clear that Nieulargo is the winner.

Mungo Park’s Tam o’ Shanter, a new Chance 37 and one of Britton Chance’s “more normal” designs, was first winner of the Gull Salver 50 years ago in 1973. Photo: W M NixonMungo Park’s Tam o’ Shanter, a new Chance 37 and one of Britton Chance’s “more normal” designs, was first winner of the Gull Salver 50 years ago in 1973. Photo: W M Nixon

The first winner in 1973 was Mungo Park’s Tam O’Shanter from Howth, a Chance 37 to one of the few reasonably normal designs created by the eccentric American professor Britton Chance. He could be so persuasive in his more off-the-wall theories that one time, he even talked someone into building an America’s Cup potential defender 12 Metre with a flat surface to the aft edge of the keel. He was convinced he’d come up with a design concept with proportions such that the flat-back keel fooled the passing sea into thinking that the keel concluded with the usual sweeping finish, thereby providing extra lateral resistance with less wetted area.

TESTING THE “FLAT-BACK” KEEL

Early races were not encouraging, so the great Ted Turner was talked into giving the new boat a go. And he gave of his best, but the Britton boat was definitely off the pace. So as he hadn’t actually seen it out of the water, Turner arranged for the boat to be lifted while he and Chance had drinks and discussion in the club, and then they went along for the inspection with drinks in hand, and Professor Chance stepping up the output of theories while Turner silently drew on his stately cigar.

He gave the keel a thoughtful inspection from every angle while the lecture continued and then stood back and removed his cigar: “Britty”, says he, “Britty, even a turd ends in a point”.

COMPRESSION CHAMBER OF MILLBAY IN PLYMOUTH

Back in the day when the Fastnet Race finished in Plymouth and you’d the heady delights of waiting in some rough berth until allowed into the lock, which - eventually – would permit you into the good but basic shelter of Millbay Dock, there was a sort of compression chamber camaraderie about it all.

This was particularly so in 1975 when we were racing the one-off McGruer 47 Tritsch-Tratsch II and – having failed to make the Irish Admiral’s Cup Team – we could sail our own light weather Fastnet and thus found ourselves in the first ten in Class 1 (79 boats racing), getting seventh while Ted Turner was just two minutes ahead in his recently-acquired Tenacious, later the survival star of the 1979 Fastnet storm.

Perhaps the most dangerous moment in the entire Fastnet Race experience of 1975 – trying to hit an extra high note in the choir service while waiting to get into Millbay Dock. Photo: Jonathan EastlandPerhaps the most dangerous moment in the entire Fastnet Race experience of 1975 – trying to hit an extra high note in the choir service while waiting to get into Millbay Dock. Photo: Jonathan Eastland

Plymouth being Plymouth, we’d been kept forever in the dark down at the bottom of the sea-lock into Millbay Dock with the cream of Class 1, but it proved to be a remarkable echo chamber for a spontaneous choral performance, where the heightened acoustics so overcame a future distinguished yacht agent and broker that he had to be secured to the rigging for his own good, heavily blindfolded but allowed access to drink and smokes.

“For his own safety…” Within a few years, this anonymous Fastnet Race celebrant had become a leading yacht agent and broker. Photo: Jonathan Eastland“For his own safety…” Within a few years, this anonymous Fastnet Race celebrant had become a leading yacht agent and broker. Photo: Jonathan Eastland

This is the Big Boys’ Game – Ted Hood (back to camera), Dennis Conner and Ted Turner shooting the breeze after the 1975 Fastnet Race, when the fleet in Millbay Dock was probably worth more than the dock itself. Photo: W M NixonThis is the Big Boys’ Game – Ted Hood (back to camera), Dennis Conner and Ted Turner shooting the breeze after the 1975 Fastnet Race, when the fleet in Millbay Dock was probably worth more than the dock itself. Photo: W M Nixon

Quite what format yesterday (Friday’s) gala prize-giving promised in Cherbourg was still a matter of conjecture at time of writing, but as there seem to have been pre-prize semi-official ceremonies since mid-week for winners’ flags, we can only hope that good humour and manners still prevail, as the interaction between rough yotties and civic dignitaries is not always as smooth as it might be.

Thus The Incidents In The Town Hall in Harwich, some time well back in the previous millennium at a function before the annual RORC Harwich to Hook of Holland Race, are now officially agreed not to have happened at all. But since then in Plymouth, there have been times when the City Fathers have required a robust sense of humour at the Fastnet Race awards ceremony in the Guildhall.

The real stars of the 50th Fastnet Race – 77-year-old Alain Fournier coming into Cherbourg in the midst of his family and friends who make up the crew of the veteran J/133 Pintia, winner of IRC 1.The real stars of the 50th Fastnet Race – 77-year-old Alain Fournier coming into Cherbourg in the midst of his family and friends who make up the crew of the veteran J/133 Pintia, winner of IRC 1.

In 1971, as soon as the silverware had been distributed, it became a moveable feast, and our Class IV group - in which Alan Bourdon from Poole had pipped us for first place – decided that we were beholden to take the trophy and our noisy bonhomie to an upstairs cellar night club (all things are possible in Plymouth on a wet Friday afternoon), where a person well stricken in years was performing as a stripper.

Unfortunately, in getting out of the taxi, Alan stumbled and dropped the Battler Beedle Quaich or whatever RORC trophy was in the Class IV role that year, and it rolled into the gutter. There, Davy McBride of Dunmore East scooped it up before the continuous traffic flattened it, and he told Alan to go on ahead without the cup, as Dunmore East was now in charge of Trophy Safety.

Up ahead meanwhile, the Ancient of Days in charge of admission had copped on to the unexpected bounty which fate had visited on his humble establishment, and had upped the entry fee to the then very considerable charge of £5. But when Davy finally came stumbling up the stairs carrying the trophy, the door-keeper pulled his master stroke of hospitality, and told him with a toothless grin: “You won the cup, you can come in for free”.

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The winner of IRC Two in the Rolex Fastnet Race was Juzzy, who emerged victorious in a wet and windy Cherbourg after a closely contested race. The crew of Juzzy, skippered by Thomas Bonnier and co-piloted by David Prono, were both experienced offshore racers, with Bonnier having competed in the Mini Transat in the past. Despite Bonnier's experience, it was his first time competing in the Fastnet Race, having been interested in it since he had to withdraw from the race as a teenager due to dismasting. Bonnier and Prono pushed their boat hard in strong winds, with speeds of 21 knots, to secure their victory. 

Festa 2 finished in second place on corrected time but was demoted to eighth due to a premature start penalty. Jean Francois Hamon, the skipper of Festa 2, enjoyed the challenges of the race despite the penalty, particularly the gusts of up to 40 knots encountered, leaving the Solent and rounding the Fastnet Rock. Maxime Mesnil's J/99 Axe Sail took second place in class, with Frederik Nouel's Karavel finishing third and Christina and Justin Wolfe's Red Ruby coming in fourth.

The close finish times in IRC Two made it one of the most competitive classes in the race.

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Gilles Fournier and his family and friends on Pintia couldn’t quite believe they had managed to win IRC One after such a close battle with Sunrise III. Having raced offshore regularly for the past half century and now 77 years old, Fournier hasn’t yet decided whether or not this was his last Rolex Fastnet Race. Chances are he would miss the challenge and camaraderie, not just with his crew but with the opposition.

Pintia finished at 18:20:47, her corrected time just over 1 hour 20 minutes ahead of Sunrise III, with Ed Bell's Dawn Treader completing the IRC One podium. This is Pintia's second time topping the podium, having won class in 2017.

Fournier met his rival skipper on the dock soon after they stepped ashore, victorious in Cherbourg. Tom Kneen, owner of the JPK 1180, which was the overall winner of the Fastnet Race in 2021, is a formidable campaigner and one that Fournier never expected to beat on Pintia, a J/133.

Almost half Fournier’s age, Kneen is a relative newcomer to the sport of offshore sailing, yet the softly-spoken Plymothian has a fierce approach to his racing and the Fastnet Race in particular. “This is going to take some adjustment to my thinking,” said Kneen with a smile, having become so used to winning on a regular basis. “This is the first time since 2020 that I haven’t won in class, but I couldn’t be happier to lose to you and Pintia,” he said to Fournier.

This is Pintia's second time topping the Fastnet Race podium, having won her class in 2017 Photo: Paul Wyeth This is Pintia's second time topping the Fastnet Race podium, having won her class in 2017 Photo: Paul Wyeth 

There is a lot of mutual respect between the top two finishers in IRC One. The two boats have very different sweet spots, with J/133’s longer waterline length working well for her on the upwind but the lighter weight of the JPK 1180, making Sunrise a downwind planing weapon in the right conditions. The breezy, blustery final run-in to Cherbourg highlighted the differences starkly. “We took out five miles on Pintia in 20 minutes,” said Kneen. “When the breeze was up and we’re able to plane, Sunrise was doing 16 knots and Pintia was doing nine. If we’d have just had another 30 miles of race course, I think we might have beaten them.”

Fournier was pleasantly surprised, and perplexed, that Sunrise hadn’t been able to disappear over the horizon since the downwind conditions that began with the Fastnet Rock rounding. “It’s a mystery. We didn’t expect to be able to stay anywhere close to you,” he said to Kneen. “What happened to you?” Kneen smiled wryly as he replied: “I’ll tell you over a beer.” Maybe some missed opportunities on the race course. Kneen will need some time to lick his wounds. Certainly Sunrise felt they had sailed a longer distance than they had needed to. Their secret weapon, the six-metre carbon spinnaker pole had been designed to plug a gap in their armoury, to make the boat faster in VMG conditions downwind in less than 14 knots of breeze. Combined with a new set of flat gennakers, the spinnaker pole had been deployed on the run back across the Celtic Sea from the Fastnet Rock and Kneen declared himself happy with the experiment. However, choosing sides of the Traffic Separation Scheme around the Isles of Scilly might have been one of the key errors that put paid to Sunrise’s hopes of a class victory. “Pintia came away from the Scillies at a hotter angle in more breeze,” he admitted.

Thomas Kneen and his young crew on the JPK 1180 Sunrise III Photo: Arthur Daniel/RORCThomas Kneen and his young crew on the JPK 1180 Sunrise III Photo: Arthur Daniel/RORC

Thomas Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise III rounding the Fastnet Rock Photo: ROLEX/Kurt ArrigoThomas Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise III rounding the Fastnet Rock Photo: ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo

So after a close battle it’s Fournier who celebrates with his crew which includes his daughter Corinne Migraine and her son Victor, the three generations coming together to form a winning team in one of the toughest races that this experienced skipper can recall. “I did the 1985 Fastnet and people talk about that one as one of the toughest. But I think there were times in this race when it was harder.”

As to whether he’ll be back to defend the title in two years ago, Fournier says with a smile: “I think my wife would like us to go cruising. This kind of sailing is not so much for her - doing 21 knots downwind with gennaker - although she is a very good sailor.” Surely his wife could release him for five days or so in 2025 though? “These campaigns are not just about the race, they take at least six months of preparation and training. To do a race like the Fastnet Race takes a full commitment. And anyway, I don’t know if my crew would want me back. I am not as effective as I was,” he says modestly. It seems highly unlikely that the Pintia crew would attempt a Fastnet Race without their talismanic skipper though.

Fournier, by the way, is the French word for a worker who keeps the fires burning and the oven at high temperature. Even in the soggier conditions that greeted the fleet in rainy Cherbourg on Wednesday evening, Fournier was stoking the fire on Pintia all the way to the finish line, lighting up the J/133 just enough to eclipse Sunrise for a close-fought class victory. Few would bet against Fournier being back to defend his title in 2025.

Gilles Fournier and his crew are awarded the trophy for winning IRC One by RORC Commodore James Neville Photo: Arthur Daniel/RORCGilles Fournier and his crew are awarded the trophy for winning IRC One by RORC Commodore James Neville Photo: Arthur Daniel/RORC

It was a family affair on board Pintia with three generations of the family on board Photo: Paul WyethIt was a family affair on board Pintia with three generations of the family on board Photo: Paul Wyeth

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Fastnet Race Day 6 - Rapid night-time progress up Channel to the Cherbourg finish has seen the Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo of the Royal Cork Yacht Club pip Mike O'Donnell's J/121 Darkwood (Royal Irish YC) for the best-placed Irish boat in the 50th Fastnet Race.

In a big boat race, Darkwood had looked to be holding the Irish lead as she had for much of the race, but Nieulargo came out of the night and into the new day to correct into a lead over Darkwood of 24 minutes.

In IRC overall, Nieluargo was 55th in the 450-boat fleet, with Darkwood finishing 56th.

Top Irish Boats in the 2023 Fastnet Race

Murphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo of the Royal Cork Yacht ClubMurphy family's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo of the Royal Cork Yacht Club

Mike O'Donnell's J/121 Darkwood (Royal Irish YC)Mike O'Donnell's J/121 Darkwood (Royal Irish YC)

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Fastnet Race Day Five 1900 - France's Presidential Department of Protocol or some such secretive yet high-powered bureaucracy seems to have taken over dark world control of the Western Approaches weather system for the latter part of the Cherbourg-finishing 50th Rolex Fastnet Race, as the last one or two hundred miles of the 695 miles of the new-look course are at times having more wind than's needed, but the cunning Powers That Be ensure it will be very favourable in direction. Yet either way, anyone who isn't in port in a timely manner for the finish and Friday's gala prize-giving must either (a) have had their rig fall down around them, (b) prefer sailing with one and possibly both hands tied behind their backs or (c) think that towing three wheelie bins greatly improves performance.

 The mighty IRC Fastnet Race overall winner Max Klink and his TP52 Caro from SwitzerlandThe mighty IRC Fastnet Race overall winner Max Klink and his TP52 Caro from Switzerland Photo: Paul Wyeth

Already some winners - and indeed the overall winner - have been confirmed, as no one still at sea can now better them unless they can make the global clock go back. This is surely even more unlikely in a major event sponsored by internationally prestigious horologists than it would be otherwise. But whatever, as we salute the mighty IRC Overall win by Max Klink and his TP52 Caro from Switzerland, which will have pensioners dancing sedately in the streets of Geneva (but maybe not Zurich, where it probably contravenes the civic by-laws), like many screen sailors we continue to be kept on the edge of our seat by the final act of the days-long drama between the Fournier family's J/133 Pintia and defending champ Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise III for the "real" win - victory in IRC I.

Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise III Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise III Photo: Kurt Arrigo

 the Fournier family's J/133 PintiaThe Fournier family's J/133 Pintia Photo: Kurt Arrigo

END GAME FOR IRC 1

We're in at the end game, with ten or so miles to go to the finish, and Pintia now three miles ahead after a tremendous challenge that the resourceful Kneen has maintained day and night. He may have looked and seemed for all the world like a jolly English publican when he was the key speaker at the ICRA Annual Conference in Dun Laoghaire, but that name "Kneen" should be a red alert, as it probably stems from the Isle of Man which is not a part of earth at all. On the contrary, it's the relic of an asteroid which was spun off from the Planet Zog only a couple of million years ago, which means that some - though not all - sailors of Manx descent have supernatural powers.

IRISH KEPT IN ORDER

The various placings of the Irish boats still in the race were given here this morning, and they remain much the same, with Mike O'Donnell's J/121 Darkwood moved slightly up the overall rankings to be even better placed to be the 2023 recipient of the Gull Salver for the best-placed Irish boat. You'd think the existence of the Gull Salver since 1972 would be a fact of life, yet it seems to be the case that when some certified obsessive Fastnet racer sails on from this world, his or her will often reveal a bequest to the RORC to provide a special cup for the best-placed Irish boat in the Fastnet Race.

Apparently, the Irish coastline of West Cork, seen from the deck of a pounding offshore racer, can make it all seem to a passing matelot as an utterly charming place inhabited by lovely people. By now, the RORC must have a cellar full of trophies for the best-placed Irish boat, but the Gull Salver is the real McCoy, as it's named for Harry Donegan of Cork's boat, which was one of the seven in the First Fleet of 2025.

ORIGINS OF THE GULL SALVER

It came about because after a good and successful Irish involvement in the 1971 race, Fastnet aficionados Reggie Walsh of Dun Laoghaire and Bob Fannin of Howth decided that it would soon be no longer possible to host a manageable dinner for everyone who had taken part in the Fastnet race in an Irish boat. So a monumental bash took place in the Royal St George YC in March 1972, with the only survivor of Gull's 1925 Fastnet crew, Captain Jim Kelly, as Guest of Honour.

The Fastnet Rock and the Irish coastline of West Cork The Fastnet Rock and the Irish coastline of West Cork as seen from an offshore racer Photo: Kurt Arrigo

His appearance kept a secret until the night, was an incredible surprise. But an almost greater surprise was that the event turned a modest profit. That profit became the Gull Salver and anyone who tries to displace it or redirect it to other purposes, or make pernickety arguments about who is actually entitled or not to be awarded it, would do well to remember that those who were at the Fastneteers Dinner of March 1972 have access to extra-terrestrial powers beyond all comprehension.

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Fastnet Race Day Five: Max Klink’s Botin 52 Caro has been crowned overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race. After being confirmed as winner of IRC Zero yesterday, no other boat still racing on the 695 nautical mile course can catch the Swiss boat for overall honours in the 50th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s offshore classic.

Ireland had a say in the 50th edition victory with powerful input from 44 Cup and TP52 grinder Cian Guilfoyle on board Klink’s winning entry in which the Dublin Bay sailor raced in the role of a grinder and also as a floater on the bow and in the pit.

The fact that the opening 12 hours of the race were so bruising, with winds gusting close to 40 knots and boat-breaking seas off the south coast of England, made victory all the sweeter for Klink and his crew of professional sailors as they admired the great names that have gone before them, engraved on the base of the Fastnet Challenge Cup. “This is a legendary group of sailors who I have been fortunate to sail with for a few years now,” said the Swiss owner, “but when we set out on this race, I never expected that we could win. It’s a dream come true, and all the more special that this is the 50th edition of such an iconic race.

The Caro crew, including Cian Guilfoyle (back row, fifth from left) celebrated IRC Zero victory on Tuesday evening, unaware that 24 hours later, they would be celebrating an overall IRC victory too Photo: Paul WyethThe Caro crew, including Cian Guilfoyle (back row, fifth from left) celebrated IRC Zero victory on Tuesday evening, unaware that 24 hours later, they would be celebrating an overall IRC victory too Photo: Paul Wyeth

A delighted Guilfoyle told Afloat: "It was like two races in one for us, the first 12 hours being one, and the rest of the race being the other. The first 12 hours of the race were pretty brutal, with a heinous sea state and a lot of breeze, and we were solely focused on sailing safely and protecting the asset to ensure the boat would be in one piece for the remainder of the race when conditions abated". 

"The first 12 hours, we were just in survival mode"- Cian Guilfoyle

"From there, we had quite a good passage into the rock and were able to extend on our closest competitors slowly. Once rounding, we had a super run back in pretty much straight to the finish on one gybe, triple-headed, and managed to avoid the worst of the current coming into the line, Guilfoyle added.

Guilfoyle joined the Caro crew through his role on Aleph, the French entry in the 44 Cup, where he was brought on board by Ryan Godfrey (a former teammate from the 44cup and Super Series teammate) at the start of last season for an inshore regatta, and has stayed on the crew since then.  "The core team has been together for quite a few years and has had this boat for the last three seasons. Max (the owner) has put together a great bunch of sailors, with a mix of Volvo sailors and some younger guys. It was an awesome race, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to sail with such a good group of dedicated pros", he told Afloat.

“The first 12 hours, we were just in survival mode, trying not to break anything and keep the boat at 100 per cent. I wasn’t thinking about any title or trophy, it was just about getting through the conditions.”

Klink used to race a 65-footer but is very happy to have taken a step down in the size range, and arguably a step up in the level of competition. “The 50-footers are so competitive now and the racing is so close,” said Klink, mindful of how close they might have been to suffering a similar fate as Rán 8, former Fastnet winner Niklas Zennström’s CF520 which pulled out of the first race due to structural problems. “The line [between success and failure], it’s very close. But boats like Caro and Rán are built for the tough conditions. You just have to remember there are times to slow the boat down, not do anything stupid, and that’s where the experience of these guys comes in.

“At one point we just had everyone in the cockpit, no one was hiking. And keeping the boat speed to no more than six knots and trying to just get through this really bad sea state.”

Caro enjoyed a dream run back from the Isles of Scilly Photo: Paul WyethCaro enjoyed a dream run back from the Isles of Scilly Photo: Paul Wyeth

Tactician Adrian Stead, twice a winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race with Zennström and past Rán campaigns, hadn’t competed in the race for 10 years. So the British professional was delighted to have come back with another victory. Working with young Australian navigator Andy Green, competing in his first Rolex Fastnet Race, the extensive homework Stead had undertaken in researching the nooks and crannies of the Dorset, Devon and Cornish coastlines more than 20 years earlier for the Admiral’s Cup had come back into play in Caro’s bid to make every second and every inch of the race course count in their favour. “Things like being in under the Lizard in the back-eddy that might save you five minutes further up the track, we worked hard on those details,” said Stead, who paid tribute to Green’s ability to master the tricky race course at his first attempt. “Andy did great work around the course, particularly through the big current on the final run into the finish.

“Also I think the practice run we did on the Wednesday before the race, out in the Solent in 25 knots of breeze, that was a useful preparation for everyone on the team to get our heads in the game. Practising the starting, and then a full circuit of the Isle of Wight, a good seven-hour shakedown for all of us and the boat.” The multiple dummy runs at the start paid off with an excellent start out of the Cowes line last Saturday. “We had all our rivals under control out of the start and it’s always good for the team spirit when you’re leading out of the Solent,” said Stead. “But then we lost the wand off the top of the mast in the Portland tidal race and we lost all our wind instruments, so we were running blind.” Then, when the bowman went up the rig to replace the wand, he discovered the cable had been mashed due to the earlier breakage, so the crew had to complete the rest of the race sailing by the seat of their pants, without critical instruments and mostly data-free.

Winning the Fastnet Challenge Cup was the culmination of months of preparation and training Photo: Carlo BorlenghiWinning the Fastnet Challenge Cup was the culmination of months of preparation and training Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

However, Stead admits they had the dream run back from the Isles of Scilly. “We pretty much straightlined it all the way and we realised we had a very good shot at winning IRC Zero so pulled out all the stops, got out some extra chocolate bars and had everyone hiking hard on the rail for the last few hours into the finish. We were fortunate how the weather worked out for us, but I think we did a great job of preparation and keeping ourselves in the game for as long as possible and we are so pleased how it all paid off.”

The winning crew on Caro are: William Parker, Wade Morgan, Ryan Godfrey, Justin Ferris, Jono Swain, James Paterson, Harry Hall, Cian Guilfoyle, Andrew McCorquodale, Andy Green, Adrian Stead and owner Max Klink.

 

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Fastnet Race Day 5 0800 - A slowly rising southwest breeze through the night has put fresh purpose into the on-track progress of the large fleet of Fastnet racers still at sea, but by early afternoon today (Wednesday) in the Western Approaches, it will be showing signs of getting beyond the comfort zone and into an area of driving rain and near or real gales, still from the southwest.

Initially, this will not be of undue concern to those who are safely in past the Isles of Scilly, well on their way to the finish at Cherbourg.

Of the key boats mentioned yesterday, the Fournier family's J/133 Pintia is still holding off the challenge of defending champion Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise III for the IRC1 overall lead, though it is very close. Both are at mid-channel due south of Plymouth, with 112 miles still to sail.

Tight racing in IRC 1 as defending champion Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise III (GBR 888x) is in close quarters with Germany's Ginkgo Sailing Team, a Humphreys 39 Photo: David SheridanTight racing in the Fastnet Race's IRC 1 division as defending champion Tom Kneen's JPK 11.80 Sunrise III (GBR 888x) is in close quarters with Germany's Ginkgo Sailing Team, a Humphreys 39 Photo: David Sheridan

MALUKA AT FASTNET THIS MORNING

Back at the Fastnet Rock, however, the race's novelty entrant, the completely-restored 1932-vintage 30ft Sydney Harbour gaff cutter Maluka - sailed by Sean Langman and a crew of many talents, including Gordon Maguire - has finally got back up to speed, and is due to round the Rock in the early part of this morning, fourth in IRC4 and first in IRC4B.

They'll know they will inevitably be placed precisely to "enjoy" the most demanding weather this evening as they trek back to the Isle of Scilly.

MIXED BAG OF PLACINGS FOR IRISH BOATS

Overall, the best-placed of the Irish contingent after nearly four days of racing is Mike O'Donnell's J/121 Darkwood from the Royal Irish YC - she's ninth in Class 1 against a class of 55 boats still racing and a healthy 25th in the enormous overall fleet, while currently making 8.3 knots eastward between the Isles of Scilly and Land's End.

Robert Rendell's Gran Soleil 44 Samatom (Howth YC) is next best at 15th, having opened out a bit of a lead on Pwllheli's Andrew and Sam Hall in the Lombard 45 Pata Negra, which is now back on 19th.

NIEULARGO HAD STARTED VERY WELL

IRC 2 had started very well indeed for Royal Cork's Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo (Denis Murphy), but the very rugged early stages took their toll on a family crew, and Nielargo has since then been fairly consistently around 25th in a class which is still racing 55 boats. Also in Class 2, the Pride of Kilmore Quay in County Wexford, Keith Millar's Mills 36 Prime Suspect, has stuck the pace and is currently two-thirds of the way back into Land's End and making 7 knots at 07.35 hrs this morning (Wednesday) at 9th in IRC2A, while Nieulargo is 15th in IRC 2b.

Bernese Mountain dog Sandy O'Leary cheers on her Royal Cork club mates in the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo from a certain mark of the courseBernese Mountain dog Sandy O'Leary cheers on her Royal Cork club mates in the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo from a certain mark of the Fastnet Race course

Meanwhile, IRC 4, in addition to Maluka, has Noel Coleman's Oyster 37 Blue Oyster (RCYC) in a family effort, and as of this morning, they lie 19th in class, one place ahead of the Dun Laoghaire Sigma 38 State O'Chassis (Mike Murphy and Kevin Buckley) which in turn is a place clear of the Dunmore East Fulmar 32 Fulmar Fever (Robert Marchant).

MALUKA MEETING FULL ATLANTIC

This morning's special focus will be on Malukaa, as it will be the first time she has dealt with the open Atlantic in a full-throated frame of mind. That said, she dealt with the wind-over-tide gale in the English Channel in the early stages with aplomb, so her performance should be a matter of admiration rather than apprehension.

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Max Klink’s Botin 52 Caro has won IRC Zero and is looking like a solid contender for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The Swiss boat crossed the finish line at 07:25 hours local time this morning, covering the course in 2 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes, 2 seconds.

Onboard was Dublin Bay's Cian Guilfoyle, who, as regular Afloat readers will know, is a regular grinder on the 44cup circuit and now the TP52 circuit.

Caro finished just over two and a half hours ahead of arch-rival Warrior Won on corrected time, and no other boat still racing in IRC Zero has a realistic chance of bettering Caro’s performance.

While others were keen to pin overall victory on Caro, with so much of the fleet still at sea, Klink was understandably reluctant to celebrate success too soon. “Winning the Fastnet Race is any sailor’s dream, so to win would be beyond words, something we never expected,” he smiled.

Adrian Stead, a veteran of eight Rolex Fastnet Races and winner of two, was running the tactics on Caro Photo: Paul WyethAdrian Stead, a veteran of eight Rolex Fastnet Races and winner of two, was running the tactics on Caro Photo: Paul Wyeth

Running the tactics on Caro was British professional Adrian Stead - a veteran of eight Rolex Fastnet Races and winner of two. He was swaying with physical fatigue and lack of sleep.

“We’ve worked hard, we didn’t leave anything out on the race track and after that difficult start to the race we have really, really come back into it. The breeze filled in just at the end and we were able to come into Cherbourg at pace. We saw the VO65s and Lucky slow down on the way in yesterday afternoon, so we got out a few chocolate bars and worked extra hard for the last few miles.”

Chris Sheehan's PAC 52 Warrior Won in the gusty conditions at the start of the race Photo: Paul WyethChris Sheehan's PAC 52 Warrior Won in the gusty conditions at the start of the race Photo: Paul Wyeth

Arriving in Cherbourg two and a half hours after their rivals, owner of Warrior Won Chris Sheehan paid tribute to Caro’s victory in IRC Zero. “Congratulations to them, they sailed a great race,” said the American who continues to enjoy his time in offshore competition and is already looking ahead to the Middle Sea Race starting out of Malta in a few months’ time. “We sailed the boat really hard, pedal to the metal all the way to the finish. We know we weren’t able to beat Caro in the end, but we’re still looking for a great result against the rest of the fleet.”

Sheehan admitted that Caro had the legs on Warrior Won in most upwind conditions, including the first 12 hours of survival out of the start in Cowes. “I’ve got ultimate confidence in our drivers and trimmers,” said Sheehan of his crew, which includes offshore veterans like Stu Bannatyne and Richard Clarke, “so I think it’s something to do with the boat and the sails, maybe the design or the way we’re setting them up. We have some work to do to close the gap to Caro.”

Navigator on Warrior Won was Will Oxley, the hugely experienced Australian who estimates he grabbed a total of six hours of sleep since the start on Saturday. The opening 12 hours were tough on bodies and on equipment. Three carbon stanchions broke simultaneously.

“That was when we crashed down off one particularly nasty wave and it’s the combined crew weight coming down and breaking the stanchions,” explained Oxley. “The watermaker broke, we think the engine got shifted off its mounting and we lost our wind vane off the top of the mast, but the boat captain did a great job of keeping the boat going, rebuilding it along the way. It’s what you expect in a race like this really,” he said, matter of factly.

Oxley was relieved that Warrior Won had made it to Cherbourg before a shutdown in the wind, which sees very few boats arriving during the course of Tuesday day time as the whole race course falls relatively quiet compared with recent days. “We were fortunate to hold on to the back end of a weather system which had Caro pretty much in the sweet spot, with Lucky just ahead of the sweet spot and slowing down in the final stages, and the VO65s just behind her.”

While the vast majority of the Fastnet fleet is still out on the race course in softer breeze, the waiting game begins for Caro. Klink and his crew will be wondering if any of the slower boats will find a way of tipping them from the top of the overall rankings.

In Super Zero, Wind Whisper skippered by Pablo Arrarte came out on top on corrected time after beating fellow VO65 Team Jajo into Cherbourg by around 25 minutes. Subsequently, however, class victory for Wind Whisper slipped through the VO65 team's fingers when the jury for the Fastnet Race imposed a 5% time penalty on the Polish team. This involved a misunderstanding over the use of a jockey pole, an item which was not declared on their IRC Rating certificate. In the interests of good sportsmanship the error was reported to the race committee by the team themselves prior to crossing the finish line. This drops them to second place with Team Jajo now winners of IRC Super Zero.

Both boats ended up ahead of the 88-footer Lucky on corrected time. Even before he was aware of his IRC Super Zero victory, Clarke Murphy was delighted with his ride on Team Jajo, having chartered the boat for the race and with some seasoned professionals on board as well as three of his children. It was a fast finish for the American boat into Cherbourg.

“Twenty knots of boat speed and the visibility was so bad you couldn’t see a hundred metres in front of you,” he laughed. “A bit sketchy, a little bouncy, a little bumpy, but all in, it was an epic, classic Fastnet Race.”

Having chartered another VO65, Ambersail, in last summer’s RORC Baltic Race, Murphy was very pleased to be back on board such a belt-and-braces boat as Team Jajo.

“The night before the race in Cowes, with that big forecast, people were coming up to me and asking ‘can I hitch a ride with you?’ This was the right boat for this race, and we had the right sailors on board. Micky Broughton [navigator], who I have sailed with for best part of 30 years, Budgie [professional sailor Ian Budgen] who I’ve raced with for 20 years, and we had Dee Caffari along too, so the right people on the right boat.”

Team Jajo enjoyed a fast finish to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin Photo: Paul WyethTeam Jajo enjoyed a fast finish to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin Photo: Paul Wyeth

Murphy also had three of his children on board: Liam aged 21, Morgan aged 24, and Devon aged 26, now adding a Fastnet Race to their CVs along with pretty much every other major offshore race completed over the past number of years. “They were absolutely pumped to do the Fastnet, they’re great sailors and this was one was not for the faint of heart,” said Clarke of his children.

Team Jajo’s perfectly executed start off the Cowes line last Saturday afternoon was not for the faint of heart either.

“Fastnets don’t get won on the start line, and we decided to be very low-key, staying upwind and near the middle of the start line. But when we saw there was no one down at the pin end and it was kind of empty, we looped around and jumped on the opportunity. It was a 35-degree advantage, and it gave us an eight or nine-boat length advantage as we crossed tacks with Wind Whisper down the coast. I think we gave some of the spectator boats a bit of a scare at the start, but it gave them something to talk about in the pub that night!”

Murphy enjoyed the battle with fellow VO65 Wind Whisper all the way around the course. “There’s a lot of respect and a lot of friendship with those guys, and congratulations to them for a race really well sailed.”

VO65 Wind Whisper, skippered by Pablo Arrarte Photo: ROLEX/Kurt ArrigoVO65 Wind Whisper, skippered by Pablo Arrarte Photo: ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo

Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky finished at 21:16:26 on Monday night after a close battle with the leading IMOCAs. The 88-footer narrowly missed out on claiming line honours by just 15 minutes after she was beaten by the IMOCA Macif Santé Prévoyance sailed by Charlie Dalin and Pascal Bidegorry.

Lucky’s crew, led by America’s Cup legend Brad Butterworth had thrown everything at it, including gybing their way east to the north of the Channel Islands as the IMOCAs hugged the south side of the Casquets TSS.

“It was really impressive to see the IMOCAs up close and watch what they’re capable of,” said Ehrhart. “It’s a great race course with a lot of challenges. The new course [to Cherbourg] is fantastic. What a great place and I hope to bring my wife over from the USA for the prize-giving later this week. This race has been an incredible experience. The conditions soon after the start were heinous and this boat has never raced with a J6 headsail and three reefs in the mainsail before. It took every ounce of seamanship we had to keep the boat in one piece but eventually we got out of the survival phase and into true racing. And I have to say the racing was really, really good. Rounding the Fastnet Rock again was very special and some of the conditions after that were so exhilarating.”

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Fastnet Race Day Four 1800 - They really should think of some word other than "calm" to describe the situation in an offshore race when the wind falls away after a period of brisk breezes. "Calm" suggests quiet serenity, yet the sail trimming and particularly the helming required in light airs in a lumpy leftover sea would test the patience of a saint, and 'tis far from saintliness most sailors were raised.

In fact, the hyper-sensitivities can be raised to such an extent that in the old days, longtime offshore racers would claim that in rolling about and pitching up and down, they could tell the difference between the hidden clinking from the galley cupboard of a jar of Bovril and a jar of Marmite. This was when such items were considered essential to maintaining crew spirits, the mug of hot Bovril with a pat of butter well seasoned with freshly-ground pepper in the mix, with maybe a dash of whiskey, being considered essential to morale in that damp dead hour before dawn, even if some of the more delicate of those to whom this witch's brew of a pick-me-up was administered had duly thrown it up within five minutes.

Fortunately, today (Tuesday's) light airs afflicting the bulk of the mid-sized boats in the 50th Fastnet Race will be gone tomorrow in the face of a sou'wester coming in ahead of a dithering low-pressure area, which almost moved steadily like a grown-up weather systemon over Ireland today, but then went round itself, so to speak, and is slowly coming back for another bite of the cherry through Wednesday.

The hotshot biggies already in Cherbourg care little about it all this other than the fact that it makes their performances look even better.

But meanwhile, among those trying to stay ahead of the softer patch, the performance of the Fournier family from France with their J/133 Pintia has been little short of sensational.

Gilles Fournier & Corinne Migraine were the overall IRC winners of the RORC Cervantes Trophy Race in May on the J/133 Pintia (FRA) from the Société des Regatés du Havre. This was the fourth occasion that the French team won the impressive Cervantes Trophy and now they are in the running for the final stages of the Fastnet Race Photo: David SheridanGilles Fournier & Corinne Migraine were the overall IRC winners of the RORC Cervantes Trophy Race in May on the J/133 Pintia (FRA) from the Société des Regatés du Havre. This was the fourth occasion that the French team won the impressive Cervantes Trophy and now they are in the running for overall honours in the final stages of the Fastnet Race Photo: David Sheridan

Defending champion Tom Kneen with the JPK 11.80 Sunrise III had been hunting Pintia down like a hungry hound as they came back in from the Rock, but in the end was reduced to the gambit of going west of the TSS to the southwestward of the Isles of Scilly while Pintia left it to starboard. Yet lo and behold, even though they'd been 20 miles apart at the widest dividing of the ways, when they closed in again towards the Bishop Rock, Pintia was still in front and going so well that she fits into 7th overall in IRC1 when set against the TP52s already finished.

 Defending champion Tom Kneen with the JPK 11.80 Sunrise III rounds the Fastnet Rock Photo: David Sheridan Defending champion Tom Kneen with the JPK 11.80 Sunrise III rounds the Fastnet Rock Photo: David Sheridan

Meanwhile, Andrew and Sam Hall from Pwllheli with the Lombard 45 Pata Negra chose to go slowly but surely so far southwest in search of the promised incoming breeze that, at one stage, they looked like the were sailing off the edge of the known world. But when they came back in towards the bulk of the slow-moving fleet, they were still neck-and-neck with Robert Rendell's Grand Soleil 44 Samatom from Howtk, with both of them around the 15th mark in IRC 1.

Quite how much wind they'll all get tomorrow (Wednesday), and when, is in the lap of the Gods. But it looks as if this currently slow-paced near-melodrama will run into at last five acts before the curtain is run down.

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Following the long pause in arrivals in the Rolex Fastnet Race into Cherbourg after the two Ultims on Sunday night, the next home on Monday was Eric Maris’ MOD70 trimaran Zoulou, which crossed the line at 18:03:15. Among her formidable crew were multihull legend Loick Peyron and America’s Cup winner Thierry Fouchier.

The MOD70 trimarans have raced transatlantic previously and have proved to be robust, so they could cope with the winds into the high 30s and the vicious sea state, which they encountered in the opening hours of the race. They’d possibly even been too conservative, Maris felt: “It was not survival conditions, but not far from it. It was pretty rough. We were going upwind at a steady state. I think we reefed a bit early coming out of the Solent. We caught up with the rest of the guys ahead of us. After the first 10 or 12 hours, the rest was easier. We had little wind going around the Rock. The rest of the night going to the Isles of Scilly was pretty light. We had some good wind this morning, I was helming at 30 knots - that was fun, and then the rest of the afternoon was very light, very, very light. The boat was good; it did really well. It had the best of crews, obviously…so all in all, pretty good!”

Sadly Zoulou was the only MOD70 competing this year, however, while they should have been blazing around the race course free of competition, in fact, the lead Ocean Fifty trimarans spent most of the race far closer to them than they should have been given their 20ft length deficit. According to Loick Peyron, this was due to them often coming in from behind with the breeze.

La Rire Medecin Lamotte arrives in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the winner of the Ocean Fifty class Photo: Paul WyethLa Rire Medecin Lamotte arrives in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, the winner of the Ocean Fifty class Photo: Paul Wyeth

After at least 20 years in gestation, the Ocean Fifty box rule trimarans are finally gaining traction in France. Of the five starters [around nine are shortly to be racing in anger], two retired, leaving Luke Berry and Antoine Joubert on Le Rire Medecin Lamotte, Pierre Quiroga and Justin Baradat on Viabilis and Petit Coeur de Beurre sailed by Matthieu Perraut and Vincent Lancien to fight it out. Tacking out of Christchurch Bay before the front runners put Petit Coeur de Beurre on the back foot for the rest of the race. For the remaining duo, the race proved to be the severest of offshore match races that would last all the way to Cherbourg.

Viabilis pulled out a small lead in the Channel and was five miles ahead as she led Le Rire Medecin Lamotte up the west side of the Land’s End TSS. Berry and Joubert played follow the leader across the Celtic Sea and as Viabilis rounded the Fastnet Rock at 18:33:39 on Sunday night, they were just 12 minutes 22 seconds behind. They spent most of the broad reach back from the Rock racing alongside each other, Le Rire Medecin Lamotte to windward, just able to roll her rival. Passing south of Bishop Rock at around 04:20 Berry and Joubert were just 1.5 miles ahead. For the remainder of the race east down the Channel and along the south side of the Casquets TSS, the Le Rire Medecin Lamotte crew tried to cover their opponent gybe for gybe, not always successfully, with the lead changing hands. Eventually both of the 50ft trimarans headed right in to hug the short west of Cherbourg.

Viabilis follows La Rire Medecin Lamotte into Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, denied first place by a mere 1 minute 26 seconds after two days of racing Photo: Paul WyethViabilis follows La Rire Medecin Lamotte into Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, denied first place by a mere 1 minute 26 seconds after two days of racing Photo: Paul Wyeth

Ultimately Le Rire Medecin Lamotte crossed the finish line at 19:59:04 on Monday evening, just 1 minute 26 seconds ahead of her opponent. The two boats had been so held up covering the final miles that Petit Coeur de Beurre was able to catch up massively. From being 6 hours 20 minutes 48 seconds behind the second boat at the Fastnet Rock, at the finish line she was just 49 minutes behind.

A delighted Luke Berry said the last moments of the Rolex Fastnet Race had again been heart-stopping: “We nearly lost the race a couple of times today: the first near the Alderney Race where the wind dropped and we had a lot of current against us. They go a bit faster in light wind and managed to overtake us there. We managed to overtake them again, about an hour and a half before the finish – luckily in pure speed – Antoine was at the helm and we were really trimming the sails – we wanted this win! Then, just at the last gybe, we realised that they were closer to the shore and had less current, so we had to do a double gybe to get just in front of them. Well done to them – they did very well."

After an intense two-day match race at sea, Luke Berry and Pierre Quiroga congratulate each other on the race Photo: RORC/Arthur DanielAfter an intense two-day match race at sea, Luke Berry and Pierre Quiroga congratulate each other on the race Photo: RORC/Arthur Daniel

Of the dramatic first night he commented: “I’m not going to lie – it was the first time I’ve had these conditions at the helm of a multihull. We had gusts up to 43 knots and the swell was about 4m and the period was about 10 seconds which is not a lot, so we were really jumping up and down and bouncing around a lot. But surprisingly with these boats, if you do reduce sail and always have the traveller in your hand, it’s alright.

“I didn’t sleep much! It was just a long day – very bouncy and also we wanted to keep the performance side up and we did do all our tacks and went where we wanted to go. At Start Point we did a double tack to stay inside with less current. We said we’d be safe and we stayed safe, but we didn’t neglect performance.”

In fact the hairiest moments were on the fast reach back from the Fastnet Rock under the big gennaker. “There was one moment when we put the bows in, so we quickly rolled that up and put the little one on. There was a bit of mixing between our gennakers which quite interesting because we had a real battle with them over who could change gennakers the quickest!”

Berry was doubly pleased about his victory as his boat, built in 2009, is the oldest Ocean 50 still racing. “I am very happy, because I won it in 2019 in the Class40. In the last edition I was very close to doing the double but I was overtaken in exactly the same place I was overtaken today – last time I lost two places off here - this time, it could have gone either way. They’re very good sailors, we just got them in the last tack.”

Allegra defends her MOCRA multihull title

Adrian Keller’s 84ft Irens catamaran Allegra finished at 22:35:25 BST to defend her title in the MOCRA multihull class. Under MOCRA corrected time she finished 2 hours 15 minutes 12 seconds ahead of American Ken Howery's Gunboat 68 Tosca.

Adrian Keller’s 84ft Irens catamaran Allegra has defended her title in the MOCRA multihull class Photo: Rick TomlinsonAdrian Keller’s 84ft Irens catamaran Allegra has defended her title in the MOCRA multihull class Photo: Rick Tomlinson

The fastest yachtsman on the planet Paul Larsen, racing skipper on board, described their Rolex Fastnet Race: “The start was fantastic - it was a Who’s Who. With so many boats on that start line, it was really special. We wanted to represent the company we were in and show what Allegra was capable of, so we put the hammer down from the start. We wanted to push hard in those conditions, to make a lead that would force the competition to possibly make a mistake, as we know Allegra is a strong boat.

“Before Hurst Castle, we were possibly carrying too much sail, so we furled away, exiting the Solent as the squalls hit. We didn’t unfurl it until Falmouth. We weren’t sure if it was in good shape, but it was, and we put the hammer down again.

“Coming down to the Scillies, we were doing 32 knots and pulling away from Tosca. In those conditions, Allegra was the faster boat, and we were trying to get the biggest lead that we could. After the Fastnet it built - we were really fast down to Cherbourg; the speed was relentless, smoking along, sitting at 22-24 knots.”

Owner Adrian Keller commented: “I was praying for this lady (Allegra) - it was very rough and tough. We did have a long period where we lost the wind and we saw Tosca coming closer and closer; that was almost harder. Congratulations to them; they had a great race too. In the end, the wind came up, and we had a lovely ride into Cherbourg, and it is wonderful to be here. The Allegra crew has been together for seven years, and that makes the difference.”

Owner Adrian Keller and crew celebrate their victory in the MOCRA multihull class Photo: Paul WyethOwner Adrian Keller and crew celebrate their victory in the MOCRA multihull class Photo: Paul Wyeth

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Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove, Tokyo Olympic 49er Sailors 

Dublin dinghy sailors Robert Dickson of Howth Yacht Club and Sean Waddilove of Skerries Sailing Club achieved their goal of representing Ireland in the 49er class, almost six years to the day after first setting foot in a 49er skiff at their home club of Howth Yacht Club in County Dublin in 2015.

The voyage was a magnificent one becoming U23 World champions in 2018 before out sailing rivals double Olympian Ryan Seaton and Seafra Guilfoyle in some style for selection in Lanzarote in March 2021 to win the last European Olympic place for Tokyo.

Follow their progress here.