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#Fastnet – Anthony O'Leary's Ker 39, Antix, rounded the Fastnet Rock on 13 August at 19:10:54, an emotional moment for the all-Irish crew. From the bow to the stern of the boat, Antix personifies the long history and passion of the Rolex Fastnet Race

On the bow, 22 year-old Jamie Donegan is the fifth generation of his family to have taken part, Henry Donegan having competed in the first Fastnet Race in 1925, aboard Gull, which was built in 1895 as WM Nixon recounted in his Sailing on Saturday blog last weekend.

"Henry Donegan was my great great Grandfather and on board was his son, also called Henry; it's a bit of a family name," smiled Jamie. "It wasn't until 1983, that Yellow Scampi raced around the Rock with Jim Donegan and his son Peter on board and I am the fifth generation to take part. I have been on the bow of Antix for the last two years and I have grown up with Anthony O'Leary's son Robert.

"The Fastnet Rock is so close to my home and it will be hard to turn around and go back, but I intend to do my family proud and enjoy the race and hopefully, this race will be the first of many."

Jamie Donegan may be the only sailor in the Rolex Fastnet Race to count a five-generation Fastnet affair but Peter and Robert O'Leary are the fourth generation of their family to have competed in the iconic race as their father, and skipper of Antix, Anthony O'Leary, explains.

A marriage of yachting dynasties
"This will be my first Fastnet since 1977. My wife Sally competed in the notorious 1979 race. She is the daughter of Sir Robin Aisher and by that lineage, Robert and Peter are fourth generation competitors. I proposed to Sally straight after the 1979 race and we have three boys from our marriage but this year is the first time I have taken part in the Fastnet Race with any of them. When we pass the Rock, we will be just 3 miles from Cape Clear and I am sure we will hear the clinking of glasses in Baltimore, as we round the Rock."

As Antix rounded the Fastnet Rock on Tuesday evening, Sally O'Leary was there, in appalling weather, cheering on her husband, her sons and the proud Irish crew on board. "I didn't shed a tear but it is a moment I will never forget; watching them in the rain, hiking hard after a 400-mile beat. To be honest I was happy not to be on board.," observed Sally, as Antix turned back across the Celtic Sea, to finish the 45th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Antix has three Baltimore Lifeboatmen amongst the crew, who assisted in the rescue of the Rambler 100 crew in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race.

Antix crew: Anthony O'Leary, Pat Collins, Cathal Cottrell, Fred Cudmore, Jamie Donegan,Youen Jacob, Ross McDonald, Darragh O' Connor, Robert O'Leary, Peter O'Leary, Ian Travers.

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#fastnet – With the smaller boats returning from the Fastnet Rock in better conditions, they are becoming increasingly favoured for the overall win of the Rolex Fastnet Race under IRC. Andrew Pearce's Ker 40, Magnum 3, was ahead first thing this morning, but has since been overtaken by Inis Mor, the Ker 39 of Frenchman Laurent Gouy. It could be at least another 48 hours before a winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013 is finally decided.

Maxi-monohull match races play out

Like the animals in Noah's Ark, the biggest monohulls have spent the last days travelling two by two around the Rolex Fastnet Race course.

Between the pair of 100ft long Maxis - Esimit Europa 2 and Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard - it was the more nimble European maxi that led around the course to claim monohull line honours, finishing at 02:17:49 BST, with an elapsed time of 2 days 12 hours 27 minutes and 49 seconds.

Weighing in at a svelte 27 tonnes, compared to ICAP Leopard's 50, Esimit Europa 2 was the pre-race favourite for monohull line honours win and, after being forced to retire from the 2007 Rolex Fastnet Race in her previous incarnation as Neville Crichton's Alfa Romeo, this time she didn't disappoint. According to her skipper, multiple Olympic medallist Jochen Schümann, the Esimit Europa 2 crew was concerned sailing down the Channel, because the moderate to strong upwind conditions favoured ICAP Leopard. In fact the closest ICAP Leopard got to them was around a mile.

Then, Schümann recounted: "At the Scillies we made a big gain and at the restricted area next to the Fastnet, we split - we went to the west, and then reached around the Rock, while they went east and there they lost quite a bit. We were 15 miles ahead at the Fastnet Rock. From then, it was like a bungie - we stopped, they stopped, etc."

The race was relatively simple in terms of crew work - there was only one jib change outbound to the Rock on board Esimit Europa 2, and downwind on the way back the conditions never exceeded 12 knots. But after all the hard work around the course, the outcome was only decided in the last moments when, like so many night time arrivals, Esimit Europa 2, was becalmed on the approach to the finish, as the boats behind approached, bringing the wind in with them.

"It would have been very easy to stop and let some other people come with momentum and pass you, but we passed the headlands in the right place and stayed in some breeze. It was much more difficult than I remember in the past," said Schümann.

Esimit Europa 2's owner, Slovenian businessman Igor Simčič, commented: "The Rolex Fastnet Race is a very important race, a very long race - it is a test of many things, not only a boat and crew. I am very happy to have such a boat and such a crew that know how to manage this potential."

"At the beginning I was expecting to have more wind, because the Fastnet is known for very strong wind, but even in this case it wasn't so easy. I also very much appreciate the effort of all the other boats - the smaller ones who will be spending four or five days at sea to complete the race."

Frustrating park-up
If Esimit Europa 2 suffered a slow down approaching the finish line, it was far worse for ICAP Leopard, as Mike Slade's line honours winner from 2007 and 2009 was becalmed off the finish for the best part of two hours, as boats closed in from behind.

Much to the chagrin of the ICAP Leopard crew, they were once again beaten by the Ian Walker-skippered team on the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing VO70, which pipped them to the post crossing the line at 07:25:03, just four and a half minutes ahead of them.

"There was no wind as is often the case," explained Walker, the double Olympic silver medallist. "There was a bit of land breeze in the harbour and Leopard was completely marooned. We came in with the new wind from behind. The same could have happened to us, but fortunately we managed to get ourselves into a position where we went around the outside, away from the cliff."

Ian Walker, Skipper, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.Credit: Rolex / Daniel Forster
Of greater consequence for the Abu Dhabi team is that they successfully fought back from being more than five miles behind the women's team on Team SCA at the Fastnet Rock, to regain the lead just coming into Bishop Rock.

Team SCA navigator Sam Davies admitted that returning from the Fastnet Rock they had made a mistake in heading too far east in light winds allowing Abu Dhabi to make a big gain. "Then once we were near each other it was pretty clear that we were missing a spinnaker. They have an inshore free-flying spinnaker, which we did not - so they were sailing lower and faster all the way down there."

Ian Walker agreed that the speed difference came down to this sail, but it also represented the 39 point difference in IRC rating which ensured Team SCA beat Abu Dhabi on handicap and yesterday afternoon Team SCA not only led the IRC Canting Keel class, but the Rolex Fastnet Race in its entirety. However this morning, with the smaller boats returning from the Fastnet Rock, the overall lead has now shifted back to the 40 footers, while in IRC Canting Keel, the leader is the Baltic 78, Lupa of London, although one more boat in this class is still to finish.

The match race between the two Judel Vrolijk 72 Mini Maxis took a dramatic turn further back up the course. American Hap Fauth's newer and more powerful Bella Mente had led and extended over Niklas Zennström's 2009 and 2011 overall Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Rán 2, on the way to the Fastnet Rock.

"We were very happy with our beat, possibly because we are a bit more powerful, but we orientated the boat to beat them to the Rock," explained Bella Mente helmsman and former Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper, Mike Sanderson of their race with Rán 2. "We all know that if you can lead to the Rock, you are normally in pretty good shape." For example, this included taking 18 crew compared to the 12 they sailed with in the Giraglia Rolex Cup or the 16 for the RORC Caribbean 600.

After looking to be in good shape, Bella Mente suffered late yesterday afternoon when they fell into a patch of light wind short of the Bishop Rock. "The others were bringing breeze down - MACIF was doing 16 knots, Rán was doing 14 knots and we were doing 12 knots," explained Sanderson. This caused the fleet to compress and from holding a comfortable 8 mile advantage over Rán and leading IRC Zero, Bella Mente's lead reduced to 3.5 miles.
"We had a good race, it's just a bit of a shame we couldn't finish it off - the wind gods just weren't on our side," concluded Sanderson.

While Rán 2 succeeded in beating Bella Mente under IRC, she has been knocked into second place in IRC Zero by Johnny Vincent's TP52, Pace. Overall she holds third place under IRC and sadly is no longer in with a chance of entering the history books by securing her third consecutive overall win in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

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#fastnet – Jochen Schümann, Skipper of Esimit Europa 2, Maxi RP100: 30.48m (100ft) (SLO), crossed the finish line of the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race at the Plymouth Breakwater at 02:17:49 on Wednesday, 14th August after an elapsed time of 2 days, 12:27:49.

The largest yacht in the IRC class, Esimit Europa 2, has so far claimed 25 line honours of all attended races, and set 6 course records.

At 17:00 BST she was 85-nm from the finish line in Plymouth, with the crew reporting an ETA of 01:00 BST Wednesday morning. In the prevailing light conditions, Esimit Europa 2 has a natural advantage over her nearest rival, Mike Slade's heavier ICAP Leopard (GBR) and consequently throughout the day has been able to build what looks like an insurmountable lead. It currently stands at 20-nm.

Volvo 70 Team SCA (SWE) is making good progress on the heels of ICAP Leopard currently finding itself in a strong position with the IRC rating system taken into account. "Since the Fastnet Rock we have been pushing into this lighter stuff," reported Team SCA's Brad Jackson. "The boats behind us keep coming at us but we eventually hit some breeze and keep getting away. We'll keep trying to do that for a while." It was the first time some of us have seen the Rock, which is pretty cool.

Among the chasing group is Bella Mente who continues to prevail in the clash between the two 72-ft Mini Maxis. Hap Fauth's American crew rounded the Fastnet Rock at dawn this morning and, despite having to repair a broken mainsheet, the crew were in good spirits, reporting: "It was the first time some of us have seen the Rock, which is pretty cool. Rán 2 rounded the Rock a good distance behind us so we need to build on that lead a bit more for the anticipated light air finish." Rán 2's slow passage around the Rock bordered on tedium. "All this hard work for a small rock in the [Celtic] Sea!," they jokingly blogged. "After rounding the Rock we are racing back towards Plymouth hopefully with more wind." Bella Mente continues to enjoy a 5-nm advantage, 140-nm to finish.

The bulk of the 336-strong fleet is still en-route to the Fastnet Rock, the 611-nm race's emblematic halfway point. It is proving a highly tactical, challenging race with numerous wind shifts to respond to. Crews are having to strategically manage their resources with many long hours at sea still forecast. Andrew Pearce's Ker 40 Magnum 3 (GBR) currently 10-nm from the Rock reported: "Last night was much colder, although the increased fatigue probably played a part. We are reduced to a three-watch system of two hours instead of three in order to make sure a fresh watch is always on deck. Nevertheless, the relentless pace and difficult conditions mean tiredness is relatively inescapable."
A sentiment likely to be felt throughout the fleet as they head into a third long night. At 17:00 BST, 29 yachts had rounded the Fastnet Rock. To date, there have been eight retirements.

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#fastnet – Current Round Ireland race champion Inis Mor, sailed by French skipper Laurent Gouy with connections to Clifden Boat Club in Connemara in County Galway, leads the prestigious Rolex Fastnet race this morning in the approach to the famous rock turning point off the south west coast of Ireland. 

Although multihulls completed the course in the early hours of this morning no less than 300–boats are still racing at the mid–point of the 605–mile course for the overall handicap prize.

This morning's leaderboard (at 0730) on the race tracker showed the Irish champion leading, heading 340 degrees and making a speed of 6.10 knots. In 2012, in another race off the Irish coast, Gouy produced a magnificent final leg in the Irish Sea to win the Round Ireland race off Wicklow. 

In a race that has so far featured many challenges and changes in wind conditions, it is the second time Inismor has taken the lead in the massive offshore fleet.

In a further boost for Irish fans, Inismor's sistership, the Ker 39, Antix skippered by Royal Cork's Anthony O'Leary lies fifth overall in class and mounting a serious challenge for the lead this morning.

Meanwhile David Kenefick and Olaf Sorensen are ninth in class in the Figaro double–handers.

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#fastnet – Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard, co-skippers of Spindrift 2, a VPLP 131 Trimaran racing in the Multihull Division, crossed the finish line of the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race at the Plymouth Breakwater at 02.53.58 BST on Tuesday 13th August after an elapsed time of 38hr 53m 58s.

It was a fiercly fought battle at close quarters right down to the wire against Spindrift 2's main rival, the maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire VII.

At 14:03 BST Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's 131-ft Maxi Trimaran Spindrift 2 was the first boat to round the Fastnet Rock, the symbolic halfway point of the 611-nautical mile Rolex Fastnet Race.
Spindrift 2 rounded the Rock on the south-western tip of Ireland mere seconds ahead of the Armel le Cleac'h-skippered Banque Populaire as the two multihulls enjoyed a intriguing tactical tussle, attacking the final approach to the Rock from opposite directions. The speed machines are currently engaged in a gripping duel to the finish in Plymouth. At 17:00 BST Spindrift 2 retained a narrow lead, travelling at a consistent 30 knots some 200-nm from the finish. The arrival of the first multihull is expected in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
As forecast, Esimit Europa 2 has assumed leadership of the monohull fleet. The 100-ft Maxi guided by Jochen Schümann moved ahead at 19:30 BST on the first evening having taken time to force her way through the fleet after starting in the final group. She is expected to reach the Fastnet Rock later this evening. Her nearest rival on the water is Mike Slade's two-time line honours winner ICAP Leopard with the two Volvo 70s Team SCA (SWE) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (UAE) stacked narrowly behind.
Niklas Zennström's Rán 2 (GBR), in pursuit of a third straight overall Rolex Fastnet Race victory, is currently second best in the duel with fellow 72-ft Mini Maxi Bella Mente. At 17:00 BST, Hap Fauth's American crew had created a 5-nm gap between the boats still some 360-nm from the finish. With the light conditions forecast for the continuation of the race, a third win for Zennström is in the balance. Despite the intensity of the contest, there was still time for some humour from the Bella Mente crew: "We seem to be an enjoying an English summer: overcast, upwind and cold!"
The bulk of the fleet is clustered on the approach to Land's End facing a second tactically demanding night at sea as they make slow progress to the Rock. Of the 336 race starters, seven have retired, the most high profile being the Maxi multihull Prince De Bretagne who reported a technical failure.

The atmosphere on the water at the finish was likened to a match race. The whole teams nerves and strength were tested to the last. It was a moment of satisfaction and relaxation when the cannon sounded as the maxi crossed the finish line, only a few seconds ahead of the blue trimaran. The 605 nm course, starting in Cowes , rounding the Fastnet rock and finishing in Plymouth Sound, was completed in 38 hours 53 minutes and 58 seconds.

Yann Guichard, co-skipper of the Maxi Spindrift 2 «The decisive moment of the race was here at the finish. We were in close contact throughout the race with Banque Populaire VII. In the Irish sea there was a time where they were ahead of us. Everything, as usual, played out in the last two miles, where we were very anxious because of the light conditions.. This race is a sprint. You have to be on the ball from start to finish, and that is what makes this race special. Every went really well onboard, everyone remained focused on their objectives, and Xavier Revil prepared good freeze-dried meal for the crew.. We managed two weeks of solid training since the launch of the boat. We are very proud and happy to win this Rolex Fastnet race! ».

No less than 340 boats remain on the course this evening..... Launched just over a month ago, this is the first victory in the colours of Spindrift racing for the trimaran. It is a good sign of things to come for Spindrift 2's projects and objectives and that of her crew. The giant of offshore racing will be on Standby from the beginning of October for the Route de La Decouverte. (Cadiz to Sansalvadour). Her first world record attempt.

 The crew on the maxi Spindrift 2 for the Rolex Fastnet :

Dona Bertarelli – Skipper
Yann Guichard – Skipper
Xavier Revil
Erwan Tabarly
Antoine Carraz
Christophe Espagnon
Nicolas Texier
Jean Baptiste le Vaillant
Thierry Douillard
Sébastien Marsset
Thomas Rouxel
François Morvan
Simone Gaeta
Erwan Israel

Earlier report from the race course:

With the wind resolutely in the northwest, the leading monohulls are hard on the wind as they head out west across the Celtic Sea. The Jochen Schuemann-skippered Esimit Europa 2 continues to lead the on-the-water battle of the 100ft maxis from Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard, both boats soon to tack north. Given the wind direction, several boats have continued west while staying to the south of the Scillies. This includes the Baltic 78, Lupa of London, which remains ahead on handicap in IRC Canting Keel, followed by the two VO70s.

In this particular match race, the women's Volvo Ocean Race team on Team SCA has managed to stay ahead of the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, since passing them at Start Point.

"It was a night full of tacks and sail changes," reported Team SCA's Sam Davies. "It has been physically hard work, but our training is paying off and we have done some nice manoeuvres." Directly upwind, Team SCA's ETA at the Fastnet Rock is not until 0400 BST tomorrow, as the gradient wind is getting lighter and with the wind from the northwest the Fastnet Rock is effectively in the lee of Ireland.

Davies reckoned that she had had one hour's sleep last night, although as navigator she is not part of the watch system. Unusually, as the VO70s are racing this year under IRC, the crew is not allowed to stack the sails and so there has been more emphasis on the crew sitting on the rail.

The Mini-Maxi competition in IRC Zero continues with both American Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and Niklas Zennstrom's Ran 2 both also heading west, waiting to tack north, but with Bella Mente now five miles ahead of her rival. Since this morning, the US Mini Maxi, with a crew that includes Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Mike Sanderson and Northern Irish navigator Ian Moore, has taken the lead in IRC Zero

 

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#fastnet – An intriguing dust-up is taking place between the world's fastest racing yachts competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

After an excellent start, the 40m trimaran, Spindrift 2, led the Multihull division along the south coast of England last night, but earlier this morning off Land's End it was the Damian Foxall crewed MOD70, Oman Air-Musandam, that had moved into the first place, despite being half Spindrift's length. Crossing the Celtic Sea, it was then the turn of the 31.5m trimaran, Banque Populaire, to edge ahead. But at the Fastnet Rock, Spindrift 2, just managed to get her nose in front, rounding at 14.03:08 BST with the Armel le Cleac'h skippered Banque Populaire right on her transom.

"It is a great match," enthused Spindrift 2's co-skipper, Yann Guichard, this afternoon. "Right now, Banque Populaire is just 300m to windward and we are doing the same speed and the same angle."

In theory the bigger boat should be faster, but Guichard says that in the 18-19 knot winds they have, the smaller Banque Populaire benefits from being lighter. "We are too heavy, so it is really close. We gybed first and she gybed just to windward, so it is like a match race - it is definitely not over yet."

Now she's cracked off, Spindrift 2 is making 35-36 knots of boat speed with an ETA into Plymouth of 02:30 BST tomorrow morning. Sadly as there has been less reaching this year, this will be substantially outside of her 32 hour 48 minute race record which this boat set two years ago.

With the wind resolutely in the northwest, the leading monohulls are hard on the wind as they head out west across the Celtic Sea. The Jochen Schuemann-skippered Esimit Europa 2 continues to lead the on-the-water battle of the 100ft maxis from Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard, both boats soon to tack north. Given the wind direction, several boats have continued west while staying to the south of the Scillies. This includes the Baltic 78, Lupa of London, which remains ahead on handicap in IRC Canting Keel, followed by the two VO70s.

In this particular match race, the women's Volvo Ocean Race team on Team SCA has managed to stay ahead of the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, since passing them at Start Point.

"It was a night full of tacks and sail changes," reported Team SCA's Sam Davies. "It has been physically hard work, but our training is paying off and we have done some nice manoeuvres." Directly upwind, Team SCA's ETA at the Fastnet Rock is not until 0400 BST tomorrow, as the gradient wind is getting lighter and with the wind from the northwest the Fastnet Rock is effectively in the lee of Ireland.

Davies reckoned that she had had one hour's sleep last night, although as navigator she is not part of the watch system. Unusually, as the VO70s are racing this year under IRC, the crew is not allowed to stack the sails and so there has been more emphasis on the crew sitting on the rail.

The Mini-Maxi competition in IRC Zero continues with both American Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and Niklas Zennström's Rán both also heading west, waiting to tack north, but with Bella Mente now five miles ahead of her rival. Since this morning, the US Mini Maxi, with a crew that includes Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper Mike Sanderson and Northern Irish navigator Ian Moore, has taken the lead in IRC Zero.

The French onslaught continues

French boats still dominate the smaller IRC classes. Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau's Grand Soleil 43, Codiam, continues to lead IRC One, but in IRC Two it is Samuel Prietz's A-40, Vitaris, that has taken over from Nutmeg IV since this morning. At present there is the unusual situation where the leader in IRC Two is ahead of the leader in IRC One, both boats now due south of the Traffic Separation Scheme off Land's End.

At tea time the Discover Ireland entry Aodhan Fitzgerald skippered boat sent the following update: Just arrived at scillies now after glorius days sailing. Going north of scillies and the close to rhumb line for fastnet. Fleet tightly packed around us . Morale good. Sail repairs progressing well! 

However the overall leader of the Rolex Fastnet Race under IRC rating has now passed on from the IRC Two leader to the IRC Three leader, still Jean Jacques Godet's J/120, Rhapsodie V, now lying six miles astern of Vitaris. Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew, remains ahead in IRC Four, approaching the longitude of Land's End.

Currently lying seventh in Class 2 is Scarlet Oyster, whose skipper Ross Appleby reported that they hadn't had a great start yesterday, but had regained some ground since. "At Portland Bill we just sneaked through there before the tide shut us off as the breeze was a bit light." From their position just off the Lizard, Appleby said they were able to lay the south-west corner of the Traffic Separation Scheme just off Land's End.

Appleby was concerned by the weather ahead in the Celtic Sea with an area of high pressure forecast to encroach over the area tomorrow. This was leaving with him the decision of whether to sail directly towards the Rock in lighter conditions, anticipating a shift to the southwest, or to stay further east, in better breeze but sailing more miles. "It is a bit of a Catch 22," mused Appleby.

On board Scarlet Logic, despite being upwind since the start, the crew had managed to get some sleep in last night. "It is quite comfortable on deck. The stand-by guys have been able to sleep on the rail a bit. It wasn't too wet."

Meanwhile the Rolex Fastnet Race Village in Plymouth Yacht Haven is beginning to fill up with press, friends and relatives of crew, waiting for the boats to start arriving.

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#fastnet – Bruce Douglas and Alan Bruce's Spirit of Jacana is vying for the overall lead in class one of the Fastnet race this lunchtime but snake and ladder conditions are keeping crews on their toes and praying for pressure, 24 hours into the classic offshore race. The Northern Ireland based J133 from Carrickfergus was lying fifth overall in the 335–boat fleet and leads Irish hopes as both Ker 39s Antix and Inismor dropped back briefly. There are over 475 miles still to go with everything to play. Places have been changing dramatically on the race tracker with every update this morning. Despite having been upwind since the start, the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet has been making excellent progress down the south coast of the UK since yesterday's start.

Discover ireland skipper Aodhan Fitzgerald sent an up date to Afloat.ie this lunchtime: '17th in class 27th overall. Just approaching lizard. We blew out our genoa in 27kts squall at 11am. So are frantically trying to repair. Bit slow now under non overlapping headsail. Beautiful day dry boat for a change and some great grub being produced. Praying for pressure to the rock now!'

There have been no retirements overnight, and to date, just four boats from 335 starters have officially dropped out. The most dramatic was the grounding of the brand new Cayman Islands-registered Botin 65, Caro, which went hard onto Salt Mead Ledge at the top of the tide yesterday afternoon. She has since been pulled off but has been forced to retire back to Endeavour Quay in Gosport.

The Clipper 68, New York, retired after suffering a fire on board and didn't make the start. The Farr 52, Toe in the Water, withdrew yesterday afternoon when a winch pulled out of her deck. The Royal Navy Nicholson 55, Dasher, is also out after another boat collided with her.

At 0130 BST this morning, Sidney Gavignet's crew on board the Oman Air-Musandam MOD70 trimaran led the substantially larger Armel le Cleac'h-skippered Banque Populaire past Land's End, hugging the shore this morning. Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's even larger 40m long Spindrift 2 chose a different route to the west, only tacking north once they were south of the Scilly Isles. The lead trio remains close with the Omani MOD70 a nose ahead.

"The sea is quite choppy so it is not easy," said Dona Bertarelli. "It makes for a lot of work on the deck for the team to trim the sails and to keep up a good speed in these short waves. During the night we had less wind near the Scilly Isles, which has been really bad for the speed of Spindrift 2. So our friends on the other multihulls have gained ground on us and now a new fight begins to reach the Fastnet in first position."

Mike Slade's Farr 100, ICAP Leopard, continues to hang on to the coat tails of the monohull front runner, the Gazprom-backed European maxi, Esimit Europa 2. Both are passing west of the traffic separate scheme (TSS) at Longships off Land's End, with Leopard just four miles astern of her rival. But on handicap it is the Baltic 78, Lupa of London, that leads IRC Canting Keel.

Six miles behind Leopard, and approaching the TSS, is Team SCA, which, in the on-going Volvo Open 70 match race, overtook Ian Walker's team on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing off Start Point at 2300 BST last night.

"We had a park up at Start Point which turned our race inside out," Walker reported. "We had tide against and we went off wider, hoping to carry some wind round, worried about getting stuck under the cliffs. Unfortunately everyone else just sent it right in under the cliffs and ghosted through while we got stuck. We lost about 5-6 miles to the girls and to some of the Open 60s and Bella Mente. We made a few gains back and then had a big fish on the rudder. That took about 20 minutes to clear off the port rudder. Other than that it is going alright."

Walker reported that off the TSS they currently have 16 knots from the north-west (although they had seen as much as 20 knots) and they had just decided to follow the leaders up the western end of the TSS.

A similar match race is going on just between the 72ft Judel Vrolijk Mini Maxis. 3.5 miles behind the Abu Dhabi VO70 and having just passed the longitude of Land's End, American Hap Fauth's Bella Mente is just over three miles ahead of her older rival, Niklas Zennstrom's Rán 2, the Rolex Fastnet Race defending champion. The bulk of IRC Zero is due south of the Lizard, including the IRC Zero leader on handicap, the Russian team on the Swan 60, Bronenosec, skippered by Vladimir Liubomirov.

After passing Portland Bill yesterday evening, the IRC Zero fleet, en masse, dug into Lyme Bay, but since passing Start Point has pushed south of the rhumb line to the Lizard.
One of the most impressive performances in the race continues to be that of Vendée Globe winners François Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux, who are leading the IMOCA 60 class aboard the former's MACIF. Despite being 12ft shorter and being sailed doublehanded, MACIF is lying between the Mini Maxis on the water.

Behind, once again French boats are dominating all of the remaining classes on handicap. Overall IRC leader at present is François Lognone's J/122, Nutmeg IV, also front runner in IRC Two. She is shortly to pass the Lizard and is right on the coat tails of the IRC One leader, Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau's Grand Soleil 43, Codiam, second overall under IRC. Both boats are past competitors in French teams contesting the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup. The bulk of IRC One and Two is at present due south of Plymouth.

The IRC One boats were forced to shave Portland Bill last night to keep out of the worst of the tide with Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, continuing to lead the charge on the water, passing Start Point at around 0230 BST.

Jean Jacques Godet's J/120, Rhapsodie V, is ahead in IRC 3, close to the rhumb line between Start Point and the Lizard, while around five miles behind on the water, Noel Racine's JPK 10.10, Foggy Dew, is leading IRC Four.

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#Fastnet – After the first night at sea in the 2013 Fastnet race, two of 12 Irish yachts are showing the potency of Irish offshore sailing with top five performances in the 335–boat fleet. Clidfen Boat Club's Inismor sailed by the French Guoy brotherrs are lying fourth and Royal Cork's Anthony O'Leary in Irish champion yacht Antix lies fifth. Both boats are Ker39 designs with a proven offshore performance capability. Inismor is the current Round Ireland champion. 

 

The 335 competing boats still have over 475 nautical miles to go in this offshore challenge from Cowes to the Fastnet rock and back but already the signs look like a rerun of May's Myth of Malham race for the top Irish boats. So far Chris Tibbs weather forecast is being borne out on the race track and this will favour the 35-40– foot boats.

Read WM Nixon's Fastnet Yacht Race preview on the Irish entries here.

Currently lying 25th overall, skipper Aodhan Fitgerald reported from Discover Ireland at 02.25 this morning: 'Light winds now as we approach start point. We are amongst the northern most in our class so recent knock may pay dividends. Beautiful moon and star lit night off south coast uk. Very comfortable with dry decks which is nice but doesn't suit us! All well otherwise had some fun getting around Portland bill in the inner channel'.

Fastnet race tracker here: 

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#Fastnet – Yachts in the Rolex Fastnet Race are off! They're heading for Ireland and the Fastnet rock off the Cork coast! Track all 335 boats here on the race tracker detailing all the times and handicap positions of the competitors as they progress on the 650–mile race.

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#fastnet – The current weather may suit up to a dozen Irish boats readying for the Fastnet race tomorrow that includes Irish IRC Zero champion Antix, in one of its first debuts offshore. 

Fastnet Race meteorologist Chris Tibbs says with the forecast as it is at present, Chris Tibbs believes that favourite for this year's race could be among the 35-40 footers.

Weather is currently at the forefront of competitors' minds as this will dictate their fortunes over the next few days.

Significantly many of the Irish boats competing fit in to the 35-40 foot category, including former Afloat sailor of the year Antony O'Leary's 39-foot Ker design.

Typically the forecast benefits either the big boats or the small boats, but this year, Tibbs says it is far from clear whether either will come out on top.

Irish boats or boats of Irish interest in the 300– boat fleet heading west include a core of Irish Sea Offshore racers (ISORA) and Round Ireland winners including Dutch and French boats: Adelie (First 34.7, Peter Hall, NYC), Alchimiste (JPK 9.60, Mike Murphy, KYC), Antix (Ker 39, Anthony O'Leary, RCYC), Figaro II (Figaro, David Kenefick RCYC), Diablo-J (J/105, Nick Martin/Andy Boyle, RORC), Inis, Mor (Ker 39, Laurent Gouy, Clifden BC),, Jedi (J/109, Andrew Sarratt, Dun Laoghaire), Joker (J/109, Chris Andrews, Dun Laoghaire), Lula Belle (First 36.7, Liam Coyne, NYC) Lynx Clipper/The Gathering (Reflex 38, Aodhan Fitzgerald, GBSC),, Raging Bull (Sigma 400, Matt Davis, Skerries SC), Spirit of Jacana (J/133, Alan, Bruce & James Douglas, Carrickfergus SC., Tonnere de Breskens (Ker 46, Piet Vroon, RORC)

According to Tibbs, the start and first stage to St Alban's Head will be in south-westerlies before the wind starts veering into the northwest, making for a starboard tack-biased beat down the coast of the UK. Significant for the bigger half of the fleet, is that the wind is currently forecast to stay in the north-west making for a full beat across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock and then a dead run back, with a broad reach on to the finish in Plymouth in relatively light breeze.

The wind only frees up for boats heading outbound to the Rock, when it backs into the west on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. The slower boats, which won't be crossing the Celtic Sea outbound to the Rock until then, will be in for a fast reach across and back, but they may then get held up depending on the movement of a ridge of high pressure due to encroach into the mid-southern Channel area on Thursday.

French Armada

France is probably the world's top nation when it comes to offshore racing with events such as the singlehanded round the world race, the Vendée Globe, and classes like the IMOCA 60, Class40 and Figaro. In addition to their domination of many of the IRC classes, French boats also represent the majority in the non-IRC classes competing in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, which sets sail from Cowes tomorrow from 12 noon BST.

This year's biennial race to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock off southern Ireland, features some of the very best sailors from across the Channel, including Michel Desjoyeaux, PRB skipper Vincent Riou and François Gabart. Between them, they have won the last four Vendée Globe races. The podium finishers from the 2012-3 Vendée Globe are all taking part, with Gabart back on his winning IMOCA 60, MACIF, Alex Thomson on his third-placed Hugo Boss, while second placed Armel le Cleac'h, has graduated up to skipper of the 31.5m long trimaran, Banque Populaire.

Michel Desjoyeaux is the world's most successful shorthanded offshore sailor having twice won the Vendée Globe, and the prestigious La Solitaire du Figaro three times. This year's race, which he is sailing on MACIF with his protégé François Gabart, is only his second Rolex Fastnet Race but represents the 20th anniversary of his first - aboard the Whitbread maxi, La Poste.

Desjoyeaux says he first heard of the race when he was 14. "Two of my brothers were here with Half Tonners and they phoned home on the morning of the start and they said we're coming back to France because there was a big storm coming. That was in 1979..."

For François Gabart, this will be his first Rolex Fastnet Race, but he knows the course well and says he is pleased to be here because the hull of his IMOCA 60 was built at Green Marine in Hythe.

Rolex Fastnet Race. François Gabart. Credit: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com
"The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the most famous offshore races. I wasn't born in 1979, but I heard a lot about it. I remember when I first sailed to the Fastnet Rock - it was something big," says Gabart. Since the Vendée Globe, MACIF has had her mast replaced and has her pre- Vendée sail wardrobe on board.

Eight IMOCA 60s are competing in this year's race, all of them being sailed doublehanded in preparation for this autumn's Transat Jacques Vabre.

For German Jörg Riechers this will not only be his first Rolex Fastnet Race, but also his first major race in his new IMOCA 60, mare, previously Michel Desjoyeaux's 2008 Vendée Globe winner. "When I was young I dreamed of doing the Admiral's Cup, which was strongly connected to the Rolex Fastnet Race. This is a classic race. You get the trimarans, the Open 60s and the Class40s and all the IRC boats. It is the gathering of the best boats in the world."

Seventeen boats are competing in the Class40. Unlike the IMOCA 60s, these are being sailed fully crewed. Among them the favourite is probably Sebastien Rogues on his Mach 40 EDF Suez, recent winner of the Les Sables-Azores-Les Sables race.

Again it is Rogues' first participation. "The Rolex Fastnet Race is a mythical race, like the Rolex Sydney Hobart. You have to do it at least once in your life. It has a long history, and there have been some very tough races. I am very honoured to be participating. It's a good race to see the level of competition before the Transat Jacques Vabre."

New Class40 models debut

his year's race marks the debut for two new models of Class40, with Spanish former World Champion Gonzalo Botin competing on Tales II, a new design from his Emirates Team New Zealand naval architect brother, Marcellino, while the Austrian-flagged Vaquita, is the latest Class40 from Tom Humphreys (son of Rob). Damien Seguin is also taking part on his new Akilaria RC3, Des Pieds Et Des Mains, which is so new that is has yet to measure and so is competing under IRC.

Interestingly aside from being Class40 skippers, both Seguin and Bruno Jourdren, skipper of Lord Jiminy, are also leading paralympic sailors - both silver medallists in Beijing, while Seguin won 2.4mR gold in Athens.

The turn-out in the smaller 32ft Figaro class is growing with a strong turn out from the Artemis Offshore Academy. The race is particularly special for Rockfish skipper Henry Bomby.

"The first time I sailed a Figaro was the Fastnet two years ago. That summer I got selected for the Academy. If I'd know then that in the next two years I would have done two Solitaire du Figaros and started to get my own sponsors, I would have been pretty happy."

His sponsor Rockfish, run by celebrity chef Mitch Tonks, has recently opened a new restaurant in Plymouth very close to where the Rolex Fastnet Race will moor at Plymouth Yacht Haven.

Most of the new recruits to the Artemis Offshore Academy are also competing in the Figaro class, while Sam Goodchild, the leading British finisher in this year's La Solitaire du Figaro, is competing in the Class40 aboard Peter Harding's 40 Degrees.

 

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Page 5 of 11

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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