Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Displaying items by tag: Fastnet

#fastnet – Plymouth is gearing up to welcome thousands of sailors from all corners of the globe in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's celebrated Rolex Fastnet Race. Now in its 45th edition the biennial race, which started in 1925, features on every seasoned sailor's 'must do' list as well as newcomers seeking a tough personal challenge. Drawn by the history and sporting lure of Europe's oldest and greatest offshore contest, it is legendary within the world of ocean racing.

The 2013 race has already set new records before it's even started: up to 380 boats from over 20 countries, from as far afield as Australia, Russia, America and Lithuania, will converge on the historic maritime City of Plymouth for the finish of the 608 nautical mile race which sets off from Cowes, Isle of Wight on Sunday 11th August.

The race which sees the mammoth fleet round the iconic Fastnet Rock before heading to the finish, showcases the most diverse range of yachts imaginable; from 30ft to 130ft and attracts aspiring sailors to professional crews who race all over the world. Accommodating the largest ever Fastnet fleet and around 3,500 competitors has been made possible by the move to Mount Batten's Plymouth Yacht Haven.

"Plymouth Yacht Haven, Mount Batten has the capacity to supply the extra berthing that is needed in this record breaking year. With so much demand, we had to find a solution and moving the event to Plymouth Yacht Haven and working with Queen Anne's Battery, Sutton Harbour and Mayflower marinas will give us the capacity we need to berth a fleet of this size and provide the facilities expected by the sailors," says Royal Ocean Racing Club's CEO, Eddie Warden Owen.

Also new for 2013 will be the Acoustic Circus in the Race Village, providing top entertainment each afternoon from Tuesday 13th through to Friday 16th August and luckily for those competing, the finish of the race coincides with the British Fireworks Championships, so it is set to be a spectacular week for both visitors, locals and the yachtsmen alike.

Published in Fastnet
Tagged under

#isora – Preparing for the offshore racing season and especially the Dun Laoghaire to Dingle race and Fastnet Race is the subject of Wednesday's pre-season ISORA talk at the National Yacht Club on Wednesday at 7pm. 'Prof' O'Connell of North Sails Ireland will talk about "Offshore Trim and Speed" and Mick Liddy will talk about "Offshore Tactics and Navigation".
There will be a wine reception afterwards.

Published in ISORA
Tagged under

#fastnet – With the entry limit of 300 filled within 24 hours, over 100 boats on the waiting list and entries from multihulls, IMOCA 60s and Class 40s still coming in, demand for places in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race have been greater than ever. To answer this unprecedented demand the RORC has decided to increase the number of places available for IRC rated boats by an extra 40 places, to 340. The addition of multihulls, IMOCAs, Class 40s and Mini Transats could easily bring the total fleet to 380 boats and to cope with this the club has decided to move the event to Plymouth Yacht Haven which has the capacity to supply the extra berthing that is needed.

"With so much demand we had to find a solution and moving the event to Plymouth Yacht Haven and working with Queen Anne's Battery, Sutton Harbour and Mayflower marinas should give us the capacity we need to berth a fleet of this size and provide the facilities expected by over 3000 sailors" says RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen.

Plymouth Yacht Haven has capacity for 450 berths, is accessible at all tides and has comprehensive facilities to satisfy the requirements of the competitors, organisers and sponsors. It will host the Rolex Fastnet Race Village where spectators can mingle with sailing superstars and enjoy live music and a variety of activities.

In 2011 the RORC committee removed the "pro sailed boats" such as Volvo 70s, IMOCAs and Class 40s from the 300 entries to release nearly 30 places for IRC rated boats on the waiting list who are the only boats eligible to win the main trophy, the Fastnet Challenge Cup

Commenting on the increase in fleet size RORC Commodore Mike Greville says: "The 300 limit has its origins in the inquiry following the 1979 race, but advancements in all aspects of the sport including yacht design, boatbuilding, and navigation equipment have dramatically improved its safety. The race also has a qualification process to ensure that the crew have sufficient experience in the boat they are racing before they are accepted as an entry. Following the unprecedented level of interest in this year's event we have moved to reconsider the limit but, before making any decision, we had to work out what was deliverable and this required us to move the event to Plymouth Yacht Haven."

Starting from Cowes, Isle of Wight on 11th August, yachts will arrive in Plymouth between 13th and 17th August at the end of what can be a very challenging offshore race.

Published in Fastnet
Tagged under
12th January 2013

Rock Breaking Records

#fastnet – Why are people surprised that, despite the international mood of economic gloom, online entries for the Rolex Fastnet Race 2013 in August went through the roof earlier this week, with the ceiling of 300 boats – nine of them Irish - hit in record time, well within 24 hours of the lists opening, with the first one in just seven seconds after the gun fired?

Fact is, the Fastnet is incredibly good value for money for ordinary offshore sailors based along either side of the English Channel, and on both coasts of the southern North Sea. It's set up on a plate ready-to-go, its start and finish are within convenient sailing distance of them all, yet it's an event of historic and almost mythic global status, made even more so by the disastrous storm of 1979.

To have it in your sailing CV, regardless of where you place at the finish, is still something which mightily impresses non-sailing colleagues at work, and down the pub too if you live more than half a dozen miles from the sea. Yet taking part in it is no big deal financially for the English Channel/Southern North Sea sailors when you factor in the enormous number of existing boats which are well capable of doing it.

If we set aside the original cost of the boat by regarding that transaction as history and not part of the new financial equation, thanks to today's much more rigorous inter-governmental safety and equipment standards, it's not too onerous to bring an ordinary production performance cruiser up to the RORC requirements.

So taking the existence and ownership of the boat as a given, what is needed is enthusiasm, energy, the availability of shipmates, and that precious place in the entry list. It's a setup which suits Offshore Sailing Schools very well indeed – they made extra sure of securing their entries, and are pushing above 10% of the total list. As for private owners, for some nowadays the entry place seems to have become top of the priorities, and people are securing their slot in the hope of then putting their campaign together on the basis of this essential building block. Either way, there's already a waiting list, but it can activate into entry acceptance remarkably quickly, even if some secured entries hang on until the last minute, days after it's clear they'll be no-shows.

Back in 2007, one of Ireland's greatest offshore skippers, Ger O'Rouke of Limerick, was campaigning his Cookson 50 Chieftain with enormous vigour, and in June/July he raced the Transatlantic from New York to Hamburg. But he had an understandable superstition about finalizing his entry for the next big race before finishing the race of the moment, and thus when Chieftain got into Hamburg, she may have won her class and placed second overall, but as far as the Fastnet Race 2007 was concerned, she was still only No 46 on the waiting list.

But Ger took her down to the Solent, and based himself in the Hamble to be near the scene of the action, making sure the Fastnet race office knew he was there and ready to go, so that as places became available from the waiting list, the over-worked race officers could be sure that one boat at least was a certain substitute. Meanwhile he was also keeping an eye on other boats in uncertain pre-Fastnet mode around the Hamble, because after the time-consuming Transatlantic campaign, Ger was a bit short of crew, and he was quietly sussing out Fastnet hopefuls to make up his numbers if he got the call.

Less than 48 hours before the race was due to start, Chieftain was in. So in terms of accepted boat management practice, you might say she was a last minute entry, with her crew numbers completed by pierhead jumpers. Having cleared the acceptance hurdle, they frustratingly couldn't get racing right away, as the start was postponed for a day because of a Force 9 south'wester. Even when it did get going in quite a rugged slug to windward down the English Channel, something like 150 boats soon retired.

But Chieftain was loving it, though even before she'd bashed her way past the Lizard, all the installed electronics crashed. They navigated the rest of the race with a little handheld GPS and a few wet and disintegrating paper charts. Not to worry, they had a hugely acclaimed overall win, the first ever by an Irish boat, and Ger O'Rourke was Ireland's Sailor of the Year 2007. Not bad going for a last-minute entry crewed by pierhead jumpers.

With stories like this cascading down the years, it's little wonder the Fastnet is something special. And though it involves a little more effort for Irish boats to get to the start, it's still a mega-happening within easy reach, tantalizingly so when rounding the rock itself. Thus although we've only managed a sneak preview of the initial entry list, and while accepting that some may fall by the wayside because of rigorous crew requirements further down the lines, nevertheless the news is it's good news, Ireland has a quality entry, and there'll be much more to it than simply having the Fastnet Race in the old sailing CV.

In alphabetic order, they're Alchimiste (JPK 9.60, Mike Murphy), Antix (Ker 39, Anthony O'Leary), David Kenefick Sailing (Figaro II, Marcus Hutchinson), Jedi (J/109, Andrew Sarratt) Joker (J/109, Chris Andrews), Lula Belle (First 36.7, Liam Coyne), Lynx Clipper (Reflex 38, Aodhan Fitzgerald), Raging Bull (Sigma 400, Matt Davis) and Spirit of Jacana (J/133, Andrew, Bruce & James Douglas).

At least three other boats have special Irish interest – Nick Martin's J/105 Diablo-J, currently RORC Yacht of the Year after winning the two-handed championship including the double handed division in the round Ireland, with Dun Laoghaire's Andrew Boyle signed on to crew again, and the two recent round Ireland winners - Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor, and Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnere de Breskens.

Of the directly Irish boats, we note that the O'Leary family's Antix – a sister-ship of Inis Mor – has never done a major long offshore race before, not even the Round Ireland, but she's has won oodles of stuff round the cans and in shorter offshores, so her transference to the wide open spaces will be interesting. Further down the line, Lynx Clipper entered by Aodhan Fitzgerald is of course NUI Galway, the Reflex 38 which is current ICRA Boat of the Year. And it's good to see Matt Davis's successful Sigma 400 Raging Bull (ISORA Champion 2011) back in the lists – she missed 2012 completely through coming ashore in Skerries in a nor'east gale in May, but has now been restored by Noonan Boats down Wicklow way.

Young David Kenefick's Figaro programme under the tutelage of Marcus Hutchinson will be well under way by Fastnet time, and this should provide useful publicity and unmatchable experience. As for the hot J/109s of Dublin Bay, two of them – Jedi and Joker – have made the cut, while their bigger sister, the Douglas brothers' J/133 Spirit of Jacana from Carrickfergus, is back again to defend her position as top-placed Irish boat in 2011. Smallest of all the Irish entries is Mike Murphy's JPK 9.60 Alchimiste – at 31ft she has one of the shortest overall lengths in the entire fleet, but with her beam upwards of 11ft she's a big-hearted little 'un, an impressive French creation.

We don't know at this stage which Irish boats are on the waiting list, but as it is that's a good solid lineup, with some welcome surprises. Looking at the fleet overall, defender Ran (JV 72, Niklas Zennstrom) is going again, as too is mono-hull record holder, the Volvo 70 Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker). There's a notable absence of American boats this time round (though their successful JV 72 Bella Mente is in the hunt), but we should bear in mind that the next Rolex Fastnet, in 2015, will coincide with the Bi-Centenary of the Royal Yacht Squadron, so we can expect the New York Yacht Club to be leading a formidable expeditionary force to events around that, including the Fastnet Race.

And looking beyond that, it's not too long to the Tri-Centenary of the Royal Cork in 2020. For Royal Cork's Quarter Millennium in 1970, they made it a two year event to accommodate American boats planning to take in the 1969 Fastnet. Doubtless plans are already well in hand to do that again with the Rolex Fastnet Race of 2019.........Put it in your diary now.

GLORIOUS GALATEA AND HAPPY HENN

There was some scepticism about last week's piece about Ireland's first America's Cup Challenger in 1886. Not as to whether it had taken place – it's quite clear in the America's Cup records that in 1886, Lt William Henn had challenged through the Royal Northern Yacht Club with his new cutter Galatea. No, the disbelief was about the notion that Lt Henn and his supportive wife and their crew (including Peggy the pet monkey) had lived aboard Galatea, which stayed on in America in order to challenge again the following Spring, as Henn reckoned the Autumn breezes off Marblehead were too light.

We've since unearthed this antique photo of Galatea's main saloon, which would suggest that you could have lived aboard the big steel cutter in rather more luxurious comfort than the Henn family's many tenants would have enjoyed in their small farms along the north shore of the Shannon Estuary. But in terms of America's Cup racing potential, it tells us why Galatea was just about as effective as a Shannon gandolow in taking on the American defender Mayflower, an Edward Burgess designed 100ft cutter which won every race whether Autumn or Spring, the biggest margin being a whopping 29 minutes and 9 seconds.

Yet today the fascination is with Galatea's extraordinary saloon, which seems to have at least two leopardskin rugs, and a proper fireplace – absolutely essential in any proper racing yacht. As to William Henn retaining his modest naval title of Lieutenant, it seems that he took early retirement from the Royal Navy in order to go sailing, his personal fortune being sufficient to do so, and he was so keen on sailing the sea that before Galatea was built on the Clyde in 1885, he lived aboard his previous yacht for seven years.

At the time of his challenge, the American press commented on "this retired Naval Officer with his rich Irish charm", while his gallant wife seems to have been Scottish, hence his challenge through the Royal Northern YC, and other links to the Clyde. This makes it unlikely that the remains of Galatea can be found (as is popularly supposed) in the Fergus estuary on the north shore of the Shannon estuary, off the remains of Paradise which was the old Henn house. According to Lloyd's Register of 1910, Mrs Henn is still listed as owning Galatea, but is now apparently a widow, and resident on the Isle of Bute, while Galatea is listed as being in proper order, but having her base at Port Glasgow.

interiorcabinoldboat

The main saloon on the Irish-owned 1886 America's Cup challenger Galatea provided all comforts and catered for every possible need, except the needs of a racing boat.

Published in W M Nixon
Tagged under

#kinsale – A final 20-minute postponement did little to deter the hardy crews who came out last Friday evening to do battle in the already twice postponed Kinsale Fastnet race, sponsored by CH Marine writes Peadar Murphy.  In what is now deemed seasonably gusty and lumpy conditions, just three boats made it out to take on the challenge of this overnight offshore classic – but it was definitely a case of quality, not quantity his year. Long-time offshore rivals Tom Roche on Meridian and Tony O'Brien's White Tiger squared off against each other again, with Olaf Sorensen's Dianna keeping them both honest.

The three ships headed off to the renowned waypoint initially in the lee of the Old Head, but soon were experiencing the lumpy sees that would test the perseverance and sea legs of many in the race. With 12 aboard, White Tiger had plenty weight on the rail and was able to overhaul less populous Meridian on the long tack out past the Old Head, in conditions that would normally have been advantageous to Roche's Salona 45. About two miles south of the Old Head, Meridian tacked onto port and west into Courtmacsherry Bay, having been overhauled by O'Brien's Beneteau 44.7, which continued south for another three miles. Dianna also went for the offshore option hoping to stay out of the tide.

As darkness fell, Meridian and White Tiger crossed a number of times off the Seven Heads, the Galley and south of High Island off Glandore. Meridian initially regained her lead, but O'Brien's crew, featuring a number of seasoned Fastnet campaigners, gradually reeled her in again. On the tack south to clear the Stag Rocks' cardinal buoy, White Tiger pounced in the patchy wind that had been backing all night, as forecasted, and soon stretched out into a comfortable lead.

White Tiger called in her rounding of the Fastnet to Bantry Radio soon after 04:50. The long beat down in the sloppy seas and the leaden skies meant there were few requests for what would normally be the obligatory souvenir photos with the legendary lighthouse in the background. Meridian rounded less than 20 minutes later and both ships soon had kites flying, and crews appreciating the relative comfort that came with running with the swell. Dianna called in her rounding within an hour of Meridian – a remarkable achievement considering that she was crewed by just three hardy souls, some of whom were distinctly under the weather!

Meridian opted to go offshore as a way to sail a hotter angle and possibly pick up a flyer, but the White Tiger team, which in last year's race had given up a lead of almost an hour to Meridian at this stage of the race, were alert to the move, and changed up to their masthead runner. Some excellent sailing was experienced by all on the leg back to Kinsale, with White Tiger never quite managing to break the 11-knot barrier despite some determined efforts to get her to surf past that threshold. Not to be outdone, Dianna also flew a kite – a fine display of short-handed seamanship in the conditions.

Interestingly, both Meridian and White Tiger will be sending torn kites to the sailmakers this week, with various manoeuvres going awry. However, as she headed for the finish line off Charles Fort White Tiger was well clear of Meridian, crossing the finish line at 10:23 after 14 hours 8 minutes of racing, with Meridian coming home just over 17 minutes adrift. Less than two hours after that Dianna glided past the Bostoon Buoy in Kinsale to close out the race.

Nick Bendon of CH Marine was on hand Sunday evening at the prize-giving which were received with great bonhomie by the skippers and crews. In both IRC and ECHO the finishing places reflected on the water placings, with White Tiger claiming the magnificent Fastnet trophy for the winner in ECHO, along with the cup for fastest boat in IRC. Meridian took second place in both divisions, with the determined Sorensen team coming home in a very respectable third.

The annual Cork Cruise sponsored by the Glendinning family takes place this coming Saturday with first gun at 10:25.

Published in Kinsale
Tagged under

#LIFEBOATSRNLI Lifeboats in Ireland launched 980 times to a variety of call outs in 2011. 905 people were rescued over the course of the year by volunteer lifeboat crews who spent over 9,826 hours on service at sea.

Howth RNLI lifeboat station in Dublin was the busiest coastal Irish station, launching to 48 requests for help and, bringing 60 people to safety. They were followed by Crosshaven RNLI in Cork who launched 46 times and assisted 43 people. Enniskillen, one of Ireland’s two inland RNLI lifeboat stations which operates bases on both Upper and Lower Lough Erne, launched 52 times and brought 46 people to safety.

The busiest month  for rescues was July with 155 launches followed by August with 124 calls for assistance. February 2011 was the busiest February for Irish launches in the RNLI’s history, as were May and October 2011.
 
Over a third of the RNLI’s call outs for last year were also carried out in darkness. The statistics show that launches to vessels suffering machinery failure still account for the largest number of call outs (187) followed by vessels reported to be in trouble (78), grounded (74) and capsizing (73). 
 
Commenting on the 2011 statistics RNLI Deputy Divisional Inspector Gareth Morrison said: ‘Our lifeboat volunteers continue to show selfless dedication and commitment to saving lives. Some stations are extremely busy while others have less call outs but spend long hours at sea in awful conditions. There were some outstanding rescues last year including that to Rambler 100, in which Baltimore RNLI recovered 16 crew members off the upturned hull of the racing boat during the Fastnet race. Sadly there were also long searches for missing loved ones. 
 
‘The work of the volunteer lifeboat crews could not be made possible without the generosity of the public who in difficult times continue to support Irish lifeboat crews.  While these figures give an interesting insight into search and rescue by the RNLI on Irish waters they are by no means the full story. As well as working to save lives at sea the RNLI provides other programmes and services for the public including sea safety advice and clinics, education roadshows and visits to lifeboat stations.’   
 
The 2011 figures are being released in the wake of the RNLI Lifejackets for Lifesavers campaign which will see every lifeboat station in Ireland take delivery of new specially designed lifejackets in September. The lifejackets have been commissioned by the RNLI for search and rescue work and have been given the seal of approval from lifeboat volunteers. The cost of providing the lifejackets for all 43 lifeboat stations in Ireland is estimated at €160,000. 

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

#ISLANDS - Cape Clear Island's most well-known couple may get even wider attention now that they're featured in Terry Wogan's new book on Ireland.

Micheál and Sile Ó Ceadagáin – who were the focus of TG4 programme Mí na Meala – are two of the many characters included in Wogan's Ireland, the book accompanying the legendary broadcaster's recent TV series.

According to the blog of the Cape Clear ferry service Cailín Óir: "The photographs [included] are stunning, including those of Cléire and Fastnet, to where Terry enjoyed an idyllic summer’s outing with Micheál on his boat The Gaisceannán.

"Micheál and Sheila are a hospitable couple which extends to the boat and Micheal's famous teas served at sea have pleased many, including the indefatigable Terry."

Wogan's Ireland is packed with photos and stories of Terry's whistle-stop tour of the country's 'coastal fringe', laced with his self-deprecating wit. The book is available online for as little as €10.

Published in Island News
Kieran Cotter and Jerry Smith of Baltimore are the Afloat.ie/Irish Independent "Sailors of the Month" for August in recognition of the key roles they played in the superb rescue of all 21 of he crew of the capsized super-maxi Rambler 100 in the record-breaking Rolex Fastnet Race.

When Rambler's canting keel snapped off on the evening of Monday August 15th shortly after this mega-machine had rounded the Rock, she was powering at full speed towards the turning buoy, crashing into the lumpy seas which often arise where the steep land juts into the open ocean.

ramblercapsize

Kieran Cotter  and the crew of the Baltimore lifeboat at the capize site. Photo: Thierry Martinez

The catastrophe was total and very sudden. The giant racer completely inverted every bit as quickly as the smallest of racing dinghies. The changeover, from being a highly tuned performer on track for success, into the inverted hell of exploding water, strangling ropes and jagged breaking gear, was at the least totally disorienting, and could have caused panic in less seasoned sailors.

rambler_rescue_phaedo1

The Lifeboat rescue from the upturned hull. Photo: Team Phaedo

Despite the difficulty of clambering onto the ultra-smooth underside of the huge hull, fifteen of the crew managed to get themselves up to the minimal handhold of the dagger board. But five of those who had been below – some of them off watch asleep – had drifted away from the boat after the monumental struggle of escaping from a small world turned upside down.

The five in the water roped themselves together, but things had taken an ominous turn, as the mist in which the big boat had rounded the Fastnet had now thickened into fog. For a crucial period, visibility was virtually nonexistent as other boat raced past nearby at high speed. And although some emergency radio beacons had automatically activated, the picture was confused with night drawing on.

Rambler_rescue_phaedo_4

Drifting crew are rescued. Photo: Team Phaedo


Time was of the essence – even in summer these waters can quickly induce hypothermia. Several agencies were now involved in the rescue, and skilled use of technology narrowed the search area, though in the sea conditions the stricken boat and crew were frequently invisible.

It was the Baltimore lifeboat with Kieran Cotter in command which was first on the scene. Taking off the crew was a challenge, but all fifteen on the upturned Rambler were safely rescued, though an impact between lifeboat and white hull resulted in a streak of lifeboat blue on the yacht which was to be immortalised as "Kieran's kiss".

But that was later, not until after a needle-in-a-haystack search found the other five adrift together in the water, with one already on the edge of coma. They were found by the lifeboat deputy mechanic Jerry Smith, on patrol with a Fastnet Race film crew in his dive boat Wave Chieftain. It was a miracle.

Next morning safely in Baltimore, the weather was already well improved. The previous night's conditions seemed like a nightmare. In calm summery conditions two days later, the Rambler hull was righted off Barley Cove and towed to Baltimore. She'll be restored to full racing trim by Cookson's in New Zealand, presumably with modifications to the design and specification for the canting keel. But that's another day's work. Today, we celebrate the achievement of Kieran Cotter and Jerry Smith, whose seamanship provided the successful focus for a network of rapid work by skilled technologists ashore.

Coverage of the rescue appears in Afloat's Rolex Fastnet Race page

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

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

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

Published in Fastnet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Published in Fastnet
Tagged under
Page 7 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

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2022

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating