Fastnet by Rolex/Carlo Borlengi

Fastnet by Rolex/Carlo Borlengi

Fastnet 2009

Spectators along the Cowes shoreline, enjoyed a magnificent, colorful spinnaker start of the Fastnet Race yesterday. Ten knots of wind from the east propelling the 300 strong fleet westwards down the Solent. First away, were the IMOCA 60s. Dee Caffari’s Aviva that made the most positive start towards the pin end. However she was soon overhauled by Seb Josse on BT IMOCA 60 sailing in slightly better breeze on the island side of the course.

The small IRC classes that were next up at the Fastnet start line. They were out through the Needles, with David Lees’ High Tension 36 Hephzibah leading from the 2005 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Iromiguy, Jean-Yves Chateau’s Nicholson 33 in IRC 3B, just ahead of David Collins’ Swan 43 Cisne, leader in IRC 3A.

Then it was the Class 40s turn to take their start with the breeze still from the east. Here it was the two Verdier designs, Giovanni Soldini’s Telecom Italia and the Felippe Cubillos’ Chilean yacht Desafio Cabo de Hornos which made the best starts. By the time they exited the Solent Soldini was tied for the lead with Andrew Dawson’s Spliff and Mike West’s Kerlaria. Five to six miles short of St Alban’s Head, at 1600GMT Tanguy de LaMotte reported from the Class 40 Initiatives Saveurs – Novedia Group that they were upwind, albeit port tack favored, and that having put in a few tacks to get offshore they were making 5-6 knots, but the wind was slowly dying on them.

The biggest boats in the fleet started the Fastnet Race last, led off the line by Mike Slade’s towering Rolex Fastnet Race record holder, the 100ft super-maxi, ICAP Leopard. Luna Rossa, with Flavio Flavini helming and Volvo Ocean Race winner Torben Grael on tactics, followed in their wake with Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran 2 leading Karl Kwok’s Farr 80, Beau Geste up the mainland side.

Overnight conditions in the Rolex Fastnet Race have ranged from tricky to impossible. While this morning at the 0600 update, Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard was approaching Lizard Point, the bulk of the 300 strong fleet is now past Portland Bill, the headland to seaward of the 2012 Olympic sailing venue, and were halfway across Lyme Bay bound for the next significant headland, Start Point.

For Slade’s mighty 100ft long supermaxi, the night has been one of mixed fortunes, her speed ranging from relative standstill – 4 knots against the tide midway across Lyme Bay at 2300 – to considerable pace, 26.5 knots at 0500. She is way behind her record pace from 2007 when in the early hours of the first morning she was already around Land’s End, halfway across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock.

The IMOCA 60s have been doing a good job to stay in contact with ICAP Leopard and this morning the two female skippers hold the top spots – Dee Caffari on Aviva, and Sam Davies and Sidney Gavignet on Artemis Ocean Racing – with Aviva 18 miles astern of the supermaxi. From on board Artemis Ocean Racing, Sam Davies reported conditions as being grey and murky. “Artemis is crashing along upwind on port tack, I have just come off watch and Sidney and Gareth are on deck, trimming and driving. We can see four other boats off our leeward quarter, but the visibility is not too good.”

For the bulk of the fleet astern, last night they faced a classic Rolex Fastnet Race situation with a mighty eastbound current between Portland Bill and St Albans Head combined with insufficient breeze to make headway against it. The majority spent the evening at best at standstill while another group led by Cracklin’ Rosie, Roark and Jackdaw attempted to break south, only to be washed southeast with the help of the tide.

By the early hours of this morning, the tide had turned favourable for the Fastnet fleet but there were distinct winners and losers from the overnight waterborne game of snakes and ladders. In IRC Zero A for example, La Floresta del Mar and Sjambok had managed to sneak past Portland Bill and were away while Fraxious and Flicka IV, who had turned south early, had dropped back to 25 miles astern, no closer to the finish than they had been six hours earlier.

More news and photos from the Fastnet 2009: Not So Fastnet


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