Fastnet 2017 Start ( Photo © Barry James Wilson )

Sunday 6 August 2017

The Solent laid on ‘classic’ conditions for the start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s 47th Rolex Fastnet Race. In brilliant sunshine and with brisk westerly winds gusting up to 20 knots, the giant fleet tacked up the western Solent before compressing through the usual bottleneck at Hurst Narrows. A record-sized fleet of 368 boats started the race, 12 more than two years ago, confirming the Rolex Fastnet Race’s position as the world’s largest offshore yacht race.

(Photo © Barry James Wilson)

(Photo © Barry James Wilson)

 

The first start got underway at 11:00 BST for the nine multihulls and within minutes, the blue three-hulled streak that is Concise 10 had pulled out a lead, frequently heeling to an alarming degree, just one hull immersed.

 

By the time IRC One was starting at 12:20 Tony Lawson’s MOD 70, skippered by Ned Collier Wakefield, was already off Poole. Crewman Paul Larsen, who five years ago became the world’s fastest sailor setting a world record of 65.45 knots, reported Concise 10 was sailing under reefed mainsail and staysail. “We’re making 20 knots tacking past Poole and just dropping into the watch system. Glamour start conditions in the Solent. I can just see the next boats clearing Hurst Castle.” However Larsen warned that unless the wind freed up, there was little chance for them to break the multihull race record. By 1500 Concise 10 was already level with Portland Bill.

The multihulls were followed away from Cowes by two other ‘non-IRC’ classes – the nine doublehanded IMOCA 60s and twenty seven Class40s. Given the upwind conditions, the older, conventionally foiled IMOCA 60s were prevailing. At 1630 Paul Meilhat and Jules Verne Trophy record holder crewman Gwénolé Gahinet aboard SMA, the 2012-3 Vendee Globe (and the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race) winner as MACIF, were leading the 60s past Portland Bill. The first ‘foil-assisted’ IMOCA 60 was favourite Alex Thomson and Nicholas O’Leary on Hugo Boss in third place, taking a northerly route, close to the land.

In the Class40s present championship leader Phil Sharp on board Imerys led past St Alban’s Head, but later there was little too choose with the British boat neck and neck for the lead in this incredible fleet with the Maxime Sorel-skippered V And B, Burkhard Keese’s Stella Nova, Benoit Charon’s LMAX Normandie and race veteran Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on Campagne de France.

The five IRC handicap classes, chasing the race’s overall prize of the Fastnet Challenge Cup started with the smallest boats first at 1120.

This afternoon at 1600, the IRC One fleet had fanned out across the course to the southeast of St Alban’s Head. James Neville’s HH42 Ino XXX was leading the charge inshore as Staffan Wincrantz’s Arcona 465 SALT 2.0 was ahead on the water to the south, just ahead of the venerable 1960s maxi Kialoa II, owned by Patrick Broughton.

 

Mid-afternoon, competitors in IRC Two were favouring the inshore route with Dutchman Frans Rodenburg’s First 40 Elke, closest to St Alban’s Head at 1620, with class favourite Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine’s J/133 Pintia nearby.

Marc Alperovitch’s JPK 1080, Timeline in the largest class – IRC 3 © Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

The IRC Three boats were following a similar tactic with the offshore tack being less popular. Having started 20 minutes earlier, they were still successfully fending off the advances of the larger, faster IRC Two fleet. The Russian JPK 10.80, Igor Rytov’s Boyatyr, was leading the pack inshore while the brilliantly-named Seafarers Ale Anticipation, the First 40.7 of former 470 Olympian Pete Newlands, was ahead on the water offshore.

The inshore-offshore spread was more evenly distributed among the smallest boats in IRC Four. Here Noel Racine’s impeccably sailed JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew was ahead inshore while Dan Rigden’s Elan 37 Tacktic was furthest down the track out to sea.

The last to start were the largest in the IRC fleet, IRC Zero, including the line honours contenders George David’s Rambler 88 and Ludde Ingvall’s 100ft CQS. By 1520 Rambler 88 was off and close into St Alban’s Head, leading IRC Zero on the water just ahead of the biggest boat in the fleet, the 115ft Nikata.

Rambler 88 (Photo © Barry James Wilson)

Rambler 88 (Photo © Barry James Wilson)

Rambler 88 (Photo © Barry James Wilson)

Rambler 88 (Photo © Barry James Wilson)

Among the seven one design VO65s competing in ‘Leg 0’ of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, it was very close, with the Charles Caudrelier-skippered Dongfeng Race Team a nose ahead and making 12.3 knots but facing a threat from Team Brunel, skippered again by Dutch race veteran Bouwe Bekking, making 12.5 as the boats passed St Alban’s Head.

This morning Xabi Fernández, skipper of MAPFRE, looked forward to the race: “Once out of the Solent it will be upwind sailing up to the Fastnet rock, and finally we will sail downwind towards Plymouth. This is the first time I’ve competed in the Rolex Fastnet Race. It is a historic race, much like the Rolex Sydney Hobart.”

Joan Vila, MAPFRE’s legendary navigator confirmed the forecast: “Once we leave the Solent, the wind will blow at around 20 knots. From there, it will drop until tomorrow morning, with the probability of encountering areas of very light wind. As we get closer to Plymouth, the wind will build again.”

Skippered by Charles Caudrelier, the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race as Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race © Benoit Stichelbaut

Skippered by Charles Caudrelier, the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team will compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race as Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race © Benoit Stichelbaut

 

Among the 400 boat fleet setting off from the Solent on 6 August in the Rolex Fastnet Race will be three of offshore racing’s most prestigious classes.

Grabbing the headlines will be the one design VO65s as the Rolex Fastnet Race serves as Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race and it will be the first occasion the teams will have lined up in anger. Among the seven, three teams competed in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race: 2nd placed Team Brunel; the Chinese Dongfeng Race Team, third last time and the Spanish MAPFRE team, which finished fourth. In one designs, experience is everything so these teams will have the edge, but crew from other boats in the last race have been distributed across the new teams too.

Dongfeng Race Team benefitted from being first to get sailing this time, picked their boat up post-refit late January. They have several of the same crew and have focussed more on the competition this time, says skipper Charles Caudrelier. “Last time we spent the first five months in China doing crew selection. We put 30% of our time into performance. This time we put in 70%.”
This year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be Caudrelier’s third. In 2011, on the VO70 Groupama, they finished just behind Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, whose time of 32 hours and 39 minutes remains the monohull record. “I like the race because it is interesting – short and complicated with lots of transitions,” says Caudrelier.
While Dongfeng is a favourite, late to the party is Turn the Tide on Plastic, skippered by Dee Caffari, their campaign was only announced mid-June.
Caffari is a big fan of the Rolex Fastnet having completed her first on a Challenge boat in 2001. She was on Team SCA two years ago:  “It is an ocean classic everyone wants to do. It covers such a range of boats and sailors, it is like an oceanic version of Round the Island Race.”
Having competed many times in the Rolex Fastnet Race, Sam Davies will be in the driving seat of Tanguy de Lamotte’s IMOCA 60, Initiatives Coeur ( Photo © Initiatives Coeur )

Having competed many times in the Rolex Fastnet Race, Sam Davies will be in the driving seat of Tanguy de Lamotte’s IMOCA 60, Initiatives Coeur ( Photo © Initiatives Coeur )

 

Former Team SCA skipper Sam Davies has returned to the IMOCA 60 class. She has taken over the Initiatives Coeur campaign from Tanguy de Lamotte but the two are sailing together for the rest of 2017.
 “Everyone is happy Sam’s in the driving seat. It is a great continuation for the project,” says de Lamotte. Davies, who also raced with de Lamotte in 2015, said: “I am very excited Tanguy gave me this opportunity. It is a project that I know every well – a cool boat, a cool team and cool charity project to be involved.” It supports Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, which funds operations on children born with heart defects. They are sailing the foil-assisted IMOCA 60 that finished the last Vendée Globe in third.
As with the other eight IMOCA 60s competing, they are racing the Rolex Fastnet Race doublehanded. Before sailing the race together in 2015, de Lamotte won it twice in the Class40, while Davies’ first race was in 1995 on a Sun Legend 41 and she has done it countless times since.
They are up against the boats which finished first and second in the Vendée Globe: Bureau Vallée 2 (ex-Banque Populaire) campaigned by Louis Burton and Servane Escoffier, and Alex Thomson and Irish sailor Nicholas O’Leary on Hugo Boss.
For Thomson, the Rolex Fastnet Race has played a huge part in his sailing career. “My first was in 1995 on a Sigma 36 called British Eagle – it took just over seven days – but in that race I found my love for offshore racing. That’s the great thing about the Fastnet – it introduces people to proper offshore racing.” The 2003 race was the first occasion Thomson sailed under the colours of Hugo Boss, preluding a 14 year sponsorship deal.
This time, Thomson who is sailing with Nicholas O’Leary is hoping to beat the other IMOCA 60s but is bullish about taking on the larger boats in his foil-assisted weapon. “Downwind we’re quicker than a VO65 and if you give us the right conditions (22-25 knots, broad reaching) we can beat Rambler, but in the Fastnet you don’t get to choose the weather you sail in.”
Most significant in the Rolex Fastnet Race’s non-IRC line-up is the 34 boat Class40 fleet. In this are a mix of pro sailors and enthusiastic amateurs and boats ranging from state of the art reaching machines to old production boats. It is also one of the most international line-ups including Russia and Japan, Sweden, Norway, Austria, the Netherlands, South Africa and Oman.
The Rolex Fastnet Race will see 34 Class40s compete, including the newest, Louis Duc's Carac (150) ( Photo © Christophe Breschi )

The Rolex Fastnet Race will see 34 Class40s compete, including the newest, Louis Duc’s Carac (150) ( Photo © Christophe Breschi )

 

The Rolex Fastnet Race will be the first event for the newest, most radical Class40. Louis Duc’s Carac (150) is a Marc Lombard design and has the highest volume bow permitted under the Class40 rule. The latest models from all the leading Class40 designers are competing such as Brieuc Maisonneuve’s Cap Des Palmes, a Guillaume Verdier Tizh 40; Norwegian Henrik Bergesen’s Hydra, a brand new Owen Clarke design; two new Sam Manuard-designed Mach 40 Mk3s, Maxime Sorel’s V And B and Catherine Pourre’s Eärendil.

President of the Class40, Halvard Mabire, is racing Campagne de France, a new boat to his own design, with his English partner Miranda Merron. Mabire’s first Fastnet was in 1977. “It was on a small plywood boat with hard chines. It was one of the slowest Fastnets in history – very very light all the way. I did it again in 1979, which was not the same story.” He has since done the race as part of the Admiral’s Cup and on a Maxi One Design. “The Fastnet is one of the oldest races. It is very nice to have this race – we know it will happen every two years. It is good that the RORC opened it to multihulls, IMOCA 60s and Class40s.”
As to the form, the favourite is, for once, not French, but from the Channel Islands. Following his 2006 Route du Rhum victory, Phil Sharp has returned to the Class 40. His yacht Imerys currently leads the 2017 Class40 championship, following their second place in the recent Les Sables-Horta-Les Sables race.
Jersey's Phil Sharp on Imerys currently leads the 2017 Class40 championship ( Photo © Andy Le Gresley )

Jersey’s Phil Sharp on Imerys currently leads the 2017 Class40 championship (Photo
© Andy Le Gresley )

The Rolex Fastnet Race starts from off Cowes at 1100 on 6 August.
How to follow:
  • All the latest news, race updates, video, photos, blogs from the boats + Live streaming of the starts: Race minisite: http://fastnet.rorc.org/
  • Twitter: #rolexfastnetrace @RORCracing
  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/royaloceanracingclub
  • Instagram: instagram.com/rorcracing
  • Coverage on Fastnet TV & Radio: Cowes – 87.7fm, Plymouth – 87.9fm and online http://879fm.uk/
  •  Virtual Regatta – check the race minisite closer to the start to sign up for the game
Musandam-Oman Sail Picture of Oman Sail - Musandam takes line honours at the 2015 Artemis Challenge (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Musandam-Oman Sail Picture of Oman Sail – Musandam takes line honours at the 2015 Artemis Challenge (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail’s crew on flagship MOD70 trimaran Musandam-Oman Sail return to the race track on Saturday with their first big race of the season, the 2016 Myth of Malham off the south coast of England.

This English classic, run by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, is a weekend race starting at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes with the top mark set at the Eddystone Lighthouse, some 12 miles south-west of Plymouth and the finish back in the Solent.

At 256 nautical miles, it may be a relatively short course but it will test the team, since the Solent and Channel are amongst the busiest shipping channels in the world and a hub of recreational boating and sailing in Britain with thousands of boats taking to the waters on a nice sunny day.

Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

For the Musandam-Oman Sail crew which features Omani professionals Fahad Al Hasni, Sami Al Shukaili and Yassir Al Rahbi, plus skipper Sidney Gavignet, Damian Foxall and navigator Jean Luc Nelias, the race marks the transition from training to performance.

“All our preparations here this week have been about working efficiently round the clock, morning and evening, on the dock as well,” said Sidney Gavignet.

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper of Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper of Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

“We want everyone to perform. On our delivery runs, we have spent a lot of time teaching and experimenting but during the race, there will be no time for any of that. It will be time to perform and that requires a completely different state of mind.”

“It will be good preparation for the Round Ireland race next month.”

Musandam-Oman Sail, an ultra-fast trimaran, will be one of around 40 boats competing in the Myth of Malham but there is only one other contender in the fleet that Gavignet’s team want to beat and that is Team Concise, a rival British-owned MOD70 that recently set a new record in the Round Barbados Race.

“They have done a lot of racing in the Caribbean this year so it will be a very good contest but we have a good crew, and with some intensive training under our belt, we will be trying our best for a win,” added Gavignet.

Known as the mini-Fastnet, since it follows the same course through the Solent down to the 49-metre high Eddystone Lighthouse – which is mentioned in Herman Melville’s epic novel Moby-Dick – the Myth of Malham was named after the yacht of the same name, a 37’6″ sloop built in 1947 that went on to win the Fastnet race that year, and again two years later.

The Myth of Malham race starts on the morning of Saturday May 28 when the fleet will head west out of the Solent en route to the Eddystone Lighthouse before an exhilarating downwind ride back to the Solent under spinnaker.

“We can’t wait to get racing again and are looking forward to getting some speed up on Musandam-Oman Sail,” said Fahad Al Hasni, who is likely to be given helming duties.

“This is the first race of the season and we are keen to make an early impression. She’s a fast boat and because we have a few records under our belt, we know we can get the best out of her but we also know we will have to be at the top of our game to win.”

MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail Programme

Myth of Malham: Starts Cowes, Isle of Wight – Saturday 28 May
Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race: Starts Wicklow, Ireland – Saturday 18 June
Quebec – St Malo: Starts Quebec, Canada – Saturday 10 July

Trimaran MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

Trimaran MOD70 Musandam-Oman Sail (Photo © Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images)

The Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland, race start.Cowes. Isle of Wight. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) (Photo by Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

The Seven Star Round Britain and Ireland, race start. Cowes. Isle of Wight. Oman Sail MOD70 trimaran skippered by Sidney Gavignet (FRA) (Photo by Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images)

Musandam-Oman Sail, the Sultanate of Oman’s flagship trimaran, will join a small fleet of MOD70s at the start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s classic Round Ireland Race on 18 June to kick off the European season.

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper Oman Sail Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Sidney Gavignet, Skipper Oman Sail Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

French skipper Sidney Gavignet’s crew of Omani sailors and Irishman Damian Foxall are no strangers to the 700 mile Round Ireland race track having famously smashed the record in 2015 after completing the course in 40 hours, 51 minutes and 57 seconds, some four hours faster than anything achieved previously.

Fahad Al Hasni, Yasser Al Rahbi and Sami Al Shukaili were all on board for the record-breaking voyage and all return to action for the Round Ireland Race.

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

The team has developed a strong bond, says Gavignet so the prospect of lining up against other professional MOD70 crews in June for the start in Wicklow, to follow a course that leaves Ireland and all its islands excluding Rockall to starboard, serves to stir their competitive spirits.

“This Omani crew has a long history – last season especially was very demanding – so we have a very good team with a great team spirit,” said skipper Gavignet.

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

“We would like to win the race but know it will not be easy because the other MOD70s have been sailing a lot in the past few months. We have trained hard and the guys are performing at a different level now so we are very happy to go and do our best against the others.

“We hold the record but it is possible to do better and it is likely that whoever wins will set a new record, depending on the conditions. It is very exciting to be racing against Phaedo and Concise – it will be a good contest.”

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Preparations for the race have included some intensive training offshore as well as participation in the Grand Prix Guyader in Douarnenez, France, last weekend where the Omani Diam 24 team onboard Oman Airports by Oman Sail finished in 3rd place.

This weekend MOD70 sailors Fahad, Sami and Yasser are due to compete on Oman Sail’s J80 at the Grand Prix Ecole Navale at the French Naval Academy in Lanvéoc to get some crucial fleet race practice.

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Success in sailing against the clock for a speed record requires a different mindset to racing in a fleet, said Fahad, Oman’s most experienced and successful offshore sailor.

“Competing with other boats in the Round Ireland race will be different to breaking the record and probably a lot more difficult,” he said.

“The other MOD70s have been training and racing all year and have achieved some good results so they will be hard to beat. But we will be sailing the boat as fast as we can and if we can win, it will be fantastic for us because this is a two thirds Omani crew.”

Records are one thing but when you get two boats racing side by side, the results speak for themselves, commented Damian Foxall, acknowledged as Ireland’s most accomplished ocean sailor.

Damian Foxall ,Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Damian Foxall ,Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

“This season, our campaigns are all about fleet racing. When you are racing against the clock, you never know if you are performing 100% but in fleet racing, if you are not going 100%, you probably aren’t winning. And you know pretty quickly whether you have taken a good or bad option.

“Fleet racing is more like a game of chess and what the other boats do on the course can affect your own tactics. So you have to be on your game 100% all the time and sail a lot harder. Our guys understand that completely.”

A couple of years ago, Musandam-Oman Sail would have been favourite to win the multihull class, Foxall continued but an upsurge in activity on the other MOD70s means they have a contest on their hands.

“The guys on Phaedo and Concise are sailing extremely well now so a couple of years ago, we might have been favourites but that is certainly no longer the case and we are going to have to compete really hard to get a result this year. But we know how to sail the boat so this is great and exactly how it should be.”

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Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

 

To stay up to date: www.omansail.com

For more information on the race, please go to: http://roundireland.ie/wp/

 

Oman Sail Crew Mark Lloyd

Oman Sail Crew on Musandam (Photo © Mark Lloyd/ Lloyd Images)

Rambler 100 Capsizes In The Rolex Fastnet Race (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

 More than 20 crew on board a racing yacht have been rescued after it capsized off the Irish coast.

The US registered racing boat, Rambler 100, was taking part in the Fastnet Race when it overturned about 12.5 miles from Baltimore, Co Cork, just after 6.30pm on Monday.

The Irish Coast Guard, which co-ordinated the rescue operation, said 16 crew members sitting on the hull of the vessel were airlifted to safety. Another five who were in a life raft were taken on board other yachts.

Ian Loffhagen, racing manager, said the yacht – skippered by George David – capsized between the Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy. “All 21 crew have been rescued,” he added.

Some 314 yachts are taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race and set sail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s biennial event takes the fleet 608 miles along the south coast of the UK, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off south west Ireland, before returning around the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth.

The event has a fearsome reputation following the 1979 race which was devastated by strong winds and seas resulting in 15 deaths.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Coast Guard said the seas in the area were not very rough at the time of the capsize, but that the weather conditions were foggy.

The Baltimore RNLI lifeboat was first on the scene, followed by the Shannon and Waterford-based rescue helicopters and the Irish Naval vessel the LE Ciara.

The yacht’s personal locator beacon was activated when it overturned.

 Rescue of Rambler Crew by Phaedo Media Crew (Photo by RIchard Langdon)

Follow up on the rescue.

Feel0ng lucky to be alive, Australian Mike Mottl stepped onto dry land at the pier at Baltimore, west Cork to cheers, applause and an emotional embrace.

One of five crew of the Rambler 100 to be separated from the vessel after it keeled over in heavy seas, Mr Mottl and four others spent two hours adrift before they were plucked from the water.

“I’m feeling lucky to be alive, happy to be here and it’s great to see the local people here to greet us,” Mr Mottl said as he stepped into an awaiting ambulance at the pier.

Erle Williams, from Auckland New Zealand was at the helm when disaster struck seven miles north west of the Fastnet.

“I’m sailing all my life I’ve never ended up in the water like this, it was pretty scary. We were very lucky to get out in time, the navigator put out the call just as boat was tipping over and it went over phenomenally fast,” he said.

Foggy conditions prevented other boats taking part in the race from seeing the stricken crew.

“We were yelling and hollering out to them but obviously they couldn’t see us, it was a pretty frantic time,” he said.

A number of the crew members were asleep below deck when the boat keeled over.

“Some of our guys were very lucky to get out from under the boat so we are counting out blessings,” Mr Williams said.

Michael Van Beuren (44) from Portsmouth, New Zealand said the boat capsized within 30 seconds.

“We were going upwind in heavy seas when the keel fin fractured, the seas were quite big. It is such a relief that we all made it ashore.”

Skipper and owner George David was among five crew members set adrift from the vessel. They were plucked to safety by the crew of the diving vessel, Wave Chieftan .

“We could see them drifting away, we spent two hours clinging to the boat thinking and worrying about them, they were our main concern,” Mr Van Beuren said.

Bob Wylie (48) from Lake Quarry in Australia spent two hours on the upturned keel of the yacht.

“My first priority was my own safety and then to try to help the others,” he said.

“I saw the liferaft drifting away so I threw a rope. It just couldn’t reach them and they kept drifting out to sea.”

One woman on board the vessel, the partner of vessel owner Mr David, was airlifted to safety suffering from hypothermia following the incident.

The Rambler 100 skippered by Mr David was first home in the Transatlantic Race earlier this year. The Rambler crossed the finish line on July 10th in an elapsed time of six days, 22 hours, eight minutes, two seconds.

The Rambler established a new record for the 2,975 nautical mile course from Newport, United States, to Lizard Point, South Cornwall, in Britian.

Mr David is the former chief executive of United Technologies Corporation, a conglomerate based in Hartford, Connecticut, whose vast holdings include such diverse companies as Otis Elevator, Sikorsky Helicopters, Carrier air conditioners and aerospace and industrial systems Hamilton Sudstrand. Mr David is an avid yachtsman and racer.

Nordeutsche Vermoe at 2007 Fastnet Finish (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi)

The waiting is nearly over: the 44th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race, one of the great ocean challenges is just 2 weeks away. With a staggering 350 entrants at the ready, 1979’s record-breaking tally of 303 participating yachts will almost certainly be surpassed. The sheer size of the fleet is impressive. Its quality and diversity quite breathtaking. Inspiring and exhilarating in equal measure, there is every reason to believe that the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will maintain the event’s pioneering and prestigious tradition.

The numbers game
Due to the Rolex Fastnet’s unique allure, event organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) never have any difficulty ensuring that there is a large and impressive fleet in attendance. This year is no exception. Entries came in thick and fast and were closed within ten days of opening in January. However, the requests kept arriving. After being inundated with additional enquiries from the Volvo Open 70s, the IMOCA 60s, Class 40s and Multihulls to join the 608-nautical mile marathon, the RORC adjusted the entry limit to allow these ‘professional’ classes to be counted above the initial cut-off mark.

The Rolex Fastnet Race commences from Cowes on Sunday 14 August (the first signal sounds at 10:50 BST). Whilst crews with the ambition of being the fastest to the finish will hope to spend only one or two nights at sea, spare a thought for those at the back of the pack, for whom a near week in often punishing conditions may be the order of the day.

Rambler 100 enjoying Leopard hunt
Short of a catastrophic breakdown, the fastest boat on the water at the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race will be the 100-foot trimaran, Banque Populaire (FRA), which just broke the round the Britain Isles record by almost a day and a half. However, the battle for monohull line honours is the most anticipated clash and is expected to be the privilege of two other 100-ft challengers: Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard (GBR), first elapsed-time finisher in the past two editions, and arch-rivals George David’s Rambler 100 (USA). The two crews know each other extremely well, given their series of tussles in recent months. A head-to-head battle in the Transatlantic Race, which saw Rambler 100 ease to line honours after ICAP Leopard lost her bowsprit, the freshest encounter.

“Having won the Rolex Fastnet Race twice, the big play is to win three in a row, which would be quite exceptional,” explains Slade, whose yacht also holds the course record of 1 day, 20 hours and 18 minutes [set in 2007]. “During the RORC Caribbean 600, Rambler 100 proved to be the faster boat in her ideal conditions. However, Rambler 100 may also need to protect herself in bad weather, more than ICAP Leopard. We feel we have a good chance in light and heavy airs, it is the bit in between that we might have a problem! I am really looking forward to the Fastnet, it should be a very exciting race but above all else, I don’t want to lose our record to Rambler 100, that would be heartbreaking and we will vigorously defend it.”

Rambler 100 is as keen to renew hostilities. “We’re anticipating sailing in Cowes Week from 9-11 August and hope ICAP Leopard and others will be competing as well,” explains David, “we’ve had three races together already, the Caribbean 600, the Annapolis to Newport and now the Transatlantic Race. Rambler 100 took line honours and corrected ahead of ICAP Leopard in all three.”

David is fervent about the upcoming Fastnet Race and describes his own personal highlights of the parcours: “Beating out through The Needles in a huge fleet, the beauty of the south coast of England, the approach to the [Fastnet] Rock, and the wind and weather conditions all over the place.”

Whilst these two ocean greyhounds are clear monohull line honours favourites, they may not have it all their own way. There is the significant presence of six Volvo 70s, including two of the latest breed: Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Groupama IV (FRA). Then there is the Mini Maxi class including defending Rolex Fastnet handicap winner, the 72-ft Rán (GBR), owned by Niklas Zennström, in addition to Andres Soriano’s Mills 68 Alegre (GBR), a fantastic campaigner in the Mediterranean in recent seasons. Throwing in the American challengers, the STP65 Vanquish, and the Reichel-Pugh 66 Zaraffa, who like ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 competed in the Transatlantic Race, it promises to be a tight contest at the top of the fleet.

Tales from the foreign third
Of the record breaking 350 yachts competing at this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race, approximately a third are non-British crews. A scan of the 2011 entry list highlights the global pull of the event, with yachts competing from the following countries: Austria, Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UAE and the USA.

Karl Kwok, owner of the 80-ft Beau Geste (HKG), will be taking part in the event for the third time. “I am definitely here for the challenge as this is one of the most interesting and competitive offshore races in the world,” he explains. “My first time here was in 1995, followed by my second appearance in the last edition [in 2009]. We did well on that occasion, but it could be better still!” Kwok adores offshore racing: “For me the top three blue water offshore classics are the Fastnet, Sydney to Hobart and Newport to Bermuda – in that order. And Rolex has the top two!” Beau Geste will be another yacht snapping at the heels of the 100-footers and also arrive in Cowes fresh from competing in the Transatlantic Race.

One overseas crew in particular has reason to treasure its association with the Rolex Fastnet. Six years ago, Frenchman Jean Yves Chateau’s 33-ft Nicholson Iromiguy won the competition on corrected time, the first time in three decades that the overall prize had been won by a yacht under 40 feet. For the Saint Malo-based skipper, the victory was both a surprise and a fulfilment of an ambition: “To win the Rolex Fastnet Race was like a childhood dream, it is like an ‘Everest’ in my life and in the life of each member of my crew: absolutely fantastic, unbelievable, gorgeous, not to mention the incredible fact of having beaten all the big guys. It was also very important for me to be the third French sailor to win this race and to have my name engraved on this Cup close to Eric Tabarly [the legendary French skipper who won the race in 1967]!”

Regarding the ‘draw’ of the Rolex Fastnet, Chateau continues: “It is a mythical race. This year will be our seventh time and we are always very pleased and enthusiastic to participate with the crazy dream of winning it one more time.” Amongst the sizeable French contingent is the intriguing story of the IMOCA 60 DCNS 100 (FRA), sailed by skipper Marc Thiercelin and his famous apprentice, former downhill skier and endurance motorsport driver, Luc Alphand. DCNS 100 is one of seven IMOCA 60s, including Cheminées Poujoulat (SUI) launched in May this year.

John Towers is helming the J/122 Oojah (GBR) with a US-based crew joining British boat owner Peter Tanner, their navigator for the race. The English Channel is some distance from their usual racing haven of the east coast of the United States. “As a group of Americans, we consider the Rolex Fastnet Race to be a once in a lifetime adventure that is a natural compliment to our passion for distance racing,” explains Towers, “the Fastnet is a big deal for us and an adventure that we have been planning for the last two years.”

Tanner continues: “Our goal will be the same as any other race we enter. Priority one is a safe passage. Priority two is that the experience is very positive for all members of the crew. Our third priority is to be competitive.”           

Triple TP52 challenge
The three TP52s competing at the Rolex Fastnet Race will resume their engagement having been near inseparable at the recent Giraglia Rolex Cup. On that occasion, Franck Noël’s Near Miss (SUI) finished the 243-nautical mile race less than two minutes ahead of Johnny Vincent’s Pace (GBR). Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky (USA) was only a further hour behind. On corrected time, only seven places separated the three crews, with Pace coming out on top. Over a considerably longer distance, this ‘race within a race’ will be one to follow come August.               

Back of the pack
The crew of the Contessa-32 Drumbeat (GBR) will likely have one opportunity to admire ICAP Leopard and Rambler 100 – during the passage out of the Solent. For co-skippers and brothers-in-law, Mark Himsworth and Pierre Walrafen, the race ahead will be one of endurance and, at times, solitude: “It feels amazing to be one of the smallest and slowest boats competing, tacking or gybing down the Solent against much larger and faster machines after the start. All the while competing on handicap directly against them,” explains Himsworth, who will be taking part in the Rolex Fastnet for a third time.

The reality soon becomes quite different, as Himsworth reveals: “After 24 hours, most of the competition is long gone. Thereafter it’s occasionally difficult to keep your mind away from the thought of the faster boats turning towards (or arriving at) Plymouth while ours plugs steadily westwards round Land’s End. It’s a pretty solitary undertaking when you’re on watch and your co-skipper’s sleeping and none of your competitors are visible, but that’s all part of the attraction, and there’s still plenty going on in Plymouth when we arrive!”            

Trophy hunt
The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet is the Fastnet Challenge Cup. In addition, there are more than 30 additional trophies that will be awarded at the prize giving on Friday, 19 August at the historic Royal Citadel, home of the 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, overlooking Plymouth Sound and Sutton Harbour, where the majority of the fleet will berth.

 Dock Preparations At Cowes at 2007 Fastnet (Photo by Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi )

Vanquish at start of Transatlantic Race (Photo by George Bekris )

Vanquish at start of Transatlantic Race (Photo by George Bekris )

One of the greatest moments in the history of offshore racing took place today with the final start of the Transatlantic Race 2011 setting six yachts on their course from Newport to The Lizard off the southeast coast of England.  And as the six magnificent yachts hoisted their sails you could almost feel the huge crowd of spectators gathered at Castle Hill hold their breath as they observed the fastest ocean-going monohulls to have ever been built in 145 years of transatlantic racing.

Prior to the start, George David (Hartford Conn.), skipper of Rambler 100, paid tribute to the four yacht clubs that came together to make this race a reality.  “This race was only conceived 18 months ago and without the support of New York Yacht Club, the Royal Yacht Squadron, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the Storm Trysail Club, it would have never happened.  It is a dream race that has become a reality.”

Transatlantic Race (Photo by George Bekris )

ICAP Leopard at start of Transatlantic Race 2011 (Photo by George Bekris )

Clarke Murphy (New York, N.Y.), competed in the previous edition of the race and was delighted to return to take up the reins of ICAP Leopard.

”Leopard has a phenomenal crew who are also a great bunch of guys, and I have been looking forward to this for a very long time.  We have done a lot of racing together, but all of those races have been the build up to this.  For me and the crew, the Transatlantic Race is what it is all about.”

A weather front arrived as if by magic, and with the wind speed at the top of the rigs approaching 15 knots, the six yachts cruised the starting area like reef sharks ready to attack.  As the starting gun sounded from Castle Hill Light, the Maxi fleet powered up and the sound of immense loads echoed across the water as sheets were pulled on and rigs raked back to propel the high-performance racing machines out towards the open ocean.  The sheer power on display was awe-inspiring, as the fastest yachts in the Transatlantic Race 2011, searing through the water, foam hissing at the rail, started on their one-way ride across the untamed Atlantic Ocean.

Beau Geste, the Farr 80 skippered by Karl Kwok (Hong Kong), got the best start and sped away toward Brenton Point.  PUMA’s mar mostro, skippered by Ken Read (Newport, R.I.), was next to cross the line followed by Rambler 100 and ICAP Leopard.  Vanquish was caught up in the Maxi mêlée and was stalled as the two 100-footers powered up on either side of the 65’ yacht crewed by the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team.  For the young crew aboard Vanquish, this is a ride of their life, lining up against the best in the world.

Beau Geste and PUMA’s mar mostro continued up the right-hand side of the course, playing touch and go with the rocky shoreline, while Rambler 100 and ICAP Leopard seemed locked in their own private tussle as the fleet headed offshore.  The magnificent 115’ ketch, Sojana, with a mahogany interior, is far heavier than her sporting rivals and skipper Peter Harrison (Reigate, U.K.) will surely be hoping for more wind.

For the yachts in IRC Class Four, which took the first race start on June 26 and are now a week into their journey, it’s a case of the rich getting richer.  Rives Potts Jr. (Essex, Conn.), skipper of Carina, leads the class with only the classic yawl Nordwind for company.  British Soldier is now 200 miles astern.

PUMA Ocean Racing's Mar Mostro At Start ( Photo by George Bekris )

PUMA Ocean Racing's Mar Mostro At Start ( Photo by George Bekris )

Jazz, the Cookson 50 skippered by Nigel King (Lymington, U.K.), is nearly 700 miles ahead of today’s starters and leads in IRC Class Two.  Jazz is struggling for breeze at the moment, but a low-pressure system located just to their north is tantalizingly close.  This area of wind is moving west, however, and if they can get to it, they will be carried swiftly along; if they don’t, they will be left to wallow in the short seas and little wind that it leaves behind.
Meanwhile, Huntington Sheldon, skipper of the Reichel Pugh 65, Zaraffa, is a happy man today.  Zaraffa is now in the breeze after a day of fickle wind.  And, as predicted, the Lithuanian Volvo 60, Ambersail, have made a big gain to the south and have been the fastest boat in class over the last 24 hours.

In the Open Class, Phaedo, skippered by Lloyd Thornburg, has been enjoying some great wind after moving south on Friday afternoon.  Maltese Falcon, on the other hand, has been playing the shifts up the coastline of Nova Scotia, putting in a myriad of gybes.  Those who thought that the 298’ art deco superyacht would be coasting across the Atlantic are very mistaken.  The two highly distinctive yachts look like they are coming back together after over 50 miles of separation and it will be interesting to see which one will be out in front.  The two Class 40s also parted company after following the same line for the first 48 hours.  Concise 2, skippered by Ned Collier-Wakefield (Oxford, U.K.) went south and Dragon did not follow; the two yachts are now 70 miles apart on the race track.

All of the 24 yachts competing in the Transatlantic Race will be carefully planning their next move as they can never fully work out what lies ahead of them.  The yachts that have already settled into the race know one thing for certain, the magnificent yachts in IRC One will be coming on fast and almost certainly Rambler 100 or ICAP Leopard will overtake them before long:  just four hours into the race, Rambler 100 was exceeding 18 knots boatspeed and had already covered 40 miles.

Sponsors of the TR 2011 are Rolex, Thomson Reuters, Newport Shipyard, Perini Navi and Peters & May, with additional support by apparel sponsor Atlantis Weathergear.

For more information, visit http://www.transatlanticrace.org/.

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More about the Transatlantic Race 2011
The Transatlantic Race 2011 charts a 2,975 nautical mile course from Newport, R.I., to Lizard Point, South Cornwall, England.  Pre-start activities will take place at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, while awards will be presented at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Cowes Castle clubhouse on the Isle of Wight.  Three separate starts – June 26, June 29 and July 3 – will feature 30 boats ranging from 40 to 289 feet in length.  In addition to winners in seven classes (IRC Class 1 Racer, IRC Class 2 Racer, IRC Class 3 Racer/Cruiser, IRC Class 4 Racer/Cruiser, Classic, Class 40, and Open), whichever yacht finishes the course with the fastest elapsed time will set the benchmark for a new racing record from Newport to Lizard Point, to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Council.  Rolex watches will be awarded to the record holder and the overall winner (on corrected time) under IRC.

The Transatlantic Race 2011 is also the centerpiece of the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series (AORS), which includes the Pineapple Cup – Montego Bay Race, RORC Caribbean 600, the Annapolis to Newport Race, Rolex Fastnet Race, Biscay Race and the Rolex Middle Sea Race.  Of the seven races in the AORS, three races, including the TR 2011 must be completed to qualify for a series victory.  Each race is weighted equally in overall series scoring with the exception of TR 2011, which is weighted 1.5 times.  All entered yachts are scored using their two best finishes in addition to the TR 2011.  Awards for the AORS will be presented in November, 2011, at the New York Yacht Club’s Annual Awards Dinner in Manhattan.

For More Transatlantic Race Photos By George Bekris click HERE

Transatlantic Race Start ( Photo by George Bekris )

Transatlantic Race Start ( Photo by George Bekris )

Vanquish at start of Newport to Bermuda Race (Photo by George Bekris)

Vanquish (Photo by George Bekris)

 

While the water views from anywhere along Newport Harbor (R.I.) are already magnificent, they will be absolutely breathtaking in late June and early July when 32 ocean-going yachts set sail in the Transatlantic Race 2011, which charts a course that stretches 2,975 nautical miles from Newport to Lizard Point, at the end of a peninsula in South Cornwall (UK).  This history-making event is organized by the Royal Yacht Squadron, New York Yacht Club, Royal Ocean Racing Club and Storm Trysail Club, with pre-start activities taking place at the New York Yacht Club’s Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport and the awards taking place at the Royal Yacht Squadron’s Cowes Castle clubhouse on the Isle of Wight.

 The fleet runs the gamut from sleek traditional designs, such as the 94’ William Fife-designed Sumurun, to sophisticated super yachts, such as the 289’ custom Perini Navi clipper sailing yacht Maltese Falcon, with three masts so tall (190’) they barely clear Newport’s towering Pell Bridge, which serves as a gateway to Rhode Island’s famous City by the Sea.  And as those who are veterans of ocean racing will attest, crossing the Atlantic Ocean is no small feat, especially when storms, testing seas and even icebergs (still a danger in the North Atlantic in June) are included in the mix of challenges encountered.

 “What I find so incredible with open-ocean racing is that there are very few things that you can do these days that are the same as what people did 400 years ago,” said Sumurun’s owner Robert Towbin . “You have such a sense of history when you’re out there and for a couple weeks you get to feel, in effect, the same way Columbus felt.”

 Towbin has sailed Sumurun in two previous transatlantic races, winning the Classic Division in the 2005 Rolex Transatlantic Challenge and taking overall victory in the 1997 Atlantic Challenge Cup presented by Rolex.  He is currently preparing his classic yacht, which was built in 1914, to endure what will be its first challenge of the 2011 sailing season.  “If you have an older boat, a race of this complexity takes a lot out of it, so we are putting a lot of work into it to get it up to date,” said Towbin.

Three separate starts – June 26, June 29, and July 3 – are planned (Sumurun will be in the first start) to “stagger” the yachts of different sizes and ability so that they will arrive in England in proximity to each other. Challenging their crews both mentally and physically, the larger boats hope to finish the race in 8 to 12 days, while the smaller boats may take up to 18 to 22 days to finish. 

 In addition to class winners, whichever yacht finishes the course with the fastest elapsed time will set the benchmark for a new  racing record from Newport to Lizard Point, to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Council. Rolex watches will be awarded to the record holder and the overall winner (on corrected time) under IRC.

 It’s anyone’s guess which of the true racing thoroughbreds entered might prevail.  Among them, scheduled to depart in the final race group, are the VOR 70 crewed by PUMA Ocean Racing Team, the Newport-based second-place finisher in the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race and entrant in the next edition as well; Rambler 100, George David’s  maxi rocket ship that has been tearing up race courses since the beginning of the year, including breaking the record for the RORC Caribbean 600 and taking line honors at the Pineapple Cup-Montego Bay Race; and ICAP Leopard, which holds the current record from Ambrose Light to Lizard Point for monohulls using powered sailing systems. 

 And if that’s not impressive enough, there will be two all-youth teams competing, one from Germany (aboard the Andrews 56 Norddeutsche Vermoegen in race start two) and one from the U.S.A. (the All American Offshore Team’s IRC 65 Vanquish in race start three).  In addition, four Class 40s, high-performance monohulls designed specifically for shorthanded sailing, will have their own class (starting in the second group).