Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fastnet Race Update

J/111 sailboat- sailing past Fastnet Rock in Fastnet Race (Cowes, IOW, England)- Drama has yet again struck the Fastnet Race, continuing it's legendary status as not only one of the oldest offshore yacht races in the world, first taking place in 1925, but also one of the roughest and toughest.  As most offshore racers recall, the 1979 Fastnet was no picnic- over half the fleet retired from broken boats to broken bodies and, sadly, tragedy too.

The 608-mile race passes Land’s End (notorious for raging currents, whirlpools and awesomely steep (scary) breaking waves) before turning north-west across the Celtic Sea towards West Cork. Participants round the famous Fastnet Rock lighthouse three miles off Cape Clear Island before heading to their ultimate destination of Plymouth, leaving the Scilly Isles to port on the way home.  A total of 314 boats started the race off Cowes on the Isle of Wight on Sunday, beating the previous record turnout of 303 entries registered for the tragic 1979 installment.  However, the race so far has taken it's toll, with several boats breaking masts/ tearing sails and, in the case of George David's RAMBLER 100, losing its canting-keel and capsizing (story below) just after rounding Fastnet Rock.

For those who love the Fastnet Race, the highlight of the European offshore summer season, the 2011 race has delivered on all counts. It has proved a hugely tactical race and competitors have fought for speed in a whole variety of conditions from 30 knots of breeze through to what was almost a complete shut-down in the pressure. Extraordinarily frightening for some, gut wrenchingly frustrating for others, incredibly rewarding for those who got it right.

J/122 sailboat- sailing past Fastnet Rock- Fastnet Race 2011- Nutmeg VI FranceSo far, the J/122 NUTMEG IV, owned and raced by Francois Lognone and his crew were the top J overall in the Fastnet 2011. As a seasoned offshore campaigner, this is a well deserved and hard fought result for the French skipper and crew of this forty footer. So far, with only one-third of the fleet finished, the eighth IRC overall translates to third in IRC 2 Division and first in IRC 2A Class!! 

Another J/122, Neil Kipling’s JOOPSTER crossed the finish line in very good shape and is currently in fourteenth place in IRC Overall, Yves Grosjeans’s bright red forty-three foot J/133 JIVARO was just a few steps behind in eighteenth place overall.

The J/111s have been sailing fast, the real issue for them has been whether or not they've been going fast in the wrong direction too quickly.  So far, the IRC Doublehanded leaders are the J/111 team on J-XCENTRIC, the Dutch team of John van der Starre & Robin Verhoef finishing first boat-for-boat on elapsed and currently winning on IRC handicap rating, too!  Fingers-crossed as the rest of the fleet drifts in on the tides and no wind.  The J/111 ARABELLA sailed by Niall Dowling started off strong, but sailed a bit close to Land's End and then headed too far north of rhumbline to Fastnet Rock, giving up a bit of distance to only finish ninety-odd minutes in front of the double-handed J/111 J-XCENTRIC!

Also, the J/120 NUNATAK sailed by Mike Jaques and crew are lying second in the Doublehanded IRC division.  More later next week.  For more Rolex Fastnet Race sailing information