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Press Releases 2009

Long tactical race - The Rolex Fastnet Race loses none of its magic

Trophies at the pricegiving of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet RaceWhile the previous Rolex Fastnet Race is remembered for the course record time being demolished, the only record broken in this year's running of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial 608 nautical-mile classic was one relating to competitor patience, as light winds at the start and end, combined with powerful spring tides, made for a 'tactically challenging' race, and one of the longest in recent years.

Running from Cowes to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland, the race again proved it remains one of the world's most prestigious offshore yacht races. The 300-boat entry limit was reached quickly, attracting boats from a wide spread of nations. The bulk came from the UK and France, but there were potent entries from the USA, Hong Kong, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands and others coming from afar afield as Chile and Australia.

This year's event also attracted a hugely competitive line-up of professional sailors and grand prix race boats from around the world. This included the 2007 race record setter, Mike Slade's 100ft supermaxi ICAP Leopard; two recently launched state of the art Mini-Maxis taking a break from the Med circuit: Niklas Zennstrom's Judel-Vrolijk 72, Ran 2, and Patrizio Bertelli's STP 65 Luna Rossa, crewed by his Italian America's Cup team and featuring an all-star cast including five time Olympic medallist and recent Volvo Ocean Race winner, Torben Grael. The Rolex Fastnet Race was also the offshore debut for Karl Kwok's brand new Farr 80, Beau Geste, run by America's Cup helmsman Gavin Brady, while Roger Sturgeon's race-proven Rolex Sydney Hobart-winning STP65 Rosebud/Team DYT had come across from the USA.

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Long, slow finish

The fleet in PlymouthTypically the Rolex Fastnet Race is all but concluded by the Friday morning, five days after the start. But by this morning, only around one third of the fleet have reached the finish off Plymouth, for the Royal Ocean Racing Club's 608 mile long biennial offshore classic.

Even in Class Zero, around one third of the boats have still to finish. Here, the winner is almost certainly the Swan 56, La Floresta Del Mar of Amanda Hartley and Jamie Olazabel. At present, they are almost 1.5 hours ahead of second-placed Tonnerre de Breskens of former Rolex Fastnet Race winner Piet Vroon.

La Floresta Del Mar was previously Filip Balcaen's Aqua Equinox, winner of the Rolex Swan Cup in 2006, but the Madrid-based Anglo-Spanish couple "fell in love with her" and bought her two years ago to replace their Grand Soleil 46.

In addition to the boat's past race credentials and an extensive refit, to make her suitable for offshore rather than inshore racing, notable about Hartley and Olazabel's Rolex Fastnet Race campaign was that they put together a crack crew including many of the very best Spanish sailors. Their team included Jordi Calafat, the 470 Gold medallist from the 1992 Olympics, most recently with the America's Cup defenders Alinghi and on Telefonica Blue for the recent Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup bowman Jaime Arbones, multiple round the world racer Guillermo Altadill and race veteran Pachi Rivero.

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Ran 2 confirmed overall winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race

Niklas Zennstrom, Owner of RANThis afternoon the Royal Ocean Racing Club, organisers of the biennial British 608-mile classic offshore race, confirmed that Niklas Zennström's Ran 2 is the overall handicap winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.

Zennström's Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer finished the race in an elapsed time of 63 hours, 1 minute and 33 seconds, which corrected out to 2 hours, 19 minutes ahead of the second-placed Italian America's Cup team Luna Rossa on board their STP65."It is fantastic, we are very excited about it," commented Zennström. "But it was also a gradual thing, because as we crossed the finish line we knew we had a good result. We had monitored some of the boats behind us, most notably Luna Rossa and Rosebud, which we thought were always going to be the closest competitors to us. And after we came in we spent the morning and actually the whole day yesterday monitoring the updates on the RORC's OC Tracker and made our own calculations about the likelihoods for the other boats to catch up with us."

Having failed to complete the last Rolex Fastnet Race, in 2007, the victory for Ran 2 was unfinished business. That race, sailed on board Zennström's Marten 49, had been the first occasion that the present Ran crew had sailed together. Led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tim Powell, the all-star line-up includes seasoned race boat navigator Steve Hayles and America's Cup sailors such as Adrian Stead and Emirates Team New Zealand's Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.

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Streaming into Sutton Harbour, Plymouth

streaming-into-sutton-harbourThis morning, the tally of arrivals on the Rolex Fastnet Race is up to 43 after a busy night with the leading boats in the Class 40 and Zero fleets arriving.

Making possibly the best entrance last night was Robert Lutener and Martin Elwood’s IRC-optimised TP52, Cutting Edge. She crossed the finish line off Plymouth breakwater at 2100, at the same time as the British Fireworks Championship lit up Plymouth Sound.

“We had 20 knots reaching into Plymouth, just about made it past the breakwater to be greeted by 10,000 people. We got cheered coming in. We felt like proper rock stars,” recounted crewman James Grant, for whom this was his first Rolex Fastnet Race and first race longer than about 10 hours.

 

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Heading Home

From left to right: Mike Sanderson, Antonio Marrai, Eddie Warden Owen and Francesco De AngelisA steady influx of boats has continued to stream into Sutton Harbour in Plymouth's historic Barbican quarter today, the first finishers in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race. At the end of the afternoon, 17 boats have arrived including eight IMOCA 60s led by Sebastien Josse's BT IMOCA 60s, and including Volvo Ocean Race winner Mike Sanderson's Team Pindar, home in seventh place and fourth in the IMOCA 60 class.

"We have amazingly tight racing between quite different boats if you saw them lined up on the dock," commented Sanderson upon his arrival. "Seb Josse and Vincent Riou [former Vendee Globe winner, sailing on Akena Verandas] are incredibly experienced singlehanded sailors. I knew as soon as they were with us at Fastnet Rock that we were going to struggle."

According to Sanderson he lost distance on the leaders en route back to Bishop Rock from the Fastnet when he didn't direct Team Pindar far enough north. "North of the rhumb line was pretty advantageous. You saw Safran gain a lot there and Aviva lost a lot on the outside of us. So I need to learn my lessons and believe in the routing."

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