Morning dockside rumours of delays and divisions of boats having to kedge on the start line were roundly proven wrong as the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet, as well as spectators along the Cowes shoreline, enjoyed a magnificent, colourful spinnaker start. Thankfully the unfavourable forecast for the start – no wind followed by a south westerly filling in from the west – had not panned out, with instead a welcome 10 knots from the east propelling the 300 strong fleet westwards down the Solent.
First away, punching into the last of the flood tide, were the IMOCA 60s. With their ‘big gear’ unfurled seconds before the start, it was 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. By the 1430GMT position report, the leading IMOCA 60s were already halfway across Christchurch Bay with Mike Sanderson’s Pindar leading, narrowly ahead of Aviva, BT and Arnaud Boissieres’ Akena Verandas.
With the tide having turned favourable to flush the remaining classes west, it was the small IRC classes that were next up. By the 1430 update they too 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.