Champagne start for Rolex Fastnet
What a cracking start to the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race, in excess of 300 boats got away cleanly in a fair easterly breeze of about ten knots. It was a spectacular sight, the Solent festooned with spinnakers at the start of the epic journey to the Fastnet rock. Every colour of the rainbow set in sail by a diverse fleet ranging from the powerful professional super yachts to family cruisers. For sailors, the Rolex Fastnet Race is iconic, a tough challenge, just completing the race is something to be rightly proud of.
At the moment Sam Davies' IMOCA 60, Artemis, is the lead boat having escaped the transition zone where the gradient wind meets the sea breeze. Approaching the Hurst Narrows the easterly gradient is fighting with the south westerly sea breeze and a park up looks likely. Getting through Hurst will be crucial. There is about two knots of favourable tide pushing the boats through the transition zone but it won’t last, the slower boats may not make it.
Niklas Zennström's RÁN went for a mid-line start and looked to be in clear air and better pressure as they stormed away from the Yacht Squadron line, they know the race is on, to make Hurst Narrows and get the tidal push through the transition.
Outside the Solent, the south westerly should kick in and the wind speed pick up, for the next crucial phase of this epic leg, to get around the tidal gate at Portland Bill. The boats that succeed will get a massive boost to their performance. The sun is out, tactics are already in play and conditions looks set to produce a truly wonderful yacht race for the 2,800 competitors in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.