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Press Releases 2011

Rolex Fastnet Race lives up to its reputation

The fleet docked in Sutton Harbour Marina. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiRecords tumbled in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race, this year's event living up to its reputation as the most gruelling and tactically challenging of the classic offshore races. As usual the 608 mile long course took the boats from the start line off Cowes, Isles of Wight towards the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland, back around the outside of the Scilly Isles off southwest England to the finish line in Plymouth.

On Sunday 14 August, 314 boats set sail - the largest ever Rolex Fastnet Race fleet - up from the previous record of 303. This was due to a new initiative from race's organisers, the Royal Ocean Racing Club, to invite 'professional' offshore classes, able to compete under their own class rules, over and above the IRC fleet, that was capped at a maximum of 300 entries. The result was the most diverse selection of yachts ever assembled in a single offshore yacht race with the new initiative attracting many high-profile international racing teams. Thus in the same race some of the world's fastest multihulls such as the 140-foot long trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire were lining up with Contessa 32s and pilot cutters with the complete pantheon of racing yachts in between.

A coup for the event was the participation of three Volvo Open 70s, the only occasion these boats would race together prior to this autumn's start of the fully crewed round the world race. The 'pro' classes also saw the race debut of the two Multi One Design 70 foot trimarans, and attracted six IMOCA 60s, best known for competing in the singlehanded non-stop round the world race, the Vendee Globe, plus an impressive fleet of 20 of their smaller cousins, the Class 40.

Leading the charge in the IRC fleet were the two 100 foot maxis Rambler 100 and ICAP Leopard, followed by the Farr 80 Beau Geste and Mini Maxis such as the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race winner, Niklas Zennstrom's JV72, Rán, and Andres Soriano's Mills 68, Alegre, but the bulk of the record-sized fleet were more regular yachts with amateur crews from a total of 20 nations. For many, participation in the Rolex Fastnet Race was the highlight of their sailing seasons, for others the pinnacle of their sailing careers.

Off the Royal Yacht Squadron platform, the fleet starts began with the multihulls and culminating with the canting keel monohulls and VO70s, the boats enduring a stiff beat out of the Solent and into the English Channel in the best Rolex Fastnet Race tradition. With winds gusting to 30 knots at the exit to the Solent at Hurst Narrows, there were the first dramas of the race with the Class 40, Eutourist Serv-System and the trimaran, Strontium Dog (GBR) dismasting, plus two collisions.

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Rolex Fastnet Winners Reap Rewards

Rán Navigator, Steve Hayles collects the Rolex Yachtmaster Chronometer on behalf of Niklas Zennström's Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe prizegiving for the Rolex Fastnet Race took place this evening at the historic Royal Citadel on Plymouth's famous Hoe. Dating back to 1660s and standing on the site of the fort built in the time of Sir Francis Drake, the Royal Citadel over the centuries has been one of Britain's most important defences and today is the base for the 29 Commando Regiment of the Royal Artillery.

The main trophy for overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Fastnet Challenge Cup, was awarded this year to Niklas Zennström's Rán and this was presented along with a Rolex Yachtmaster Chronometer. The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer also won the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2009, making her the first back-to-back winner since Carina II in 1955/1957. In addition, Rán won the Joe Powder Trophy for best corrected time at the Fastnet Rock, the Hong Kong Cup for first in IRC Zero, Erroll Bruce Cup for the first yacht home in IRC Zero. Rán navigator Steve Hayles also won the Alf Loomis Trophy as the navigator of the yacht that wins IRC overall.

Mike Slade's 100 foot maxi ICAP Leopard picked up a large quantity of silverware including the Erivale Trophy for first yacht home in IRC Canting Keel; the Gesture Trophy for first overall in IRC Canting Keel; the Clarion Cup for the first British yacht home; the Kees van Dam Memorial Trophy for second in IRC Overall and the Royal Thames Yacht Club Spirit Cup for the first Royal Thames yacht home.

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French Domination

Rolex Fastnet Race Fleet docked in Sutton Harbour Marina today. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiA shut-down of the wind and a foul tide just short of the finish line made for a challenging few hours for the Royal Ocean Racing Club race team as an armada of Rolex Fastnet Race competitors descended on the finish line. Between 0000 and 0200 this morning 105 boats, or just over one third of the record-sized fleet, crossed the finish line.

Patrick van de Ven, sailing doublehanded with Igor Quik on the X-43 Lady of Avalon (NED) in IRC 2, arrived at 00:54 BST this morning. Yesterday, while lying 20 miles shy of the finish line, they had been forced to anchor, along with two other boats, for ten frustrating hours. To manage this involved their tying together all their available warps, sheets and guys in order for their anchor to set in the 70 metres of water.

"When we put up the sails and got running, we looked behind and there was this massive fleet of smaller boats coming in with the wind," recalled van de Ven. "It was beautiful - there was this big cloud of red and green lights behind us. We were happy we were in front of them."

Another Dutch doublehanded pair, John van der Starre and Robin Verhoef, on the newly-launched J/111 J-Xcentric (NED), racing in IRC 2, had less dramatic, but no less a frustrating finish yesterday afternoon. Finishing just one minute behind a fully crewed J/111, they were forced to anchor 200 metres from the finish line for one-and-a-half hours.

Van der Starre and Verhoef led the 36-strong double-handed division for most of the race. They eventually lost first place in the double-handed class to the Sigma 33c, Elmarleen (GBR).

This was their first Rolex Fastnet Race and Van de Starre said he was impressed: "This is a great challenge of tactics, handling and everything. There is so much in it - I had a really good experience. Racing double-handed is about management - everything has to work well, you need a good autopilot, all the preparation in advance should be perfect, and we had it very well organised." The duo had a small problem that left them unable to charge their boat's batteries (and therefore unable to use the all-important autopilot) for 36 hours.

Today the class winners have been announced. With Niklas Zennström's J-V72 Rán (GBR) claiming the overall IRC handicap prize ahead of Mike Slade's 100 foot maxi, ICAP Leopard. Rán also won Class Z ahead of the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team on Vanquish (USA) and the TP52 Near Miss (SUI).

In most other classes, France dominated. IRC 1 saw victory go to regular RORC race competitors Nicolas Loday and Jean Claude Nicoleau on their Grand Soleil 43 Codiam (FRA), ahead of Laurent Gouy's Ker 39 Inis Mor (FRA) and the First 47.7 Moana (BEL) of Francois and Mathieu Goubau.

Class 3 was claimed by two JPK 10.10 designs: Noel Racine's Foggy Dew (FRA), overall winner in the RORC's Myth of Malham Race earlier this year, ahead of Vincent Willemart's Wasabi (BEL). France also dominated Class 4 in the familiar form of Jean Yves Chateau's Nicholson 33, Iromiguy (FRA), overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2007, ahead of Persephone (FRA), Yves Lambert's Stand Fast 37/Tina.

One exception to the Franco-Belgium domination of this year's race was American Rives Potts, whose 48 foot McCurdy & Rhodes-designed Carina won Class 2, ahead of two French boats - the JND35 Gaia and the J/122 Nutmeg IV.

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Rán First Back to Back Victory in 50 Years

Niklas Zennstrms Ran Overall Winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race and the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup Credit - Rolex Daniel ForsterFor the first time in more than 50 years, the Rolex Fastnet Race has a back-to-back handicap winner. Following on from her victory under IRC in 2009, this afternoon the Royal Ocean Race Club has confirmed that Niklas Zennström's Rán (GBR) is once again the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race and the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup.

Past double winners of the race include Jolie Brise (1929 and 1930), yacht designer Olin Stephens' Dorade (1931 and 1933), John Ilingworth's Myth of Malham (1947 and 1949) and most recently Richard Nye's Carina II (1955 and 1957). It should be noted that Carina II is not the same boat as the one of this same name being campaigned in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race by American Rives Potts.

The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72ft Rán finished in Plymouth on Tuesday at 12:53:44 and even then she was looking like a strong contender for the overall prize, but this afternoon her win was officially confirmed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

Under IRC, Rán's time corrected out so that she beat ICAP Leopard (GBR) by 4 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds, and Mike Slade's 100 foot supermaxi in turn a massive 10 hours, 40 minutes ahead of third placed Vanquish (USA), the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team's STP65.

"It's fantastic. It's still hard to believe almost. Everyone on the team is very, very happy and very pleased," said Zennström of his second consecutive Rolex Fastnet Race victory, adding that defending their title was one of his sailing team's primary objectives for the year. "You may say 'we're going to race to win', and that is really what we were going for, but also these races have so many different variables that you cannot really take into account. Its great when it works out."

Navigator Steve Hayles agreed: "We like the Fastnet Race and it has treated us well again on Rán. It was a bit of everything and felt like a pretty tough race at times. It was great."

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The Tap Turns On

Boats are now streaming into Sutton Harbour Marina in Plymouth after finishing the Rolex Fastnet Race. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiAfter an extremely quiet 24 hours, from last night boats have been streaming into Plymouth, with over 50 boats finishing between midnight and noon. There have been some tight finishes in this Rolex Fastnet Race between the Volvo Open 70s and the IMOCA Open 60, but the closest by far occurred in the early hours this morning in the Class 40, where the top five boats arrived within six-and-a-half minutes of one another.

Having led for the majority of the race, there was a deserved win for Tanguy de Lamotte aboard his Rogers-designed Initiatives - Alex Olivier (FRA), which arrived two and a half minutes ahead of the new Kiwi 40 Peraspera (ITA), in turn just 30 seconds in front of Red (GER), skippered by Mathias Mueller von Blumencron, former Editor in Chief of Der Spiegel magazine.

Having led for most of the race, Initiatives - Alex Olivier was overtaken by Peraspera at the last headland coming into Plymouth and it was only because their last tack into the finish took them further south of the Plymouth breakwater, that they won. "We could go on one tack to the finish line and that is where we pulled away and overtook them again," recounted de Lamotte. "It was a literally a few hundred metres before the finish line. So it could have gone any way, anyone could have won it."

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