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Press Releases 2011

Maxi Multihulls Round Fastnet

Seb Josse's GITANA 11 rounding Fastnet Rock this morning. Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe two largest trimarans in the record-sized Rolex Fastnet Race rounded the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland at around 0930 this morning. As expected Loick Peyron's Maxi Banque Populaire (FRA) was leading, but surprisingly just eight miles ahead of the Seb Josse-skippered Gitana 11 (FRA), despite the latter being just 77 feet compared to Maxi Banque Populaire's monstrous 140-foot long hulls. Once around, the boats have approximately 250 miles (on the rhumb line) to sail to the finish in Plymouth.

Last night both boats, along with the two MOD70 trimarans Veolia Environnement (FRA) and Race for Water (SUI), overstood the Scilly Isles, in order to lay the Fastnet Rock in one tack and take advantage of a small left hand wind shift while crossing the Celtic Sea between the southwest end of England and the south coast of Ireland. The reason Gitana 11 (FRA) is so close is that after leaving the Scillies to starboard she tacked north for the Rock earlier than her larger rival, sailing a substantially shorter course as a result.

At the time the two on the water leaders rounded the Fastnet Rock this morning, the wind had dropped to 10 knots from the west-southwest and the sea state had abated.

Meanwhile in the heavyweight bout between the 100 foot super-maxi monohulls, the crew on Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard (GBR) are doing a fine job fending off the attack of George David's faster Rambler100 (USA). The two boats passed between the Scilly Isles and Land's End at 0630 BST this morning, but there were a large group of powerful boats shadowing them close behind.

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Record Fleet Bound for the Fastnet

The Record-Breaking Rolex Fastnet Race Fleet head out of the Solent past Hurst Castle after the start: Photo: Rolex/Carlo BorlenghiThe record-sized Rolex Fastnet Race fleet set sail from Cowes in classic conditions - a beat westward up the Solent in a building west-southwesterly and sunshine, but with an ominous looking cloud line over the mainland.

In the end there were 314 starters, the largest fleet ever to start the Rolex Fastnet Race following the previous record of 303 in 1979.

The first start at 1100 BST saw the giant multihulls heading off. Fastest out of the blocks were Gitana 11 (FRA), the 23.5m trimaran skippered by Vendee Globe and Volvo Ocean Race skipper Sebastien Josse and Roland Jourdain's MOD70 Veolia Environnement (FRA). With round the world yachtswoman Dee Caffari manning her aft grinders, Veolia's sistership, Steve Ravussin's Race For Water (SUI), was over the line early and had to restart.

Visible from most parts of the Solent with her 40 meter long hulls and 47 meter tall mast, the world's fastest offshore boat, the Loïck Peyron-skippered Maxi Banque Populaire (FRA) trimaran, thundered across the line and had reached the Needles within an hour, sailing upwind at more than 20 knots. Five hours after starting, Banque Populaire was already approaching Start Point, close to 100 miles down the southwest coast from the start.

Next up were the IMOCA 60 monohulls, and by the Needles, Marc Guillemot -- Yann Elies doublehander Safran (FRA), were leading the newer generation boats.

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Record-Breaking Conditions Ahead

Rolex Fastnet Race Skipper's Briefing Photo: Rolex/Daniel ForsterThe largest, most diverse fleet of racing boats ever assembled in the history of offshore yachting will set sail from Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK tomorrow in the Rolex Fastnet Race. As ever, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event takes the fleet 608 miles along the south coast of the UK, across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock off southwest Ireland, before returning around the Scilly Isles to the finish in Plymouth. The event has a fearsome reputation following the 1979 race which was devastated by strong winds and seas resulting in 15 fatalities.

While the previous record entry was 303, this year 318 yachts are due to start, and the fleet is impressive in its size as well as its scope: from the 40 meter trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire (FRA) to the 9.1 meter Rogers 30, Bernie Bingham's Brightwork (GBR). The first gun for the multihulls will be fired at 1100 (BST) with the last start for the big canting-keel monohulls and Volvo Open 70s, including two 100-footers, George David's Rambler 100 (USA) and Mike Slade's ICAP Leopard (GBR), at 1310.

The bulk of the fleet of around 281 boats will be racing under IRC for the Fastnet Challenge Cup. This will be won by the crew that sails best to their rating while the weather is also likely to play its part: typically a fast start and slow finish favours the big boats, a slow start and fast finish is best for the smaller boats. Hence why Niklas Zennstrom's 72ft Ràn (GBR) won the 2009 race overall, but in 2005 it was the turn of one of the oldest and smallest boats in the fleet, Frenchman Jean-Yves Château's Nicholson 33 Iromiguy (FRA).

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More than a journey

The Course of the Rolex Fastnet Race, starting from Cowes on the Isle of Wight."The name of this great game is ocean racing, and it is also known as the king of sports." So proclaimed Joseph Weston Martyr, the inspiration behind the creation of the Fastnet Race, supported by Rolex since 2001. Some 86 years after the first race was run, and whilst the evolution of both the event and yacht racing can only be described as immense, Martyr would be proud that his mantra stands as tall today as it did in 1925. Ocean racing remains a sport that emanates challenge, enthusiasm and adventure, as the popularity of this year's Rolex Fastnet Race, which currently stands at a record-setting 318 entries, proves.

Over its deep history, the Rolex Fastnet Race has seen almost everything: horrendous and humbling conditions, record-breaking triumphs, delight and despair and, in the process, the rise of faster, lighter, high-tech yachts. Sailors cut from every cloth: professional, Corinthian, celebrity and royal have been drawn to the challenge.

The start signal for first class in the 2011 edition will sound at 11.00 BST on Sunday 14 August. As the fleet head out to sea and with the current weather forecast uncertain, the crews, from all corners of the globe, will be sure of one thing only: a journey awaits.

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Packed Press Conference Ahead of Start

Press conference in the Sir Max Aitken Museum in Cowes before the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race. From left to right: Charlie Enright (Vanquish), Henry Smith (Yeoman of Wight), Brian Thompson (Banque Populaire), George David (Rambler 100), Campbell & Ross Field (Hupane), Ken Newman (Marinero), Mike Sanderson (Team Sanya), Bernard Stamm (Chemin Poujoulat). Photo: RORC/Paul WyethWith less than three days left until the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, a press conference was held today in the Sir Max Aitken Museum in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. It was a case of standing room only for the international press that will be covering the Rolex Fastnet Race, the oldest and most prestigious offshore yacht race in the world.

Eddie Warden Owen, Chief Executive of the Royal Ocean Racing Club summed up the quality and quantity of this year's race: "The 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race is not just a record fleet, it is a fantastic fleet from professional high performance racing yachts to family owned production yachts raced by corinthian sailors. The biggest yacht is a 140' Trimaran, Maxi Banque Populaire and the smallest, Brightwork a 30' cruising yacht. It is an amazing array of yachts, quite outstanding."

RORC Commodore, Andrew McIrvine will be racing his First 40, La Réponse and the Commodore has had to qualify for this race just like all of the 300 hundred yachts racing under IRC.

"Besides a large fleet of professional teams racing, there are thousands of sailors competing for the Fastnet Challenge Cup. The Rolex Fastnet Race is a challenge for any of the competitors and this year, the Royal Ocean Racing Club has had a really windy season, so in qualifying for the Race, the competitors are very well prepared. This race was sold out in 11 days back in January. It looks like we are going to have a fantastic race and everybody is really looking forward to it," commented McIrvine.

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