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A change of pace

Picture caption: Digby Fox and Maxi Banque Populaire skipper Loick Peyron during the Rolex Fastnet Race 2011 Photo: Brian Thompson Taking part in his ninth Rolex Fastnet Race, the cameraman on board Maxi Banque Populaire was Digby Fox. He was buzzing as he stepped ashore. The Somerset based TV director/cameraman has had a love affair with the race around the famous lighthouse for many years. In 2003, Digby was on board Charles Dunstone's 76' Maxi Nokia Enigma, winning the Rolex Fastnet Race overall. For that, he won a Rolex watch, courtesy of Charles, which he wears to this day as a badge of honour (plus it winds up his colleagues no end).

This year, Digby - or Diggers to everyone who works with him - was on board the 140' Maxi Trimaran Banque Populaire, which completed the 608-mile course in an astonishing time of 32 hrs 48 mins 46sec. Think of that - the Rolex Fastnet Race in a day and half.

Digby actually still holds the Crystal Trophy record for multihulls under 50' in the Rolex Fastnet Race, coincidentally with Banque Populaire crewman Brian Thompson. That was as a sailor, but now it's as a cameraman that he gets these gigs.

Smashing the course record plus the outright race record in a monster-multihull was a world apart from Diggers' trip in 2009. That was aboard Morwenna, the classic 45' Bristol Pilot Cutter with larch hull on English oak frames - a timeless reproduction of an age gone by.

"Last time, I think Morwenna was the slowest boat but it was a beautiful experience just the same - serenely slipping through the waves. Racing aboard Banque Populaire is at the other end of the scale though. The two experiences could not differ any more. A graceful wooden gaff-rigged yacht against a hi-tech mile-munching record-breaking machine.

Banque Pop has been a phenomenal experience. So so fast, 20 knots feels like nothing. But round the rock, 30 or 35 knots on a reach.. totally mind blowing! The crew are French cool. Incredible sailors. Laconic. Tough. Warm. Loick Peyron runs the show, and what a sailing super star. It's been a massive privilege to sail with Loick, Fred Le Peutrec and these French pros. They made me welcome and at home.

The machine itself? Unbelievable. Massive. A juggernaut. The power transmitting through that monster rig makes everything hum, its like the Starship Enterprise. The cuddy on the aft crossbeam gives protection from the wind but stick your head above it and it is like sticking your head out of a car window doing 60 mph! For me it has been one hell of a ride, I've enjoyed it immensely. Today I'm the luckiest man alive."

As Maxi Banque Populaire screamed past the Plymouth breakwater, flying a hull to finish after just one night at sea. Digby Fox's ride for 2009, Morwenna, still had 500 miles and days to go to finish the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Race Office at the Finish

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