Crew member on USA 65002 Vanquish
Well well Well. Here we find ourselves back on the "Vanquish," having just left Cowes, UK, on the final race for this class of the Oakcliff All-American Offshore Team. There has been a ton of work done in preparation for today's start to the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race, and our current progress is evidence of the success we've been able to achieve as a cooperative team.
At 12:50 pm our race for Fastnet Rock began; we were the second to last start. There are over 350 boats racing in this edition--the largest Fastnet ever--and they, in addition to the huge spectator fleet, comprised the equivalent of a rush-hour traffic delay on the water. It was the most spectacular thing I have ever been a part of in this sport. Hundreds of "craft" proceeded upwind out of the Solent in a building 20-30 knot breeze, clear skies, and warm temperatures. It was hours before we finished calling "ducks" and crosses with the smaller boats in front. Absolute mayhem for a while there.
We had a great start towards the south end of the starting line, about 300 yards off of the Royal Yacht Squadron porch, and the thousands of people lining its adjacent seawall. After a brief encounter with an inbound car-ferry from Southampton we worked our way towards the Needles to the west in the same currents we researched two days ago. Four hours after the start we found ourselves in front of two significantly faster Volvo 70's that started just 20 minutes after us. It was a great sign: we're making the boat go fast and navigating the course well.
We've been on starboard tack heading due west, upwind in about 10-18 knots of wind, ever since clearing the Needles, and we're currently pointed right at Lizard Point--the southwest corner of England and the finishing point for our transatlantic race almost a month ago. Once we get `round, we put the bow to the north and head straight for Ireland. Our expected arrival at Fastnet Light and the large rock she sits on is around sundown tomorrow. 24 hours to go, or so. Then it's back this way, in what is forecasted to be an excellent downwind sleighride.
It's off to a late dinner now, and though I can honestly say freeze dried cuisine is the one thing I didn't miss while away, I'm hungry from a day of running around and it smells delicious. Who cares what it is--it all tastes the same!