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Who will win the Fastnet Challenge Cup?

Rolex Fastnet Race fleet leaving Lands End on the way to the Rock. Photo:Rolex/Kurt ArrigoWith nearly the entire 293 strong IRC fleet stretched across the Celtic Sea, calculating who may win the Fastnet Challenge Cup, after time correction, is a complex conundrum. However with VOR70, Team SCA, rounding the Fastnet Rock in an elapsed time of 37hrs 29min 37sec, we now have a reference point to gauge how the entire IRC fleet is faring.

The two 100 foot Maxis, Esimit Europa 2 and ICAP Leopard, have an estimated finish of Midnight tonight, the two goliaths are wrestling for Monohull Line Honours but an overall win on time correction is also a possibility. Esimit Europa 2 is over 12 miles ahead of ICAP Leopard on the water and is expected to pull away downwind in light airs. It is highly likely that given the present conditions, Esimit Europa 2 will take the gun and in doing so will be leading the race after time correction. Currently the two VO70s, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Team SCA are locked in a private duel but neither is likely to eclipse Esimit Europa 2 after time correction.

JV72s Bella Mente and Ran 2 are literally miles ahead of any of the other boats in their class. An absorbing duel has developed between the two Mini Maxis. Hap Fauth's Bella Mente seems to have had the advantage on the beat to the Rock, opening up a lead of about 11 miles. However Niklas Zennstrom's Ran 2 may well be quicker than Bella Mente in light airs downwind. It will be fascinating to see if Ran 2 can pass their nemesis. Line Honours for the class may well go to the wire; Ran 2 and Bella Mente are not expected to finish until Wednesday morning.

In IRC One, Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, may well be the first of the class to reach the Rock, but Nicolas Loday, racing Grand Soleil 43, Codium, Francois Goubau's Firts 47.7, Monoa and Laurent Gouy's Ker 39, Inis Mor are leading the charge after time correction. All three yachts have been proven RORC racing winners over many seasons, Inis Mor was RORC Yacht of the Year in 2012.

With hundreds of miles to go, it is too early to give a true picture of the yachts racing in IRC 2, 3 and 4. However, with weather conditions expected to change to a fresh north-westerly breeze, this would give these yachts a fast downwind run back to Plymouth and that extra breeze will raise their chances of lifting the Fastnet Challenge Cup.

Currently a trio of French yachts are well placed Noel Racine's JPK10.10 Foggy Dew, Samuel Prietz's A40, Vitaris and Gilles Caminade's A35, Chenapan. Hamble Sailing School, Stormforce Coaching's First 40.7, Cheeki Rafiki is also in a strong position.

Going on form throughout the 2013 RORC Season's Points Championship, Gery Trentesaux's MC34, Courrier Vintage and Pascal Loison's Night and Day may well feature, especially as both yachts are known to be fast in the predicted downwind ride back from the rock.

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