On Sunday 14th August, Twenty Class 40s set off from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The biggest fleet assembled since the Route de Rhum in 2010. There was drama right at the start as Eutourist-Serv-System was dismasted in big breeze and lumpy seas. The battle was intense, right from the gun, the highly skilled fleet knew that they were in a race against the tide. Those that could make Portland Bill first would escape the grip of the foul current, those that didn't would fall away from the lead.
Francesco Piva's Farr designed Peraspera was first out of The Solent, followed by Initiatives-Alex Olivier designed by Simon Rogers and skippered by 2009 champion Tanguy de Lamotte. In hot pursuit were Michel Kleinjans' Roaring Forty 2, another new Farr design and Guillaume Verdier designed BSL, co-skippered by Ross and Campbell Field from New Zealand.
Roaring Forty 2 broke away from the pack, heading offshore and the move paid off. By Portland Bill, they had opened up a 2-mile lead but the chasing pack was nipping at their heels. As they approached The Lizard, the fresh wind they had enjoyed since the start, began to fade and Initiatives-Alex Olivier stayed offshore hoping to get the new breeze first. This allowed Peraspera and BSL to squeeze past them. As the new breeze filled in Initiatives-Alex Olivier was into it before the rest and moved back up to second.
Concise 2, were to join the leaders at Land's End, skipper Ned Collier-Wakefield was joined by the highly experienced Jonny Malbon racing Two-Handed, against fully crewed yachts. After Land's end the Class 40 were really flying, in a sprint across the Celtic Sea, straight-line power reaching at speeds of 20 knots plus.
After rounding the Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy, the Class 40s hoisted spinnakers for the first time in the race and hurtled downwind. Roaring Forty 2 was just in front of Initiatives-Alex Olivier but ahead of them the wind was fading for the second time in the race, providing one of the big tactical conundrums; when to gybe for home.
25 miles after rounding the Pantaenius Buoy, Roaring Forty 2 gybed, BSL and Peraspera were now several miles behind but followed suit. Initiatives-Alex Olivier and Concise 2 did not, choosing to continue for over 20 miles before making the crucial gybe. At 1800 BST, the five leading class 40s were still locked in close combat but BSL have found extra pace and hit the front for the first time in the race.
Tonight the wind is forecast to be light and may swing round to the north, this may favour Concise 2, not only are they the most northerly boat but sailing with just two crew will make them significantly lighter, an advantage in light airs. On the other hand, the Concise 2 crew will have had little sleep, probably far less than their fully crewed rivals. With 160 miles to go, it is most certainly game on in the Class 40s for the Rolex Fastnet Race.