The outcome of IRC Two hung in the balance until the very end, but it was Juzzy who came through to win at the end, as the fleet arrived in a wet, wild and windy Cherbourg early on Thursday morning.
For the duo racing Juzzy, a bright blue JPK 1030, this was their first Rolex Fastnet Race. But seeing as skipper Thomas Bonnier and his co-pilot David Prono are both veterans of the Mini Transat, their victory is not so surprising. They’re both vastly experienced offshore racers.
What’s more surprising is that Bonnier, now aged 61, hadn’t attempted the Fastnet before. “I first got interested in the race when I sailed in Cowes Week in 1979 with my uncle and we dismasted just the day before the Fastnet Race,” said Bonnier, referring to that fateful edition of the race. Perhaps the dismasting was a blessing in disguise, yet Bonnier has always wanted to return to the race that he almost competed in as a teenager.
It was a hard start and a hard finish for the boats in IRC Two.
“We could see that we had the chance to win,” said Prono, “so last night we pushed the boat really hard with gennaker in strong winds, 21 knots of speed and we got very, very wet.” Bonnier laughed: “We are in a crazy sport. When there is a lot of wind it is too much, and when there is no wind it is not enough. We experienced all of the extremes on this race. But this is a wonderful sport too. I am 61 years old and what other sport can I compete in at this age, where I am racing against professional sailors and still able to be competitive?”
Festa 2 crossed the finish line in second place on corrected time, although Jean Francois Hamon knew that it wouldn’t end so well after the Sun Fast 3300 was among those to have started too soon on that windy, tidal start line out of Cowes last Saturday. So close were the finish times in IRC Two, the two-hour penalty for a premature start has shoved Festa 2 from second down to eighth in class. Despite this, Hamon has good memories of the past five days.
“This was my first Fastnet, a beautiful race, the conditions were very hard but we started to do well when it mattered at the end. The only bad thing for us is that OCS (On Course Side penalty).”
Hamon enjoyed the challenges of the race course.
“We left the Solent in gusts of up to 40 knots. The first weather front was really hard and we had a better day once we were out the other side of it. But on the Sunday we met another front with more gusts up to 40 knots. Rounding the Fastnet Rock was a great moment but I can’t even remember what day that was now, I’m so exhausted. It took us a long time to pass the lighthouse because there was only 4 knots of wind and the tide was against us. But we had a good reach to the Isles of Scilly and then we hoisted the gennaker and never took it down again until we crossed the finish in Cherbourg. We had gusts of more than 35 knots and we held the gennaker all night long which was not very safe, but it was very fast with speeds of 15 to 21 knots. I will remember this race for a long time.”
Festa’s penalty misfortune means Maxime Mesnil’s J/99 Axe Sail takes second in class with Frederik Nouel’s JPK 1080 Karavel taking third, just three minutes on corrected time ahead of the fast finishing wife and husband duo from the USA, Christina and Justin Wolfe who got better and better throughout their first Fastnet aboard the Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby. So close were the finish times, just 36 minutes separate third to seventh place in the final standings for IRC Two, making this one of the most competitive classes in this year’s race.
By Andy Rice