• Home
  • News
  • Women in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race

Rolex Fastnet Race News

News

Les P’Tits Doudous en Duo save their best to last

Romain Gibon’s JPK 1010 Les P’Tits Doudous en Duo (FRA), racing with Alban Mesnil won IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com Romain Gibon’s JPK 1010 Les P’Tits Doudous en Duo (FRA), racing with Alban Mesnil won IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

81 teams from all over the world entered IRC Three for the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race. The podium was dominated by the French JPK 1010s, but up to the Fastnet Rock it was Cora, the British Sun Fast 3200, which held pole position since the brutal start in Cowes.

Romain Gibon’s JPK 1010 Les P’Tits Doudous en Duo (FRA), racing with Alban Mesnil won IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed in the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race. Second in IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed by just over 17 minutes was Loeiz Cadiou’s JPK 1010 Tracass. Third in IRC Three was Ludovic Menahes’ JPK 1010 ADEOSYS. Fourth in IRC Three, and top British boat in IRC Two-Handed, was Sun Fast 3200 Cora, raced by RORC member Tim Goodhew and Kelvin Matthews. The top fully crewed team in IRC Three, also taking class Line Honours is Gautier Normand A35 Locmalo from Société Nautique de La Trinité-sur-Mer.

Double-Fastnet class champions Romain Gibon and Albert Mesnil learned to sail in dinghies, competing against each other at the La Société des Régates du Havre. The duo continued to race offshore as crew for some of the French grandmasters of RORC races such as Géry Trentesaux, Noel Racine and Jacques Pelletier. Romain and Alban competed together in five editions of the Tour de France à la Voile.

“This was a very tough race with long periods of both strong and at times light winds,” commented Romain Gibon. “This created many strategic options, and we are so happy to have succeeded - this is a great achievement.” Alban Mesnil added: “We fought all the way to the end, we stayed strong and that was a part of our win.”

“This is a very good level of competition and before the race we aimed to be in the top ten, but we did not expect to win,” commented Romain Gibon. “We decided not to go full out for the lead at the start because the conditions were rough. For the first night we protected the boat and ourselves but even then Albert got a black eye - it was a rough night. From day two we really started to race.”

Les P’Tits Doudous en Duo rounded the Fastnet Rock almost exactly three days into the race, ranked in third place for IRC Three and fifth for IRC Two-Handed. The fresh westerly wind arrived and was building.

“Choosing when to attack and when to rest is all part of the doublehanded game. From Fastnet to the finish we broke down the course into three sections. We decided to attack in the last section from the Isle of Scilly to Cherbourg; our boat is very fast downwind in big seas and we are used to these conditions. To win IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed is beyond our expectations and we would both like to dedicate this win to Noel Racine, who has taught us so much.”

Tim Goodhew and Kelvin Matthews on board Sun Fast 3200 Cora at the brutal start of the race © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.comTim Goodhew and Kelvin Matthews on board Sun Fast 3200 Cora at the brutal start of the race © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Tim Goodhew and Kelvin Matthews racing Sun Fast 3200 Cora were proud of their achievement: “The most breeze was around Swanage, normally you see the most breeze at Hurst, but we saw 40 knots around Swanage with big waves there as well. I don’t think we made a mistake, certainly to Land’s End and probably even to the Fastnet. We were very happy with how we were going,” commented Tim Goodhew. Cora hung on to their corrected time lead in IRC Three but in the big breeze on the final night, the French JPK 1010s came on the attack.

“The conditions last night were the worst I’ve sailed in,” commented Kelvin Matthews. “We lost our wind instruments but it was mid-30s and the sea state was huge; the amount of power we got surfing down the waves was pretty frightening at times; we could get 15 knots sustained surfing. From the Isles of Scilly we were being hunted by the JPK 1010s. We started on the S4 – no reefs in the main - and made a gain, we were quicker. Initially we felt strong and they started to get smaller, but then the sea state started to build and we couldn’t hold on and were spinning out – and as soon as that was happening to us, it wasn’t happening to them. So we were being caught up quite rapidly.”

Cora, like most of the fleet, saw the full range of conditions, from brutal rolling seas to mill-pond smooth at the Fastnet RockCora, like most of the fleet, saw the full range of conditions, from brutal rolling seas to mill-pond smooth at the Fastnet Rock

After changing through Cora’s range of symmetric sails, the team hoisted their A3.  “One of the 1010s changed to an A3 but it was a smaller, fuller one and it just suited the conditions better,” continued Kelvin Matthews.  “Eventually we tried our third option, the Code Zero. Initially it went really well, as it gave us stability. But then the breeze got so high that the Code Zero became almost unsailable and then it was stuck, because we couldn’t furl it. We eventually managed to put a few wraps around the forestay and had to ‘gorilla it’ down. We also didn’t have an autopilot to do that, because that had failed on the way to the Fastnet Rock. When you have to hand steer and do a one-person manoeuvre in 30 knots of breeze – that’s a hard one.”

“Last night was the worst night I’ve seen offshore – sea state, visibility…you couldn’t differentiate between sky and water,” commented Tim Goodhew.  “At times I thought we had topped a wave, and we hadn’t; and vice versa – it was mind-boggling. The first night we had just as much wind and sea state but way more visibility, and for me that was the thing that made it quite intimidating. We were worried about the rig, then when the A3 pops in 30 knots of breeze and you’re just worried about the boat. When you can’t see anything other than your 100m circle that is bizarre. And all you want is a pint and a warm bed!

"I think it will be good for our season; we are 4th in IRC Three at the moment for the RORC Season’s Points Championship, pending other finishers. If we’d known that before the race had started we’d have taken that, we knew there were loads of good boats and good competition – but then we’d had a good first half of the race, so we are a little bit disappointed with fourth.”

The vast majority of the teams in IRC Three are expected to finish the race today, Thursday 27 July, and the Race Village Bar is brimming with sailors recounting their stories from the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race. 

By Louay Habib

Juzzy Comes Good in IRC Two

Thomas Bonnier and his co-pilot David Prono finished the Rolex Fastnet Race in high spirits having won IRC Two and IRC Two-Handed on board their JPK 1030 Juzzy © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com Thomas Bonnier and his co-pilot David Prono finished the Rolex Fastnet Race in high spirits having won IRC Two and IRC Two-Handed on board their JPK 1030 Juzzy © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

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?”

Thomas Bonnier's JPK 1030 Juzzy, came through the fleet to win IRC Two in the final stretch of the race © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.comThomas Bonnier's JPK 1030 Juzzy, came through the fleet to win IRC Two in the final stretch of the race © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com 

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.

Husband and wife doublehanded entry from America, Justin and Christina Wolfe on Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby, finished 4th in this most competitive class, IRC Two © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.comHusband and wife doublehanded entry from America, Justin and Christina Wolfe on Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby, finished 4th in this most competitive class, IRC Two © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

By Andy Rice

Fournier Fires Pintia to Victory in IRC One

Gilles Fournier's J/133 is victorious in IRC One after a tightly contested battle against Thomas Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise III © ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo Gilles Fournier's J/133 is victorious in IRC One after a tightly contested battle against Thomas Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise III © ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo

Gilles Fournier and his family and friends on Pintia couldn’t quite believe they had managed to win IRC One after such a close battle with Sunrise III. Having raced offshore regularly for the past half century and now 77 years old, Fournier hasn’t yet decided whether or not this was his last Rolex Fastnet Race. Chances are he would miss the challenge and camaraderie, not just with his own crew but with the opposition too.

Pintia finished at 18:20:47, her corrected time just over 1 hours 20 minutes ahead of Sunrise III, with Ed Bell's Dawn Treader completing the IRC One podium. This is Pintia's second time topping the podium in this event, having won class in 2017.

Fournier met his rival skipper on the dock soon after they stepped ashore, victorious in Cherbourg. Tom Kneen, owner of the JPK 1180 which was overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race in 2021, is a formidable campaigner and one that Fournier never expected to beat on Pintia, a J/133.

Almost half Fournier’s age, Kneen is a relative newcomer to the sport of offshore sailing, yet the softly-spoken Plymothian has a fierce approach to his racing and the Rolex Fastnet Race in particular.

“This is going to take some adjustment to my thinking,” said Kneen with a smile, having become so used to winning on a regular basis. “This is the first time since 2020 that I haven’t won in class, but I couldn’t be happier to lose to you and Pintia,” he said to Fournier. 

There is a lot of mutual respect between the top two finishers in IRC One. The two boats have very different sweet spots, with J/133’s longer waterline length working well for her on the upwind but the lighter weight of the JPK 1180 making Sunrise a downwind planing weapon in the right conditions. The breezy, blustery final run-in to Cherbourg highlighted the differences starkly.

“We took out five miles on Pintia in 20 minutes,” said Kneen. “When the breeze was up and we’re able to plane, Sunrise was doing 16 knots and Pintia was doing nine. If we’d have just had another 30 miles of race course I think we might have beaten them.”

Fournier was pleasantly surprised, and perplexed, that Sunrise hadn’t been able to disappear over the horizon since the downwind conditions that began with the Fastnet Rock rounding. “It’s a mystery. We didn’t expect to be able to stay anywhere close to you,” he said to Kneen. “What happened to you?” Kneen smiled wryly as he replied: “I’ll tell you over a beer.” Maybe some missed opportunities on the race course. Kneen will need some time to lick his wounds. Certainly Sunrise felt they had sailed a longer distance than they had needed to. Their secret weapon, the six-metre carbon spinnaker pole had been designed to plug a gap in their armoury, to make the boat faster in VMG conditions downwind in less than 14 knots of breeze. Combined with a new set of flat gennakers, the spinnaker pole had been deployed on the run back across the Celtic Sea from the Fastnet Rock and Kneen declared himself happy with the experiment. However, choosing sides of the Traffic Separation Scheme around the Isles of Scilly might have been one of the key errors that put paid to Sunrise’s hopes of a class victory. “Pintia came away from the Scillies at a hotter angle in more breeze,” he admitted.

Thomas Kneen and his young crew on the JPK 1180 Sunrise III © Arthur Daniel/RORCThomas Kneen and his young crew on the JPK 1180 Sunrise III © Arthur Daniel/RORC

Thomas Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise III rounding the Fastnet Rock © ROLEX/Kurt ArrigoThomas Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise III rounding the Fastnet Rock © ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo

So after a close battle it’s Fournier who celebrates with his crew which includes his daughter Corinne Migraine and her son Victor, the three generations coming together to form a winning team in one of the toughest races that this experienced skipper can recall.

“I did the 1985 Fastnet and people talk about that one as one of the toughest. But I think there were times in this race when it was harder.”

As to whether he’ll be back to defend the title in two years ago, Fournier says with a smile: “I think my wife would like us to go cruising. This kind of sailing is not so much for her - doing 21 knots downwind with gennaker - although she is a very good sailor.” Surely his wife could release him for five days or so in 2025 though? “These campaigns are not just about the race, they take at least six months of preparation and training. To do a race like the Rolex Fastnet Race takes a full commitment. And anyway, I don’t know if my crew would want me back. I am not as effective as I was,” he says modestly. It seems highly unlikely that the Pintia crew would attempt a Rolex Fastnet Race without their talismanic skipper though.

Fournier, by the way, is the French word for a worker who keeps the fires burning and the oven at high temperature. Even in the soggier conditions that greeted the fleet in rainy Cherbourg on Wednesday evening, Fournier was stoking the fire on Pintia all the way to the finish line, lighting up the J/133 just enough to eclipse Sunrise for a close-fought class victory. Few would bet against Fournier being back to defend his title in 2025.

Gilles Fournier and his crew are awarded the trophy for winning IRC One by RORC Commodore James Neville © Arthur Daniel/RORCGilles Fournier and his crew are awarded the trophy for winning IRC One by RORC Commodore James Neville © Arthur Daniel/RORC

It was a family affair on board Pintia with three generations of the family on board © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.comIt was a family affair on board Pintia with three generations of the family on board © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

By Andy Rice

Ellie and Jim Driver I All as it was meant to be

After completing nine Rolex Fastnet Races, it was only in this year’s 50th edition that Jim Driver at last managed to see the Fastnet Rock After completing nine Rolex Fastnet Races, it was only in this year’s 50th edition that Jim Driver at last managed to see the Fastnet Rock

After completing nine Rolex Fastnet Races, it was only in this year’s 50th edition that Jim Driver at last managed to see the Fastnet Rock, rounding it in the daylight aboard his Sun Fast 3300 Chilli Pepper which he was racing doublehanded with his daughter Ellie.

This is the second Rolex Fastnet Race that Jim and Ellie have sailed doublehanded together, after they finished 16th in a 59-boat fleet in 2019. Comparing this race to the last one, Jim described the start as "being harder this year as it felt windier, but I think we were better prepared for it.

"I feel grateful to have finished the race in one piece. It was probably the toughest Fastnet race I have done out of the nine others. Doublehanded is always tough as there is another dimension added by there being only two of you, but having three fronts come through, and starting in fairly cheeky weather made it extra hard."

Looking back to their start strategy, Ellie emphasised the importance of their goal, which was to get out of the Solent in one piece. This would put them in a position to fight their way back through the fleet when the conditions became calmer.

"I think for us it was just about getting through it; it wasn’t about racing through it. So, we took it very steady, we had two reefs in the main and had no jib up. We were still doing the same boat speed but 5-8° lower than we normally would. But the boat was in one piece by the end, which meant by the time we began racing we weren’t completely shattered, and we were able to pick up with the rest of the fleet."

This is the second Rolex Fastnet Race that Jim and Ellie have sailed doublehanded together, after they finished 16th in a 59 boat fleet in 2019 © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.comThis is the second Rolex Fastnet Race that Jim and Ellie have sailed doublehanded together, after they finished 16th in a 59 boat fleet in 2019 © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

For Jim, the end of this Fastnet race was the most challenging part.

"The start, you know what you are going to do and you get into it, so you set yourself up for the race”, but sailing through three squalls and a shutdown, he described as “four days of misery!"

Ellie and Jim were welcomed into Cherbourg-en-Contentin by Driver mother Lesley, who had been cheering them along for the entire race. Ellie described their doublehanded campaign as not just being the two of them as it involves “everyone around you as well. It builds up to quite a big team, whether that is the people who help you get the boat ready, help you get your kit ready or just support you from the sidelines on social media. Everyone is as important as each other and we couldn’t do it without all of them.”

By Abby Childerley

IRC Four Update I 10:30 BST 26 July

Chris and Vanessa Choules' Sigma 38 With Alacrity rounds the Fastnet Rock Chris and Vanessa Choules' Sigma 38 With Alacrity rounds the Fastnet Rock

Cherbourg Ahoy for Leaders

At 10:30 BST on day six of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the leaders in IRC Four are closing in on the finish at Cherbourg. The vast majority of the fleet have endured a wild night with 25 knots plus pumping in from the Atlantic Ocean, fortunately the sea swell has been astern, but on the negative side torrential rain has been falling for many hours.

François Charles Dehler 33 Sun Hill III holds a substantial lead both on the water and after IRC time correction and is expected to finish the Rolex Fastnet Race this afternoon (Thursday 27 July). Marc Willame’s JPK 960 Elma (FRA), racing doublehanded with Antoine Jeu, is second on the water and after IRC time correction. Chris and Vanessa Choules’ Sigma 38 With Alacrity (GBR) is ranked third after IRC time correction but will be hoping that the wind holds out for the last 80 miles of their race. Samuel Dumenil & Antoine Runet racing Casamyas (FRA) is 10 miles ahead of With Alacrity on the water, and conversely will be hoping that the breeze shuts down behind them.

375 miles from the finish, The J/109 Trojan raced by the Royal Engineers Yacht Club is protecting the rear of the fleet. The Royal Engineers YC have competed in all 50 editions of the race, including lying a-hull in atrocious conditions in 1979. There is no doubt the service men and women on this year’s entry Trojan will be thinking of that occasion as they round the Fastnet Lighthouse.

By Louay Habib

Trojan, sailed by the Royal Engineers Yacht Club, also competed in 2021's similarly blustery race © ROLEX/Carlo BorlenghiTrojan, sailed by the Royal Engineers Yacht Club, also competed in 2021's similarly blustery race © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

Sam Davies on IMOCA wheelie-ing and mixed doubles

Sam Davies' new IMOCA takes flight during the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Sam Davies' new IMOCA takes flight during the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

First female monohull sailor to finish the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race was Britain’s solo sailing daughter (and RORC member), albeit now adopted across the Channel, solo round the world race veteran Sam Davies. 

This time round Sam was racing her first brand new IMOCA. Launched last year, this is a Sam Manuard design, constructed from the same moulds as L'Occitane en Provence. In the IMOCA family tree, this is all slightly confusing:

The original L'Occitaine en Provence, which Armel Tripon raced in the last Vendee Globe, is now Louis Burton's Bureau  Vallee which finished this Rolex Fastnet Race in 9th place.

The present L’Occitaine en Provence, which Clarisse Kramer raced to sixth place in this Rolex Fastnet Race was originally Charlie Dalin’s Apivia (first home in the last Vendée Globe, but ended up second after Yannick Bestavin’s Maitre CoQ was awarded time compensation).

Sam Davies’ new IMOCA Initiatives Coeur continues with its both clever and worthy campaign where likes to her social media pages raises funds for Mécénat Chirurgie CardiaqueSam Davies’ new IMOCA Initiatives Coeur continues with its both clever and worthy campaign where likes to her social media pages raises funds for Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque

Sam Davies’ new IMOCA Initiatives Coeur continues with its both clever and worthy campaign where likes to her social media pages raises funds for Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, a charity which undertakes heart operations for third world children. For every social media page ‘like’, her trio of sponsors each donates €1 to the charity. Davies admits that this is an incentive like no other for in her darker moments she just thinks about this, and quite simply the better she performs, the more popular her social media pages get, and, putting it bluntly, the more lives she saves. 

IMOCAs are built for sailing around the world, so the conditions that many found brutal they took in their stride. 

“We are used to those conditions, but we are usually further away from the coast at those times,” Davies explains. “It was similar to two years ago although it blew through a lot quicker then. This one was a bit more sustained so you had to survive for longer upwind.”

Sadly even for their robust IMOCA, Initiatives Coeur suffered a broken ram for the tack of her headsails which took place in one of the worst places for it to occur in the race – off Portland Bill. “We had to bear away and head downwind at a really annoying point. And we filled the front of the boat with oil. So we had to bear away and put a lashing on to replace it. It took a little bit of DIY on the bow in 35 knots in the Portland Race…”

Surely this is a job for the co-skipper (highly capable for Solitaire du Figaro sailor and Volvo Ocean Race navigator Nicolas Lunven)? “We were both on the bow at that time! Generally when you have a co-skipper, the skipper is the one who knows the boat better whereas they tend to keep an eye on traffic while I’m trying to dig out lashings and figure out how best to secure it.”

Fortunately despite this they managed to recover: “Our strategy was quite good after that because we managed to come back and hook into the next group of boats, that we ended up in contact with for the rest of the race, which was cool.”

Sam Davies was sailing with her highly competent co-skipper, Solitaire du Figaro sailor and Volvo Ocean Race navigator Nicolas Lunven Sam Davies was sailing with her highly competent co-skipper, Solitaire du Figaro sailor and Volvo Ocean Race navigator Nicolas Lunven

After rounding Land’s End, the Celtic Sea was a chance to regroup. “That was the calmer moment where we actually managed to recover, rest and eat and I had to re-fit a new J3 tack at that point. So there was a bit more DIY as the repair we’d made off Portland was a temporary one to survive.”

After they got through the second front they enjoyed a nice run into the Fastnet Race, neck and neck with Maxime Sorel and Christopher Pratt on V And B - Monbana – Mayenne and other IMOCAs. “Sadly we didn’t make it around the Rock until nightfall, but it was a nice rock rounding. Then we got stuck in a light patch and w lost V And B.”

Back towards Bishop Rock, conditions were idea.  

“We just sent it. The top speed we did was 37.5 and we had a lot of points above 35 at various times. And we were within sight of L’Occitaine and TeamWork. It was great, making crazing speeds and racing and a little bit scary because you know there are boats coming the other way and a few fishing boats, so it is ‘eyes peeled fully’ on the radar (because you can’t see very much because there is so much water over the deck).

“After the Scillies, we knew that we were going to have a park-up and meet everyone somewhere off the Casquets TSS. That happened and resulted in the full-on Figaro race-type finish. It was quite frustrating in a way because you have so much of a lead over the ones that caught up from behind you, but at the same time we caught up V And B and nearly managed to get past them. But in the end everyone managed to hold the place they deserved.” 

Initiatives Coeur finished in 2 days 8 hours and 1 minutes, beating Charlie Dalin and Apivia’s IMOCA record time from 2021 of 2d 16h 51m 24s.

The last gasp of the race into Cherbourg had been quite exciting: “It was quite cool overtaking Lucky just on the finish line. We had a bit of a fight with L’Occitaine because they are really fast in those conditions and they just caught us up. So we had a bit of a luffing match and then a wheelie-ing match. We pulled off some really cool wheelies on the way in because we didn’t have the right set-up and once you are going you can’t change it. The guys on the rail on Lucky must have enjoyed us wheelie-ing it out of control across the finish line!”

Long an advocate of the Rolex Fastnet Race, Sam is pleased with how the IMOCA participation in the race has developed and competitors have learned to enjoy it and its huge diverse fleet, despite the usually scary start out of the Solent. “I remember a few years ago coming to the Fastnet Race and there were just four or five of us bringing our boats over so that the people who race on the Solent [as Sam used to] get to see our boats. Now 30 IMOCA come – which is so cool. And now across the whole fleet there are some really good matches with ten boats all staying really close. Now the Rolex Fastnet Race is really part of the IMOCA class, it is in its calendar and it is essential, established now.”

There was a strong field of mixed crews in this race and impressively finishing immediately astern of Initiatives Coeur was 

L'Occitane en Provence sailed by Justine Mettraux and Alan Roberts and Teamwork skippered by Davies' former Team SCA crew Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion. “It is cool to see that there are quite a few mixed crews. I know that Pip [Hare and Nick Bubb] had a load of breakages and there’s Isa as well [Isabella Josckhe with Pierre Brasseur on MACSF). “It is good as it proved that that is not a problem. Having said that it is pretty hard core racing these boats.”

But with the fully enclosed cockpit you don’t get wet?  “No, I was drenched fixing forestays on the bow in 35 knots going downwind under water. Then there were a few sail changes and some stacking. We did a little soaked. For sure it is nothing like it was before. And we did have a lot of thoughts for all the people doing, and still doing this race, sitting on the rail. For sure we are well protected in our cockpits, but when you do speed over 30 knots you do need that protection. We are still learning what we need for these kind of boats which are not very comfortable.”

Caro wins the 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race

Max Klink (right) and tactician Adrian Stead (left) plus the Caro crew with the Rolex Fastnet Race overall winner's trophy - the Fastnet Challenge Cup © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com Max Klink (right) and tactician Adrian Stead (left) plus the Caro crew with the Rolex Fastnet Race overall winner's trophy - the Fastnet Challenge Cup © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

Max Klink’s Botin 52 Caro has been crowned overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race. After being confirmed as winner of IRC Zero yesterday, no other boat still racing on the 695 nautical mile course can catch the Swiss boat for overall honours in the 50th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s offshore classic. 

The fact that the opening 12 hours of the race were so bruising, with winds gusting close to 40 knots and boat-breaking seas off the south coast of England, made victory all the sweeter for Klink and his crew of professional sailors as they admired the great names that have gone before them, engraved on the base of the Fastnet Challenge Cup.

“This is a legendary group of sailors who I have been fortunate to sail with for a few years now,” said the Swiss owner, “but when we set out on this race I never expected that we could win. It’s a dream come true, and all the more special that this is the 50th edition of such an iconic race.

“The first 12 hours we were just in survival mode, trying not to break anything, trying to keep the boat at 100 per cent. I wasn’t thinking about any title or trophy, it was just about getting through the conditions.”

Klink used to race a 65-footer but is very happy to have taken a step down in the size range, and arguably a step up in the level of competition.

The first 12 hours of the race were bruising, with winds gusting close to 40 knots and boat-breaking seas off the south coast of England © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.comThe first 12 hours of the race were bruising, with winds gusting close to 40 knots and boat-breaking seas off the south coast of England © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

“The 50-footers are so competitive now and the racing is so close,” said Klink, mindful of how close they might have been to suffering a similar fate as Rán 8, former Fastnet winner Niklas Zennström’s CF520 which pulled out of the first race due to structural problems.

“The line [between success and failure], it’s very close. But boats like Caro and Rán are built for the tough conditions. You just have to remember there are times to slow the boat down, not do anything stupid, and that’s where the experience of these guys comes in.

“At one point we just had everyone in the cockpit, no one was hiking. And keeping the boat speed to no more than six knots and trying to just get through this really bad sea state.”

Caro enjoyed a dream run back from the Isles of Scilly © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.comCaro enjoyed a dream run back from the Isles of Scilly © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

© ROLEX/Carlo BorlenghiWinning the Fastnet Challenge Cup was the culmination of months of preparation and training © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

Tactician Adrian Stead, twice a winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race with Zennström and past Rán campaigns, hadn’t competed in the race for 10 years. So the British professional was delighted to have come back with another victory. Working with young Australian navigator Andy Green, competing in his first Rolex Fastnet Race, the extensive homework Stead had undertaken in researching the nooks and crannies of the Dorset, Devon and Cornish coastlines more than 20 years earlier for the Admiral’s Cup had come back into play in Caro’s bid to make every second and every inch of the race course count in their favour.

“Things like being in under the Lizard in the back-eddy that might save you five minutes further up the track, we worked hard on those details,” said Stead, who paid tribute to Green’s ability to master the tricky race course at his first attempt. “Andy did great work around the course, particularly through the big current on the final run into the finish.

“Also I think the practice run we did on the Wednesday before the race, out in the Solent in 25 knots of breeze, that was a useful preparation for everyone on the team to get our heads in the game. Practising the starting, and then a full circuit of the Isle of Wight, a good seven-hour shakedown for all of us and the boat.” The multiple dummy runs at the start paid off with an excellent start out of the Cowes line last Saturday. “We had all our rivals under control out of the start and it’s always good for the team spirit when you’re leading out of the Solent,” said Stead. “But then we lost the wand off the top of the mast in the Portland tidal race and we lost all our wind instruments, so we were running blind.” Then, when the bowman went up the rig to replace the wand, he discovered the cable had been mashed due to the earlier breakage, so the crew had to complete the rest of the race sailing by the seat of their pants, without critical instruments and mostly data-free.

However, Stead admits they had the dream run back from the Isles of Scilly.

“We pretty much straightlined it all the way and we realised we had a very good shot at winning IRC Zero so pulled out all the stops, got out some extra chocolate bars and had everyone hiking hard on the rail for the last few hours into the finish. We were fortunate how the weather worked out for us, but I think we did a great job of preparation and keeping ourselves in the game for as long as possible and we are so pleased how it all paid off.”

The winning crew on Caro are: William Parker, Wade Morgan, Ryan Godfrey, Justin Ferris, Jono Swain, James Paterson, Harry Hall, Cian Guilfoyle, Andrew McCorquodale, Andy Green, Adrian Stead and owner Max Klink.

By Andy Rice

IRC Two Update I 17:00 26 July

JPK 1030 Juzzy has muscled in to the top three of IRC Two, making for a thrilling finale to the race in this competitive class © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com JPK 1030 Juzzy has muscled in to the top three of IRC Two, making for a thrilling finale to the race in this competitive class © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

Three-way fight for the top

Thomas Bonnier and David Prono’s JPK 1030 Juzzy have wrestled their way into contention for top honours in IRC Two. Yesterday the tussle for IRC Two was a close match race between J/99 Axe Sail sailed by Maxime Mesnil and Hugo Feydit and the fully crewed J/120 Hey Jude skippered by Philippe Girardin. Now Juzzy’s arrival has turned the battle into a three-way fight with just 15 minutes separating these teams on corrected time.

Current estimates suggest the pace setters should cross the finish around early to mid-morning on Thursday, although there are the notorious currents and tidal flows around the Channel Islands and the coast of Normandy yet to be negotiated.

Fans of the yachts and sailors come in different guises and places, including Robert O'Leary and Sandy the dog who took a ride out to the Fastnet Rock to cheers on the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo. Skippered by Denis Murphy, the crew are all from Royal Cork YC including the boat’s co-owner, Rear Admiral Anna Marie Fegan.

A unique spot for a dog walk to watch the fleet A unique spot for a dog walk to watch the fleet

By Andy Rice

Allegra dominates again with consecutive MOCRA class win

Owner Adrian Keller and crew celebrate their victory in the MOCRA multihull class © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com Owner Adrian Keller and crew celebrate their victory in the MOCRA multihull class © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

Adrian Keller’s 84ft Irens catamaran Allegra finished at 22:35:25 BST on Monday 24th July to defend her title in the MOCRA multihull class. Under MOCRA corrected time she finished 2 hours 15 minutes 12 seconds ahead of American Ken Howery's Gunboat 68 Tosca.

The fastest yachtsman on the planet Paul Larsen, racing skipper on board, described their Rolex Fastnet Race:

“The start was fantastic - it was a Who’s Who. With so many boats on that start line, it was really special. We wanted to represent the company we were in and show what Allegra was capable of, so we put the hammer down from the start. We wanted to push hard in those conditions, to make a lead that would force the competition to possibly make a mistake, as we know Allegra is a strong boat. 

“Before Hurst Castle we were possibly carrying too much sail, so we furled away exiting the Solent as the squalls hit. We didn’t unfurl it until Falmouth. We weren’t sure if it was in good shape, but it was, and we put the hammer down again. 

“Coming down to the Isles of Scilly we were doing 32 knots and pulling away from Tosca. In those conditions, Allegra is the faster boat and we were trying to get the biggest lead that we could. After the Fastnet it built - we were really fast down to Cherbourg, the speed was relentless, smoking along, sitting at 22-24 knots.”

Owner Adrian Keller commented:

“I was praying for this lady (Allegra) - it was very rough and tough. We did have a long period where we lost the wind and we saw Tosca coming closer and closer, that was almost harder. Congratulations to them, they had a great race too. In the end, the wind came up and we had a lovely ride into Cherbourg, and it is wonderful to be here. The Allegra crew has been together for seven years and that makes the difference.”

Adrian Keller’s 84ft Irens catamaran Allegra has defended her title in the MOCRA multihull class © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.comAdrian Keller’s 84ft Irens catamaran Allegra has defended her title in the MOCRA multihull class © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

Mini/Figarist youngsters are Rolex Fastnet Race Class40 worthy winners

After an intense contest it was eventually Erwan Le Draoulec’s Everial, a 2022 vintage Verdier-designed Pogo S4, that prevailed © Nicolas Touzé / Arrivée Fastnet Cherbourg After an intense contest it was eventually Erwan Le Draoulec’s Everial, a 2022 vintage Verdier-designed Pogo S4, that prevailed © Nicolas Touzé / Arrivée Fastnet Cherbourg

While there was some serious 40ft competition and much new hardware in IRC Zero, some of the most impressive offshore racers of this size were competing in the Class40. Remarkably after 20 years of existence, boats still come from a variety of different designers and builders and it produces some of the tightest racing outside of the Rolex Fastnet Race’s IRC fleet. While there was a clear leader to the Rock, the downwind passage to Bishop Rock levelled the playing field before negotiating a complex route east, the eventually winner only emerged as the fat-bowed offshore speedsters negotiated the Channel Islands and the final run into the Cherbourg finish. 

After this intense contest it was eventually former Mini Transat winner Erwan Le Draoulec’s Everial, a 2022 vintage Verdier-designed Pogo S4, that prevailed. The young crew of four (Le Draoulec, plus Julien Herey, Pep Costa and Robin Follin, with an average age between them of just 26) finished at 23:52:02 on Tuesday in an elapsed time of 3 days 10 hours 22 minutes 2 seconds. This bettered the record set in 2021 by Antoine Magré's Palanad 3 of 3 days 10 hours 27 minutes 25 seconds by a mere five minutes and 23 seconds. 

They were followed at 00:02:53 this morning by Ambrogio Beccaria and Nicolas Andrieu on Alla Grande Pirelli and at 00:06:17 by Dékuple, raced by William Mathelin-Moreaux and another Italian, Pietro Luciani. However Alla Grande Pirelli was one of eight boats that had been called OCS at the start on Saturday (in addition to her was another Italian race favourite, IBSA, plus Edenred-Enjoy Racing 2; BT Blue Alternative Sailing; Zeiss-Weecycling and La Manche évidence nautique plus two boats that subsequently retired - TrimControl and The 3Bros). 

Renaud Courbon's The3Bros passing the Needles Lighthouse at the start of the race, prior to retiring © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.comRenaud Courbon's The3Bros passing the Needles Lighthouse at the start of the race, prior to retiring © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

Under new rules, instead of having to fight her way back to the line to restart correctly, she had a 120 minute time penalty imposed on her upon finishing. In such a tightly grouped fleet, this was devastating, dropping the Italian race favourites to sixth place. However it served to bump Dékuple up to second. Italian presence on the podium was fortunately maintained by Influence2, a Musa 40 sistership to Alla Grande Pirelli, raced by Andrea Fornaro and Eduardo Blanchi, plus experienced 2005 Mini Transat winner (and past Rolex Fastnet Race Class40 winner) Corentin Douguet.

Exiting the Solent the 21Class40s had split equally between the North Channel and those braving the sea state passing the Needles. Alla Grande Pirelli was among the latter group and first to tack west which, with the wind gusting into the low 40s, put her a nose in front as the two groups reunited off Swanage where the Italians seemed to play the current better. From here the fleet put in a long port tack past Portland Bill right into the coast, just north of Torquay before short tacking to avoid tide around the coast to round Start Point. 

At this point Alla Grande Pirelli led with female duo Amelie Grassi and Anne-Claire Le Berre on La Boulangere Bio a worthy second. En masse the Class40s then put in a long leg out into the Channel before short tacking northwest on the shifts to pass the east side of the TSS at Land's End. 

Alla Grande Pirelli was one of eight boats that had been called OCS at the start on Saturday, the 120 point penalty dropping the Italians to sixth place © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.comAlla Grande Pirelli was one of eight boats that had been called OCS at the start on Saturday, the 120 minute time penalty, dropping the Italians to sixth place © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

Crossing the Celtic Sea, the boat initially headed north with Alla Grande Pirelli further west with La Boulangere Bio furthest east, with Everial and Influence2 still up with them, as they anticipated a right shift on which to tack for the Rock. Being on the 'inside' Alla Grande Pirelli made the best of this, slowly extended to round the rock at 09:35:37 on Monday, followed  18 minutes 41 seconds later by La Boulangere Bio with Everial a further 8 minutes 17 seconds behind. The first eight boats rounded within 25 minutes.  

Heading due south from the Rock on starboard gybe for 80 miles Alla Grande Pirelli remained out in front, with five boats immediately astern and Dékuple out to the east. At this point the Class40s were trail-blazing, sitting on 18 knots non-stop. Timing of the gybe back east was key and Pirelli appeared to nail the layline to Bishop Rock, however the leaders seemed to have a change of heart, gybing south, eventually passing 20 miles south of the Isles of Scilly TSS. After continual gybes, Alla Grande Pirelli had lost her advantage trying to remain the most southerly boat. 

“It was difficult there, because you had to sail a lot of miles, but it was good in the end because the wind filled in from the south first and we had a good angle to come back in on,” explained Ambrogio Beccaria later.

The trio of her plus Everial and Dékuple would end up finishing first into Cherbourg. At this point Everial was just to the north and, in what would prove her ‘race winning manoeuvre’, was first to gybe northeast, crossing everyone coming back on starboard. From there she led, the tide having just turned in her favour, shaving the north coast of Guernsey and on close around Cap de le Hague to the finish, where she arrived two miles ahead.

Everial finished on Tuesday in an elapsed time of 3 days 10 hours 22 minutes 2 seconds setting a new Class40 record © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.comEverial finished on Tuesday in an elapsed time of 3 days 10 hours 22 minutes 2 seconds setting a new Class40 record © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

The hotly contested, tightly knit ‘hunting in a pack’ type racing in the Class40 today resembles that of the Figaro class. This comes as little surprise as many have competed in that, including winner le Draoulec (who after winning the 2017 Mini Transat, at the tender age of 20, did three seasons before joining the Class40) and several of his crew. Le Droulec won despite this being his first Rolex Fastnet Race, although like other Mini and Figaro sailors he has rounded the Fastnet rock countless times in other races.

“We knew it would be a hard race – and that’s true!” he commented. “It had complicated conditions and strong winds. It was not easy to get out of the Solent. The first night and the first day were hard but the team is good and the boat is strong. We had no problem – it was perfect.”

Of their taking the lead at the Channel Islands, Everial crewman Robin Follin commented:

“We were just faster downwind. It is funny, because you see all the competition between the different designs, but all at similar speeds - that’s why this class is absolutely crazy.”

Everial's young skipper Erwin Le Draoulec with his competitor Alla Grande Pirelli's Ambrogio Beccaria © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.comEverial's young skipper Erwan Le Draoulec (left) with his competitor Alla Grande Pirelli's Ambrogio Beccaria (right) © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

On second placed Dékuple, Pietro Luciani was racing his fifth Rolex Fastnet Race on a Class40. He commented:

“The first half of the race was tough, especially in the Channel – it was not huge, but it was rough. We had no idea of the wind speed because at the Needles we lost our anemometer. That was tough doublehanded because we couldn’t use the autopilot in the ‘true wind mode’, which would have been useful in a race with a lot of VMG where you use the ‘true wind mode’ mostly.”

Luciani noted that the run back from the Fastnet Race had been incredible as they had managed to sail the entire rest of the course under their big kite – useful with just two of them on board, even allowing them to get some rest. 

Wearing his Class40 Vice-President hat Luciani concluded:

“It is true that newer boat are more demanding and probably tougher on the crew, but it is still very approachable. It is a very successful class and we are very proud of it. And we keep on giving a nice show, because the fight in the C40 class in this race again was brilliant. We were so close to each other.”

Meanwhile... the first IRC One arrivals are due this evening.

Read Andy Rice's IRC Two update: Three-way fight for the top of IRC Two

and Louay Habib's IRC Three update - Isles of Scilly Ahoy!

and Louay Habib's IRC Four update - Heading south

By James Boyd

IRC Zero Update: 14:00 26 Jul

RORC Commodore James Neville's brand new Carkeek 45 Ino Noir has enjoyed a good first half to the Rock but the run back towards the Isles of Scilly just didn’t deliver what was needed for a race-winning performance © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi RORC Commodore James Neville's brand new Carkeek 45 Ino Noir has enjoyed a good first half to the Rock but the run back towards the Isles of Scilly just didn’t deliver what was needed for a race-winning performance © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

Return of the Commodores

Behind the duel of the rival 52-footers, with ultimate victory by Max Klink’s Botin 52 Caro over Chris Sheehan’s Warrior Won, other contenders in IRC Zero have now completed the Fastnet race course.

Philippe Frantz’s NMD43 Albator came in third on corrected time ahead of Louis Balcaen’s Swan 50OD Balthasar, with the 2021 runner-up James Neville bringing his new Carkeek 45 Ino Noir home in fifth place. Neville, Commodore of RORC, arrived in Cherbourg in the early hours of the morning with a boat that was in pretty much exactly the same condition as when they set out four days earlier from that windy Cowes start line. A broken mainsail batten was about the worst of the damage, a remarkable feat for a thoroughbred which has only been afloat a few short months.

Louis Balcaen’s Swan 50OD Balthasar finished 4th in IRC Zero © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.comLouis Balcaen’s Swan 50OD Balthasar finished 4th in IRC Zero © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

A veteran of nine editions of the race, Neville said the crew had practised sailing with the trysail as a precautionary measure.

“We had very few on the boat who had sailed a significant beat with a trysail, so we had been practising using it even in no wind. Which was not ideal, but at least we knew what to do. We didn’t know how to sheet it in strong winds until we got to the race but just guessed at it until we worked it out. We probably sailed with the trysail for a good five hours so it was time well spent getting used to it.”

Ino Noir’s performance up to the Fastnet Rock didn’t go unnoticed by Adrian Stead, part of the winning crew on Caro. “We knew Ino Noir would be about as quick as us downwind and we were a bit worried about them,” he said. Neville was certainly pleased with the boat’s performance on the way across the Celtic Sea. “We knew we just wanted to get north as fast as possible and we judged our point to tack really well. It was a very good race up to the Rock.”

Neville was pleased to have rounded the Fastnet Rock in good company, with Class 40s and even some of the IMOCAs. But the run back towards the Isles of Scilly just didn’t deliver what Ino Noir needed for a race-winning performance, and there wasn’t much they could do about it.

“We were second at the Rock, which shows the great potential of the boat, but it’s more of a reaching boat and not so much for VMG windward-leeward style sailing, and we didn’t get what we needed. But It’s a fantastic boat and we’ve got lots to learn, to take forward for future races.”

RORC’s Vice Commodore Eric De Turckheim it was also a game of two halves on board the NMD54 Teasing Machine © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.comRORC’s Vice Commodore Eric De Turckheim it was also a game of two halves on board the NMD54 Teasing Machine © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

For RORC’s Vice Commodore Eric De Turckheim it was also a game of two halves on board the NMD54 Teasing Machine.

“We ran out of breeze on the final day, we knew the light weather was coming in from behind. We were at the Fastnet with Warrior Won, very close to Caro as well, but already on the way down they had better winds than we did. We were on the same track but they were further ahead.

"That was the difference at Land’s End – they did a straight line and we did not. They made it through the gate…it happens, that’s racing for you. We’ve had plenty of very good races here where we were on the lucky end of it and this time we were not! But we are very happy with the performance overall, especially right up to the Fastnet, we were right there with them all the way.

“We had everything during this race. Today at some point we had 2 knots of wind. On the first night it was 30-35 knots, wind against current. It was not the most comfortable place to be. I’ve had it before, on this boat, and on the previous Teasing Machine we’ve had some serious storms, particularly the Rolex Sydney Hobart. It’s part of racing. You’re not looking for it, but it’s part of it.”

Arto Linnervuo skippered his Infiniti 52 Tulikettu to 10th in IRC Zero and he was delighted with how his still fairly new 52-footer performed in such testing conditions. “The only damage we had was a halyard lock for our J5 headsail, which was a pity because we were going well with that sail but had to switch to a different setup after that,” he said. The other disappointment was not getting much opportunity to deploy the DSS foil out of the side of the hull. On the way up to the Fastnet Rock the wind opened up a little bit to 80 or 90 degrees, but it was not quite proper reaching. "We had the foil out for five or six hours and, when we were able to use it, it lifted the speed from 13 or 14 knots to 23 knots. It was a great feeling as we saw the navigation lights of the other boats disappear behind us.”

While the Fastnet race course didn’t yield the best of conditions for Tulikettu on this occasion, Linnervuo is confident that the Infiniti 52 will have her day at some point.

“This is an ‘all or nothing’ kind of boat, and I’m an ‘all or nothing’ kind of guy with everything I do in sailing and and in life, so I’m looking forward to having our day with this boat.”

By Andy Rice

IRC Four Update I 11:00 BST 26 July

Still life in the old girl yet: Paul Moxon's crew onboard Amokura are having a blast on the 84 years old yawl Still life in the old girl yet: Paul Moxon's crew onboard Amokura are having a blast on the 84 years old yawl

Heading South

By 11:00 BST on day five of the Rolex Fastnet Race, all bar three boats in IRC Four that are racing have rounded the Fastnet Lighthouse. Still to round the most northerly mark of the course are Robert Marchant’s Fulmar Fever (IRL) from Waterford, Sagitta 35 Ugly Duckling (GBR) skippered by George Beevor, and Pierre Legoupil’s Illingworth & Primrose 33ft Classic Le Loup Rouge (FRA), which is from Cherbourg.

During the early hours of today a westerly wind has kicked in from the Atlantic Ocean to produce fast reaching conditions. The leaders in IRC Four accelerated in the fresh westerly with the pack of three leading boats hitting double-digit boat speed. The wind is increasing for the IRC Four fleet behind but, for now, the rich are getting richer.

Marc Willame’s JPK 960 Elma (FRA), racing doublehanded with Antoine Jeu leads on the water. Chris and Vanessa Choules’ Sigma 38 With Alacrity (GBR) is second just ahead of Samuel Dumenil and Antoine Runet racing Casamyas (FRA). After IRC time correction, the provisional leader is With Alacrity by just seven minutes from Elma after 250 miles of racing. Casamyas is ranked third, an hour and a half behind the leaders after IRC time correction. The dark horse is Francois Charles Dehler 33 Sun Hill III, as they are manually giving position reports after a YB tracker malfunction. The competition is IRC Four is as fierce as in any of the IRC classes as Chris Choules on With Alacrity admitted: “At 21:57 (25 July) we rounded the Fastnet Rock in close company with Casamyas with perhaps a little luff!”

With Alacrity, Vanessa and Chris Choules' Sigma 38, is leading class by just seven minutes from Elma © ROLEX/Carlo BorlenghiWith Alacrity, Vanessa and Chris Choules' Sigma 38, is leading class by just seven minutes from Elma © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

The 50ft Fred Shepherd yawl Amokura, skippered by Paul Moxon, has made it to the Fastnet Rock!

Amokura was built in Moody’s Hamble UK in 1939 and now calls Dartmouth, Devon her home. The 50ft Fred Shepherd yawl competed in the 1959 Fastnet Race and in the 2019 edition but completed neither. In 2021, Amokura finally crossed the finish line for the race she was built for. At 84 years old Amokura is one of the oldest boats in this year’s race and is fully crewed this year.

“The only damage to report is our IRC Four pennant is a bit torn after a wild first night,” laughed Paul as the Amokura crew tucked into a lamb curry at the Fastnet Lighthouse. "Amokura is going really well and the crew are all unscathed and smiling. It looks like a windy beam to broad reach is likely as we head south which is dream territory for Amokura. She may be 20 tons, but when she gets going in those conditions with the Atlantic swell set up for the right direction, she is an absolute joy to sail. See you in Cherbourg!”

By Louay Habib

IRC Three Update I 09:00 26 July

Gorilon, Emigdio Bedia's J/99 passed the Fastnet Rock in glassy conditions but is now progressing north of the Land's End TSS © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Gorilon, Emigdio Bedia's J/99 passed the Fastnet Rock in glassy conditions but is now progressing north of the Land's End TSS © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

Isles of Scilly Ahoy!

By 09:00 BST on day five of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the leaders in IRC Three were closing in on the Isle of Scilly, preparing to gybe east for the final push to the finish in Cherbourg. The breeze built from the west during the night to give a fast broad reach. All bar one boat racing in IRC Three has rounded the Fastnet Lighthouse; Gian Paolo’s Hanse 400 Dansen Aan Zee (NED) from Stellendam is expected to reach the famous landmark later today.

The lead boats have all opted for a direct heading towards the Isles of Scilly but some tactical decisions are required as they approach the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS). The majority of the boats are lined up to race south of the west of the Isles of Scilly TSS, however several boats are lined up to take a short-cut, passing to the north of the exclusion zone including: Emigdio Bedia’s J/99 Gorilon, Benoit Rousselin’s JPK 1010 Delnic, and Pascal PY’s Sun Fast 3200 Lemancello. The final part of the race for the leading boats looks almost dead downwind, for a tactically demanding finale.

Ludovic Menahes' JPK 1010 ADEOSYS is currently sitting third in IRC Three behind fellow doublehanded competitors Cora and Les P'tits Doudous en Duo © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.comLudovic Menahes' JPK 1010 ADEOSYS is currently sitting third in IRC Three behind fellow doublehanded competitors Cora and Les P'tits Doudous en Duo © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

Gautier Normand’s A35 Locmalo (FRA) still leads on the water by approximately seven miles, yet three teams racing doublehanded top the IRC Three rankings. Sun Fast 3200 Cora (GBR) raced by Tim Goodhew and Kelvin Matthews is in pole position after IRC time correction by about an hour from Romain Gibon’s JPK 1010 Les P'tits Doudous en Duo (FRA), which is hanging on to second by just five minutes from Ludovic Menahes’ JPK 1010 ADEOSYS.

49 teams are still racing in IRC Three with two additional retirements in the last 24 hours.

The leading teams are expected to finish the Rolex Fastnet Race tomorrow late morning Thursday 27th July.

By Louay Habib

Endurance Test I 25 July

© ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo © ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo

With a record fleet of 430 yachts starting from Cowes, England, on 22 July, the 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race confirmed the offshore classic’s position as the largest race of its kind.

#RolexFastnetRace @RORCracing

 
follow us