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Day Three: Raphael leads IRC Four at Land's End

Francois Charles’ Dehler 36 Sun Hill 3 racing in IRC Four ©Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com Francois Charles’ Dehler 36 Sun Hill 3 racing in IRC Four © Paul Wyeth/www.pwpictures.com

0700 BST 10 August

By the morning of the third day of the Rolex Fastnet Race all of the boats still racing in IRC Four had passed Lyme Bay. The leaders on the water have made Land’s End and are readying themselves to pass the Isles of Scilly and into the Celtic Sea. Ludovic Menahes & David le Goff, racing JPK 10.10 Raphael are still leading on the water; an admirable achievement for one of the smallest boats in the race as well as sailing doublehanded. Harry Heijst’s S&S 41 Winsome has recorded the best 24-hour run in the class and is second on the water having skirted close to the exclusion zone overnight.

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Maxi Edmond de Rothschild establishes new Rolex Fastnet Race record

The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crew celebrate their latest victory. © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild crew celebrate their latest victory. © Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

The extraordinary 32m long Ultime Maxi Edmond de Rothschild showed a clean pair of heels to the rest of the fleet in the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race arriving this evening (Monday 9 August) at 20:24:54 BST, setting a new record for the race’s new longer 695 mile course to Cherbourg of 1 days 9 hours 15 minutes and 54 seconds.

As the huge blue and white trimaran arrived in Cherbourg’s Port Chantereyne, the marina was packed with cheering fans of the team and of its famous crew of six led by co-skippers Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier. Also on board were David Boileau, Erwan Israel, Morgan Lagraviere and Yann Riou.

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Skorpios fends off Apivia to be first monohull to the Rock

Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev’s brand new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios became the first monohull to round southwest Ireland’s most famous rock this evening © James Tomlinson Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev’s brand new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios became the first monohull to round southwest Ireland’s most famous rock this evening © James Tomlinson

Almost 10 hours after the lead Ultime trimaran, Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev’s brand new ClubSwan 125 Skorpios became the first monohull to round southwest Ireland’s most famous rock this evening. Due to this year’s mostly upwind conditions being more ‘typically Rolex Fastnet Race’, even the massively fast Skorpios, was unable to better the record monohull time to the Fastnet Rock of 26 hours 45 minutes 47 seconds, set in 2019 by George David’s Rambler 88. Skorpios’ time was 30 hours 38 minutes 43 seconds.

Skorpios rounded just astern of the final Ultime trimaran, the Jacek Siwek-skippered elongated ORMA 60, Ultim’emotion 2, but of more concern was a boat less than half her length nipping at her heels. Although racing outside of the IRC fleet, Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat on the 60ft IMOCA Apivia have done a phenomenal job leading the IMOCA fleet since they charged out of the blustery Solent 24 hours ago. Approaching the Fastnet Rock, the talented Frenchmen, both past class winners in this event, were leading the IMOCA class, 35 miles ahead of second placed Charal, the defending IMOCA champion, sailed by Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt. 

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Day Two: French retirements open up the competition in IRC One

Rob Bottomley's MAT12 Sailplane is second on the water to Matador. © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Rob Bottomley's MAT12 Sailplane is second on the water to Matador. © Rick Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

1800 BST Monday 09 August

The demise of some of the leading contenders in IRC One has thrown the division wide open. As the bulk of this fleet passed the Lizard and closes in on the Land’s End TSS, on corrected time Matador and Sailplane were neck and neck with barely a minute between them. 

On the water, Jonas Grander’s Elliot 44 CR, Matador, is 25 miles in front of Rob Bottomley’s Mat 12, Sailplane, with the Swedish team having already passed Land’s End and moving up the northerly side of the TSS zone, just two miles behind INO XXX, the IRC One frontrunner in terms of distance to the finish. Twice winner of "Offshore sailor of the year" in Sweden, Matador’s crew has competed in several editions of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, the Rolex Middle Sea Race, RORC Caribbean 600 and two Rolex Fastnet Races. So it’s no surprise to see the Swedes near the front in such a challenging first 24 hours at sea.

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Day Two: Pole Position for Baranowski in Big Boat Bonanza

I Love Poland has had an excellent start to the race, currently leading IRC Overall. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com I Love Poland has had an excellent start to the race, currently leading IRC Overall. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

1630 BST Monday 09 August

Just over 24 hours into the race and the heavy weather has made it a big boat bonanza in the race out to the Rock. The Volvo Open 70, I Love Poland, holds the lead in IRC Zero by just over three hours on corrected time. Grzegorz Baranowski’s Polish crew, the line honours winner from the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race, is also at the head of IRC Overall. 

The VO70 may be more than 70 nautical miles behind Skorpios on the water, but in terms of corrected time the Poles are doing well on the long port fetch out to the Fastnet Rock, considering the lack of waterline length compared with the two boats ahead of her. Rambler 88 is second overall under IRC, more than four hours ahead of her giant rival for line honours, the ClubSwan 125 Skorpios. Also vying for the top three in IRC Zero is Germany boat Varuna, Jen’s Kellinghusen’s Ker 56. 

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Day two: Gruelling First 24 Hours for IRC 3 and 4

Leon and Swell cross swords. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com Leon and Swell cross swords. © James Tomlinson/www.rick-tomlinson.com

BST 1000 09 August

IRC Three

73 teams started the Rolex Fastnet Race in IRC Three. However, the feisty conditions have resulted in 14 boats retiring or discontinuing racing. After beating in close quarters in the Solent, the fleet braced themselves for even bigger conditions across Poole Bay. The first big headland of the race was Portland Bill, and there was a split decision in strategy to round the landmark. Alexis Loison & Guillaume Pirouelle, racing JPK 1030 Léon, led the boats on the water inshore at Portland. Offshore, a pack of three boats led the contingent: Philippe Girardin’s J/120 Hey Jude, Denis Murphy & Annamarie Fegan’s Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo and the Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 British Soldier, skippered by Philip Caswell.

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Ultimes round the Rock as the majority tackle Start Point

Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was first round the Fastnet Rock at 0800 BST in the Rolex Fastnet Race © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was first round the Fastnet Rock at 0800 BST in the Rolex Fastnet Race © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

Despite a blustery start and first night at sea in the 49th Rolex Fastnet Race, competitors have been making good progress west down the English Channel, with the bulk of the fleet at breakfast time this morning south of Start Point.

Since yesterday’s dramatic, brutal departure from the Solent for the 337 entries in 25+ knot southwesterly headwinds and violent wind against tide seas, overnight the wind has slowly eased. It is still gusting to the early 20s, especially around headlands, but is dropping the further west the competitors sail, with 15-20 knots off the Lizard and 13-15 off Land’s End.

While the majority of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is still toughing it out in the Channel, at 0800 BST this morning Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was the first Ultime to reach the Fastnet Rock. While not a record time – in 2019 she led around the Rock at 0633, less than two minutes ahead of Francois Gabart’s MACIF – her time of just 20 hours 50 minutes is almost three hours slower, but nonetheless highly impressive given that this time the boats have been upwind down the Channel and then fetching across the Celtic Sea. This time is also not as close with Thomas Coville’s second placed Sodebo Ultim Voile some 43 miles astern of her.

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Lumpy Solent takes its toll as 49th Rolex Fastnet Race sets sail

A fleet of 337 boats leave the Solent, bound for the Fastnet Rock in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex A fleet of 337 boats leave the Solent, bound for the Fastnet Rock in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
The Rolex Fastnet Race has a reputation for the severe weather that it can throw at its competitors. Still strongly remembered is the 1979 race that cost 19 lives. Today the 49th edition of the 96-year-old offshore racing classic lived up to its fame as the first of seven starts got underway at 15 minute intervals starting at 1100 BST. Over the last three days strong southwesterly winds have been blowing up the Channel and competitors in the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event were treated to these same headwinds gusting into the 30s and, as the tide turned off the Needles and in the western Solent, a building wind-against-tide sea state developed.
 
COVID, international travel restrictions due to COVID, plus Brexit have resulted in this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race being a unique affair. This along with a lively forecast for the race’s first 24 hours caused entries to drop as start day approached. Nonetheless crossing line today off Cowes was still a highly impressive turn-out of 337 boats from 24 nations including Japan, Mexico and eight from the USA, but the majority from Europe, including the largest ever turn-out from France.
 
Despite winds gusting to 35 knots, the starts got away well. Among the multihulls, it was the favourites and defending champions, Volvo Ocean Race winners Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on the Ultime trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild that pulled the trigger most rapidly. They were followed by Thomas Coville’s Sodebo Ultim 3 and the Yves le Blevec-skippered Actual, but with the two MOD70s Maserati and Argo of Giovanni Soldini and Jason Carroll respectively, leading the charge in the MOCRA fleet. Incredibly just three hours after starting the Ultimes had already crossed the Channel and were putting in a tack to the west of Cape de la Hague, setting themselves up unusually to pass south of the Casquets TSS.

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One day to go

The international flotilla has been slowly leaving Cherbourg and other ports on the continent ready to arrive off Cowes prior to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race © RORC The international flotilla has been slowly leaving Cherbourg and other ports on the continent ready to arrive off Cowes prior to the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race © RORC

Like a trial run for tomorrow’s start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, today the Solent has been in blustery mood with an overcast sky, rain and perpetual gusty winds. The forecast for the start of the 49th edition of the world’s largest offshore race remains for winds of 20-25 knots with gusts into the 30s, although the rain is set to subside.

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Big or a small boat race?

The Sun Fast 3200 Cora was top British boat in IRC Four in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick Tomlinson The Sun Fast 3200 Cora was top British boat in IRC Four in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick Tomlinson

The start of the Rolex Fastnet Race will take place from the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes on Sunday, with a first warning signal for the multihull classes at 1100, followed at 15 minute intervals by the IMOCAs/Class40s, and then the five IRC classes starting with IRC Four and finishing with IRC Zero at 1230.

The largest offshore race in the world, the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet represents a complete pantheon of almost 350 yachts, ranging from giant Ultime trimarans and brand new 125ft monohulls, down to 30 footers. Usually, 48 hours out from the start of this race the weather forecast provides some indication of whether it will favour a particular part of the fleet, such as the fastest or slowest boats. Sadly, due to a complex, volatile weather scenario over the southwest United Kingdom, the forecast remains uncertain, and predicting if any part of the fleet could be favoured is far from easy.

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How to follow the race

Watch the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race Watch the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race

WATCH THE STARTS ONLINE - LIVE

The 49th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race starts on Sunday 8th August, 2021 from the Royal Yacht Squadron line, Cowes, UK.

The first warning signal is at 1100 (first start 1110) and the fleet is divided into seven groups, each starting at a different time and heading west down the Solent toward the Needles.

The live streamed Start Show, with commentary from on and off the water, begins at 1030 BST. Expert commentators: Pip Hare, Abby Ehler, Matt Sheahan, Louay Habib and Simon Vigar, will be talking us through all the action from the start of the world's biggest offshore yacht race, with analysis and interviews from competitors and organisers in build-up to the race.

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Bring Your Passport!

Cherbourg is ready and waiting for the arrival of the 350+ boats taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race © JM Enault Cherbourg is ready and waiting for the arrival of the 350+ boats taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race © JM Enault

Right on schedule yesterday, the British government announced the easing of restrictions for visitors from France returning to the UK. Up to that point, due to France’s unique ‘Amber Plus’ designation, visitors to the UK coming from France had to quarantine upon their arrival. For the most part, this will no longer be the case thanks to the latest legislation, which will see France’s COVID status being downgraded to ‘Amber’. Opportunely the new rules will come into effect from 0400 BST on Sunday 8th August coinciding exactly with start day for the Rolex Fastnet Race.

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World’s biggest offshore yacht race starts on Sunday

American George David’s Rambler 88 has won monohull line honours in the last two editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race and will be on the start line in Cowes again this year for the 695nm race to the Fastnet Rock and on to Cherbourg © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex American George David’s Rambler 88 has won monohull line honours in the last two editions of the Rolex Fastnet Race and will be on the start line in Cowes again this year for the 695nm race to the Fastnet Rock and on to Cherbourg © Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

While Cowes Week is taking centre stage on the Solent at present, final preparations are being made for Sunday’s start (8th August) of the world’s biggest offshore yacht race, the Rolex Fastnet Race.

This year, for the first time since the race was first held in 1925, the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s premier event will finish in Cherbourg, France rather than Plymouth. However, this 49th edition of the race will start as usual from Cowes, where the first warning signal for the multihull classes will be given at 1100, followed at 15 minute intervals by the IMOCAs/Class40s and then the five IRC classes starting with IRC Four and finishing with IRC Zero at 1230.

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MOCRA - the ultimate racer cruisers

Oren Nataf’s Pulsar 50 Rayon Vert with a crew including Sidney Gavignet for the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Ed Gifford/RORC Oren Nataf’s Pulsar 50 Rayon Vert with a crew including Sidney Gavignet for the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race © Ed Gifford/RORC

The Ultimes, the world’s fastest offshore racing yachts, may be the pace-setters in next month’s Rolex Fastnet Race with the potential to get around even the new elongated course in less than a day – but not far behind them will be the MOCRA class, mostly racing in considerably more comfort.

Since the MOCRA (Multihull Offshore Cruising and Racing Association) was set up in 1969, multihulls, both catamarans and trimarans, have evolved hugely. Back in the day many of these vessels were often either floating caravans with performance to match, or feather-weight racing machines of questionable construction and engineering. In the intervening decades massive steps forward in design, composite construction and structural engineering and lighter weight everything, from mast tip to foil bottom, have transformed these craft. Today once over the aesthetic differences between monohulls and multihulls, and aware that they can in ultimate circumstances capsize, modern multihulls can simply offer more of everything – dramatically more performance or more space and often both - compared to an equivalent monohull.

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