Rambler 88 broke the monohull record to the Fastnet Rock by 88 minutes when the canting-keeled sloop from New York passed the rock at 16:45:47 this afternoon. George David and his crew have set a new time of 1 day 2 hours 47 minutes, breaking their own record which they set back in 2011 with the bigger Rambler 100 (1 day 4 hours 15 minutes). However, that was the same occasion when the keel fell off the 100-footer, not long after rounding, requiring the crew to be rescued.
David’s crew, which includes multiple America’s Cup winner Brad Butterworth, won’t give much thought to the record until they’re safely back in Plymouth. If they can maintain current form, the outright monohull race record is also on the cards for Rambler 88. Speaking on the satellite phone shortly before they rounded the Fastnet Rock, navigator Jules Salter said they had plenty to keep them occupied, with 25 knots gusting to 30, and big seas to negotiate.
“We’ve just done a peel from the J2 to the J4. We’ve got a wind angle of 115 to 120 which is making it fast - about 23 knots of boat speed - but pretty noisy on board and wet across the deck. The mood is pretty good, everyone’s pretty cool, doing their best, getting stuck in, and getting ready for a busy time coming up as we pass the TSS and the Fastnet.”
After four previous attempts on the line honours victory in the Fastnet Race, could this be David’s year? If the fast-reaching conditions prevail for the rest of the passage back from the Rock to Plymouth, then Rambler should stand a good chance of keeping Scallywag and the rest of the IRC monohull fleet behind them. The other boat in the mix is the ex-Volvo Open 70, Wizard, just seven miles back from Rambler.
On IRC handicap, Wizard holds the lead, with Maxi 72 Sorcha (formerly the two-time Fastnet winner Rán 2) and Jethou (extended over the winter from a 72-footer to 77ft) in second and third place respectively, and Rambler in fourth.
The high-speed conditions are right in Wizard’s sweet spot. Formerly Franck Cammas’ 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race winner Groupama 4, and now owned by Baltimore brothers David and Peter Askew, she was the recent winner of the Transatlantic Race 2019, and the crew includes a few Volvo Ocean Race veterans - Rob Greenhalgh from the UK, two-time skipper Charlie Enright of the USA and Australian navigator Will Oxley.
The front runners in IRC One have around 400 miles to go to the finish.
Well known to the Fastnet Race, the Ker 46 Tonnerre de Glen is just a mile ahead on the water of Ino XXX, James Neville’s HH42 which was sixth overall in the last edition. On handicap Jacques Pelletier’s Milon 41, L’Ange De Milon, heads IRC One at this stage, with the NMD 43, Albator, in second and Ino XXX in third. Albator’s performance is particularly impressive, this being Philippe Frantz’s first attempt on the Rolex Fastnet Race, although not that surprising. The crew comprises a range of experience, from good dinghy racers to a Figaro sailor and previous competitors from the Route du Rhum, America’s Cup, Half Ton Cup and Trophée Jules Verne.
Géry Trentesaux is no stranger to the front of the Fastnet fleet, having won the race in a JPK 10.80 in 2015 and was winner of last year's Rolex Middle Race in his present boat, JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé. In IRC Two Courrier Recommandé is leading on the water with just over 400 miles to the finish, and also leading IRC Two on corrected time. Less than two miles behind the leader and in second place on handicap is a strong Fastnet performer, Jean Claude Nicoleau’s Grand Soleil 43 Codiam. Another mile further back on the water and third on corrected time is Sunrise, a sistership to Courrier Recommandé. Owner of Sunrise is Plymouth-based Tom Kneen who has followed Trentesaux into a JPK 11.80 and is looking very competitive considering he only took up offshore racing five years ago.