British yachts fight back in the Fastnet Race
In 2019 the rest of the world was embarrassed that France ‘owned’ the Rolex Fastnet Race, winning nine out of 10 classes, although the American team Wizard broke the French race for overall victories in the race that had lasted since 2013.
Ironic now that the 2021 race ends in Cherbourg, the French boats may have lost their grip on several key territories within the first Royal Ocean Racing Club event. Yes, there is no chance that British or international teams will make an impression on the French Grands Prix with Cammas and Caudrelier aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild having stitched the Ultime/Open Multihull class in as dominant a manner as Dalin and Meilhat on Apivia this morning in the IMOCA class.
But right now in the IRC fleet there are two British and one German boats doing well for the IRC Zero podium, and two Britons and a Swede for the top three spots in IRC One. IRC Two sees another Briton hold a comfortable lead over a Dutch boat, with a French boat third. Significantly, a British boat looks strong to claim the coveted Fastnet Challenge Cup for overall IRC victory, but at this point no lead is insurmountable.
The situation changes in the lower grades. There is an all-French podium in IRC 3, with two Britons still pulling hard, while, again, in IRC, four French boats occupy two of the podium places, separated by a Dutch boat. Despite the rise of the British doubles scene, France hold six of the top seven spots in IRC Two-Handed.
Tala looks strong in IRC Zero
With Nicolas Groleau’s Bretagne Telecom absent this year, David Collins therefore steered his Botin 52 Tala across the finish line this afternoon with strong grip on IRC Zero and remaining well in contention for a place on the podium in the overall IRC standings, finishing at 16:42 BST in 3 days 5 hours 2 minutes and 49 seconds, Tala beat Germany’s Jens Kellinghusen’s Ker 56 Varuna by just over two hours in corrected time. Quietly confident, Collins & Co are keeping tabs on Richard Matthews’ brand new CF520 racing machine, the Oystercatcher XXXV, due to arrive tonight, but it looks unlikely to knock Tala down.
Collins was pleased with the way they had approached the race: “The first leg was very difficult, but this boat has had some bad weather before. The waves were short and steep, but the crew took good care of the boat. We sometimes had double reefs because we were hitting the waves hard. Then the next part of the race was fascinating – tactically very difficult. This is where Tala’s navigator, Campbell Field, made his living: “Campbell made some great calls, like working on how to pass that last TSS zone, finding some counter-intuitive moves that went really well. worked for us.”
As for Tala’s chances of winning the overall race, Collins was philosophical: “We did what we came to do, which was to try to win our class. For the rest, all the boats sail on a different part of the ocean, experiencing different tides and winds. What we do know is that whoever wins the general classification will have sailed his boat very well.
Other potential challengers for IRC One include Störtebeker, the Hamburg-based Carkeek 47 skippered by Katrina Westphal, and Lady First 3, the Mylius 60 skippered by Frenchman Jean Pierre Dreau.
Strong Polish performance in IRC Zero
In the Celtic Sea, Polish entries were strong for the IRC Zero win, but the last hundred miles to the finish saw them slow down and drop in the standings. Nevertheless, the VO70 I Love Poland and the VO65 Sailing Poland have brought performance offshore sailing back to the fore in their country. The crew of Grzegorz Baranowski’s VO70 is mainly made up of sailors under 30 years old. For the Rolex Fastnet Race, they had the added experience of British Figaro veteran Alan Roberts and former Volvo Ocean Race winner Martin Strömberg.
26-year-old sailor Konrad Lipski explained the aims of I Love Poland: “Its aim is to bring young sailors with solid experience in youth racing, Olympic or otherwise, and give them the opportunity to ‘gain experience. Winning line honors in the 2020 Rolex Middle Sea Race was a big milestone, and now a strong performance in the Rolex Fastnet Race brings more credibility and momentum.
VO65 Sailing Poland, which had Bouwe Bekking as guest skipper, runs a similar youth development focus. “It was good to see the 16 and 17 year olds going through this race, sailing well,” said the Volvo Ocean Race veteran. “Maybe the result won’t be as good as it could have been because of the big compression, but it’s offshore racing, there’s nothing you can do about it. Now the boats behind us have the tide against them which is going to be a bit of a pain for some, it may save us some time.
After Apivia’s exceptional IMOCA victory early this morning, the back fleet tightened further as the Vendée Globe 60-footers fell to the Alderney Race. Nonetheless, reigning IMOCA champions Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt on Charal held on to second, despite a tough final challenge from British-Swiss duo Simon Fisher and Justine Mettraux on 11th Hour Racing, who were third just 27 seconds behind. “To push Charal into second place and past Arkea, Paprec was a great result for us in our first double-handed race,” said Fisher, a veteran of the full-crewed round the world, enjoying being skipper for the first time in a major race. “I’m really happy with how it went and how Justine and I are working together. It was a racing belt.
Allegra favorite to claim award in MOCRA class
The Nigel Irens 84 Allegra catamaran, piloted by Adrian Keller, arrived at 11.28am BST this morning and looks set to win the MOCRA award. This follows Allegra’s victory in the multihull class in the last RORC Caribbean 600. Keller commented: “It’s a happy moment. A week before the race I wasn’t even sure if I could get into England because of the restrictions, so getting to the start line was great and the result was fantastic. “I think we have now proven that Allegra is more than a floating apartment and demonstrated that this type of boat can race and hold its own against racing designs. It was my first [Rolex Fastnet] race, and it was very exciting. I have a lot of respect for the course. The start was very windy and coming out of Hurst Castle it got really rough. However, I will remember the Fastnet lighthouse – in total darkness, but you could see that light. It will be the memory of a lifetime.
While Oren Nataf’s fast Pulsar 50 Rayon Vert catamaran has made up a lot of ground in the past 24 hours, she was nearly two hours behind Allegra’s corrected time.
Change of leader in Class40
In the early hours of the morning, the reigning Class40 champion of Luke Berry, Lamotte – Module Création, was rolled across the Celtic Sea en route to Bishop Rock by Antoine Magre’s Palanad 3. Magre’s new Sam Manuard Mach 40.4 design was then able to extend, passing Bishop Rock around 05:00. Since then, Berry has also had to look over his shoulder to defend against Swiss Valentin Gautier on Banque Du Leman (another Mach 40.4). Approaching from the western side of the TSS Helmets, Berry has managed to claw back some ground but is hoping for a last-ditch saloon opportunity by playing the tides south of Alderney.
RORC Commodore James Neville and his HH42 INO XXX appear to have blitzed on IRC One and are due to arrive late tonight, also currently with a good chance of winning the overall prize this year. During the day, Andrew Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra and Mark Emerson’s A13 Phosphorus II (ex-Teasing Machine) performed well, as did the 73-foot ketch Stormvogel van de Stadt.
In IRC Two, Tom Kneen’s JPK 11.80 Sunrise, piloted by a crew of RORC youths, passed Bishop Rock around 2.30pm BST and was making good progress on the way to the finish after extending its lead to 40 miles over the sistership Il Corvo of the Dutch Astrid de Vin. The biggest risers today have been Bernard Wilmet and Yannick Grecourt’s Hanse 470e and Ross Applebey’s Lightwave 48. The majority of IRC Two will pass Bishop Rock tonight. However, a significant weather feature will affect boats around the Scillies this evening as a front rolls in, bringing strong south-westerly winds ahead of it, but weak north-westerly winds behind it.
Meanwhile, the leaders of IRC Three are approaching the TSS due west of the Isles of Scilly and appear ready to leave it to port. The tightest fight among the leaders of any class exists here with defending champions Alexis Loison and Guillaume Pirouelle’s JPK 1030 Léon ahead but with several others in contention. Best progress eastward today are British duo Henry Bomby, Volvo Ocean Race sailor, and double Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson on the Sun Fast 3300 Swell.
This afternoon the IRC Four leaders were two-thirds of the way between Fastnet Rock and Bishop Rock at 7 knots. Here, David le Goff’s JPK 10.10 Raphael continues to lead both on the water and in corrected time. However, the battle is really on for second place with François Charles’ Dehler 33 Cruising Sun Hill 3 currently in second place ahead of Harry J. Heijst’s S&S 41 Winsome.