Sunday, August 11, 2013

Smooth Start For Rolex Fastnet Race

The 45th Rolex Fastnet Race is underway following the largest and most impressive start in the event’s 87-year history. The 335 yachts set off today on the legendary 611-nautical mile race from Cowes, Isle of Wight to Plymouth via the Fastnet Rock on the southern tip of Ireland.
Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
An overcast, virtually windless morning gave way to increasing sunshine and a gently building breeze in time for the first yachts to start from the Royal Yacht Squadron. The fleet’s fastest boats, the multihulls, featuring Spindrift 2, the largest yacht in attendance at 131-ft, and Banque Populaire were first away and were soon making rapid progress through The Solent teeming with spectator boats.
Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
Seven more starts followed over a two-hour period with the largest monohulls including 100-foot Maxis Esimit Europa 2 (SLO) and ICAP Leopard (GBR) in the final group. In little over an hour they had overhauled many of the smaller yachts in the fleet and were passing The Needles, at the western end of the Isle of Wight.
Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
Final preparations this morning had seen the international crews intently focused on deciding early strategy. “The start is critical,” explained Mike Sanderson, the tactician on the 72-ft American Mini Maxi Bella Mente, which started in the final group
Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
“It’s a wonderful feeling moving through the fleet, however you’ve got to be careful. We are likely to still be coming through boats as it gets dark on the first night,” Sanderson said.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
“We have 300 boats to sail through, most of which we will probably overtake somewhere in the Solent,” she revealed. “We have to be really alert and sometimes accept we can’t go where we want to go. It requires a lot of concentration. For the spectators it will be magnificent,” said Sam Davies, navigator on the 70-ft Team SCA from Sweden.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
Mark Richmond, helmsman on Dutchman Piet Vroon’s strongly-fancied Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens 3, was also concentrating on the race’s first few hours.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
“It’s key for us to get away and not get stuck with the smaller boats. The weather can do anything and there are always complications out of your control. Two years ago we were leading the event at Land’s End and the wind then shut down coming back from the rock,” Richmond said.
Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo
With the course currently experiencing light winds from the west, the first half of the race to the Fastnet Rock will be upwind and tactically challenging. Crews will be fully engaged in correctly positioning their yachts on the racetrack and getting the most from the breeze on offer. The forecast suggests the wind will pick up between Tuesday night andWednesday morning pointing to the smaller boats being favoured in the race for the overall title.
Photo: Rolex/Daniel Forster
At 17:00 BST, the leading multihull boat was Spindrift, which had just passed Weymouth travelling at 22 knots. Meanwhile, IMOCA 60 Macif (FRA) was approaching Weymouth and leading the monohull fleet.

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