by Oliver Dewar
Rolex Fastnet Race - After 72 hours of racing, the Class40 fleet face beating to the finish for the final 70 miles following a predominantly offwind leg from Fastnet Rock to the Scilly Isles.
Alex Olivier led the Fastnet Class40’s around the Scilly Isles - Rolex Fastnet Race 2011
With less than 200 miles of the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Course remaining, the leading Class40 pack in the 17-boat fleet compressed even further with the lead constantly changing as the group lined-up in the Celtic Sea to round the Isles of Scilly, 70 miles to the south-east. At 14:30 on Tuesday, French skipper, Tanguy de Lamotte and Initiatives – Alex Olivier, took poll position from Michel Kleinjans and his Global Ocean Race 2011-12 (GOR) crew on Roaring Forty 2, bringing the Belgian-British team’s uninterrupted 48-hour spell at the front of the Class40 fleet to an end, until Francesco Piva and the Italian team with Peraspera took the lead, only to be usurped by Ross and Campbell Field’s New Zealand GOR entry, BSL at 16:30.
By the late afternoon, only four miles separated the front five boats with Mathias Mueller von Blumencron’s Red holding fifth place, six miles ahead of the double-handed Concise 2. The second wave of Class40’s also remained tight, led by the Netherlands team on Moonpalace in seventh, trailing the British duo on Concise 2 by 13 miles, with Axel Strauss on the German Class40 Tzu Hang; Andrew Dawson’s British entry Spliff; French yachtswoman, Catherine Pourre, with Eärwen; Benoit Daval with the French Class40 Techneau and Julian Metherell’s British team on MAXVMG spread over ten miles.
While the position tracking beacons for Norway’s Rune Aasberg with Solo and Marc Lepesqueux’s Pogo 40S² Marie Toit – Caen La Mer were delivering erratic data with no clear location, American skipper, Michael Hennessy and his team on the 2007 Owen Clarke Design Dragon rounded Fastnet Rock and the Pantaenius Buoy shortly before midday in 15th place with a 60 mile lead over the fleet’s backmarkers, Bermuda’s Richard Crossley on his first Class40 race with 2006 Rolland Design Les Conquerants de Normandie and Vendée Globe veteran, Benoit Parnaudeau, on POR.
As the wind shifted to the north and decreased throughout Tuesday afternoon, Campbell Field on BSL - in third place, having relinquishing the lead to Initiatives – Alex Olivier - was looking forward to the remaining 150 miles: 'Some interesting action coming up for tonight as we are in reasonably close company with first and second place and the breeze is going to lighten and head us…hopefully!' he wrote in an email to the Rolex Fastnet Race HQ. 'We are converging on the guys in front, so have our sleeves rolled-up and are working on a strategy to reel them in. Let’s see how that pans out over the next 18 hours.'
Shortly after dawn on Wednesday, the leaderboard rearranged again as the front pack approached Western Rocks just south of the Isle of Scilly with the ‘missing’ Class40’s - Marie Toit – Caen La Mer and Solo – reappearing in seventh and eighth place and Initiatives – Alex Olivier leading, Red in second place, two miles behind De Lamotte, and BSL, Peraspera and Roaring Forty 2 cutting the corner in a tight bunch close to the rocks three miles behind the leader with 90 miles to the finish line in Plymouth.
Late on Tuesday morning, the first three IMOCA Open 60’s crossed the Rolex Fastnet Race finish line within six minutes as Vincent Riou and PRB took first place, less than four minutes ahead of Jean-Pierre Dick and Virbac Paprec 3 with Bernard Stamm and Cheminées Poujoulat finishing two minutes later. With weather models predicting north-easterly headwinds of around 13 knots and decreasing as the Class40 fleet approach Plymouth, another photo-finish is likely.
For the latest news and to follow the Class40 fleet, visit the Rolex Fastnet Race website.
Global Ocean Race website