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Rolex Fastnet Race – Class leaders firming up

by James Boyd on 10 Aug
Lann Ael 2, Didier Gaudoux's French JND 39 is leading IRC One in the Rolex Fastnet Race © Rolex / Carlo Borlenghi
Overnight and into a magnificent West Country morning, boats have been streaming across the Rolex Fastnet Race finish line and into Plymouth Yacht Haven.

With this the leaders in the bigger classes have begun firming up along with the prospects for the boat will be the crowned overall winner under IRC in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship offshore race.

American Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer is the leader in the IRC Zero from the Ker 46 Lady Mariposa, and yesterday seemed to be in good shape to take the overall prize across the 312-boat IRC fleet vying for the Fastnet Challenge Cup. However overnight the IRC One leader Lann Ael 2, the JND 39 of Paris-based Didier Gaudoux pulled into the lead. In IRC One the powerful looking La Crouesty based boat holds a lead of more than two and a half hours on corrected time over the equally angular Lombard 46, Pata Negra, being campaigned by the Dutch de Graaf family of Baraka Ker 40 fame.

'We had a fantastic race - we were lucky with the weather,' said Gaudoux. 'The conditions were quite good for the team and the crew and the passage from Fastnet Rock to the Scilly Isles was perfect for us.' However at present there are many smaller boats still capable of lifting the overall IRC prize off the IRC One leader.

Last night, first home on the water in IRC One was James Neville's Ino XXX, winner of May's Myth of Malham race. Like all of the planing boats, the HH42 enjoyed the downhill conditions enabling them to blast back from the Fastnet Rock, hitting speeds into the mid-20s and covering 75 miles in four hours. This made up for the headbang of an uphill struggle they experienced outbound to the Rock. As Neville recounted: 'We found it quite challenging because the chop was quite short and the heavier boats, like the Italian boat [Vittorio Biscarini's magnificent Mylius-designed 50 footer, Ars Una], make better way in those conditions. Off the Lizard we went inside and they found more wind offshore. We were the last boat to go to the east of the TSS.'

In IRC Two Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia is looking good for first prize following their arrival at the finish line at 05:33 this morning.

'We had some good results already in IRC Two this year,' said Fournier. 'But the Rolex Fastnet Race is the peak of the season. We have had an internal battle with our friends on Lisa, including Commodore of the RORC Michael Boyd, since the beginning of the season.'

Due to the tidal state at the time, Pintia went to the west of the all-important traffic separation scheme off the Scilly Isles. Fournier said he enjoyed rounding the Fastnet Rock, even though it was at night. 'You are pleased when you round that because it is an amazing place. You wouldn't want to spend your holidays there, but it is a legendary place and we are now part of the legend.'

Nick and Suzi Jones' First 44.7 Lisa, skippered by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd, finished 36 minutes after Pintia this time correcting out into second place, 1 hour 13 minutes behind of the French boat on corrected time.

Boyd acknowledged that Pintia had stolen a march on them at Portland Bill. 'We failed to get to there in time. Pintia went in and we probably should have followed her and they just managed to get through the gap. We went outside and lost quite a few miles but we gained them back at Lyme Bay when an awful lot of boats went in and we were surprised to see some of our competitors at anchor there. We were further offshore, in the wind. That kept us up with the IRC One boats.'

The boats in Lisa's group saw 25 knots on the nose, some of the strongest conditions crossing the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock, requiring the crew to live on the rail. Boyd described the Fastnet Rock, off his native Ireland, as 'extraordinary, absolutely magical'. While the First 44.7 isn't a weapon downwind, the boat had a bowsprit and asymmetric spinnakers added to her Banks sail inventory for this season, aiding their return journey back from the Rock.

Lisa currently lies second in IRC Two and eighth overall under IRC, results with which Boyd was pleased. 'I don't know if we had the best of the conditions, but certainly it is a great result and does seem to show that we were very favoured. But we had a great group of guys, everybody very focused, very good food, lots of stories and lots of laughs.'

This afternoon the leaders in IRC Three and Four are due, along with the Two Handed class, where the Loisin father and son, Pascal and Alexis, on their 2013 overall Rolex Fastnet Race winning JPK 10.10 Night and Day have taken the lead from Ajeto!, the J/122e of Robin Verhoef and John Van Der Starre.

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