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Wizard's Rolex Fastnet Race win creates sailing history

by Richard Gladwell, 7 Aug 2019 05:57 PDT 8 August 2019
Wizard at Fastnet Rock, overall winner of the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race - August 2019 © Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

First published as the Sail-World New Zealand Newsletter Editorial of August 7, 2019 and updated.

This week, the antics of sailing politicians have taken the backseat. Their low-profile has been most welcome. Not that we expect it to continue for too long.

Refreshingly, the week was dominated by sailing events - with some of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet rattling around the 608 nm course in record time, and a new generation of IMOCA60s has been revealed.

The monohulls had a fast trip to Fastnet Rock, one of the great landmarks of offshore racing. They rounded in spectacular conditions. However, a softening breeze on the return leg prised George David's hands off the race record as the 88ft Rambler finished just 76 minutes off the record mark. She had been 88 minutes ahead rounding Fastnet. She was pushed by the supermaxi SHK Scallywag (David Witt), who finished 27 minutes astern in Plymouth.

It was a similar but different story with the multihulls, as Gitana 17 co-skippered by Volvo Ocean Race winners, Charles Caudreiler and Franck Cammas lopped a massive four hours and 45 minutes off the race record -finishing the course in just over 28 hours.

The multihulls too had a match race at the front of the fleet with Macif (Francois Gabart) finishing second - missing being the new race record holder by just 60 seconds.

How long will it be before a multihull completes the course in under 24 hours? It's "only" an average speed of 25kts.

A check of the World Speed Sailing Council records shows that there are seven course records set with average speeds of 25kts or more. The crewed Transatlantic course of 2880nm has an average of just under 33kts, and even the singlehanded record over the same course is just under 27kts. So maybe there is more that can be trimmed off the latest mark.

Wizard/Giacomo/Groupama creates sailing history

The overall winner of the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race is the Volvo 70 Wizard, now in US ownership by David and Peter Askew, and skippered in the 608nm race by 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race skipper Charlie Enright (Team Alvimedica), who is Wizard's sailing master.

The 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race win backs up her 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart win and Gibbs Hill Lighthouse division win in the 2018 Bermuda Race.

Rosebud (Roger Sturgeon USA) who won the overall trophy in the Racing Division of the 2004 Bermuda Race and then the TP65 went on to win the overall trophy in the 2007 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

Wizard is better known in New Zealand as Giacomo - raced by Jim Delegat, who purchased 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race winner, Groupama IV (Franck Cammas FRA) and converted her from trans-oceanic to offshore racing, and initiated her distinctive hull graphics.

As well as winning a host of races out of Auckland, including taking 22 hours of the Auckland to Denarau race record, Giacomo won overall honours in the 2016 Rolex Sydney Hobart, after finishing a close second over the line to the supermaxi Perpetual Loyal.

The 2019 Rolex Fastnet race win is a remarkable triple for the Volvo 70, which also took overall honours in this year's Transatlantic Race after finishing seven hours behind line honours winner SHK Scallywag. Interestingly the monohull record for the Rolex Fastnet race is held by another Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi (Ian Walker), set in 2011 before the start of the 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race, which was won by Groupama IV, renamed Giacomo and now Wizard.

Arguably Wizard, under her current owners the Askew brothers, also won overall honours in the 2018 Bermuda race - from Newport RI to Bermuda also known as the Bermuda Race which was first sailed in the 1920's and is in the same distance band of 608-635nm as the other two - the Sydney Hobart and Fastnet Race. Although no overall trophy is currently awarded for the multi-division Bermuda Race, as with the other two, Wizard won the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse division for professionally crewed yachts in the 2018 edition of the race. In that race she beat Rambler 88 on corrected timed to win the division trophy. Rambler 88 won line honours for monohulls in the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race.

That being so, and with the Fastnet Race trophy won - Giacomo/Wizard - can now arguably claim to be the only boat in sailing history to have won the three overall trophies from the three classic races of offshore sailing, and plus a Round the World race.

Giacomo owner Jim Delegat, of the family wine company which bears his name, was the driving force behind her conversion from Groupama IV, the trans-oceanic racer to Giacomo, offshore racer. The Juan k design has proven herself to be more than capable of winning over both styles of racing. That point was underlined by the Askew brothers who have taken Wizard to new levels with the Bermuda Race win, Transatlantic race win and now Fastnet Race win.

That is a great achievement for what used to be a sport that was marked with design redundancy on an annual basis, and it is great to see a boat winning the classic offshore races over an extended period.

More significantly with the current depth and popularity of offshore racing (the Fastnet Race is oversubscribed within a few minutes of the opening of entries), there are no "rule-beaters" as used to exist in the days of IOR, RORC, CCA and maybe IMS rating rules. Now the winner usually comes from a group that gets conditions to their liking, is well prepared and campaigned, is well navigated and is well sailed. So winning is no longer a matter of which designer managed to find a loophole in a rating rule, enabling their best and latest to sail above her rating.

As well as her owners past and present it is a big accolade to Juan Kouyoumdjian (Juan K) for her timeless design, and to her builders Multiplast for constructing a boat that has had no serious structural issues despite being raced hard over the toughest courses in the sailing world. That last comment should be seen in the light of the fact that only two of the six boat fleet finished without a major pitstop, and three of the fleet did a leg as deck cargo on a freighter.

Of course, it is great to see Groupama/Giacomo/Wizard being so well campaigned by her new owners, the Askew brothers - or are they really just her current custodians?

Fortunately, many others are now taking the same refit/upgrade path of top racing yachts - and putting an end to the obsolescence that was almost the death-knell of the sport.

New IMOCA60's turn heads

However there is no holding back design innovation, and there has been plenty of that on display over the past few days, as two Vendee Globe hopefuls have emerged from their builder/fit-out facilities in Gosport and Lorient.

There has been a special interest in the latest births, both after a very secret gestation period of design and build of 18 months.

The two IMOCA60's are a harbinger of what may be to come in 2021/22 edition of The Ocean Race which starts in September/October 2021 and will be preceded by the Vendee Globe which gets under way in June 2020.

Hugo Boss is a joint design project by VPLP and Alex Thomson Racing and is the most radical IMOCA60 to date. While she is yet to be fully fitted out, her most striking feature is the clean deck layout - to facilitate the layout of 60 solar panels.

Thomson has picked up from where New Zealand solo sailor Conrad Colman left off in the 2016/17 Vendee Globe with Foresight Natural Energy. Colman was the first sailor to complete the Vendee Globe course without the use of fossil fuels for battery charging and ran an all-electric boat including an electric auxiliary motor.

With the fifth iteration under the Hugo Boss sponsorship, Thomson believes that running without fossil fuels is a racing and performance advantage. One obvious area is in the weight of fuel saved, another is the reduced need for fuel rationing to last the 28,000nm Vendee Globe course. And of course, a greater and replenishable supply of on-board power means that more is available to drive systems aboard the sailing space-ship.

Thomson hasn't revealed his foils - maybe they are still under design and construction.

The second IMOCA60 is for Charlie Dalin, a naval architect and twice French ocean racing champion. Apivia is a design by Guillaume Verdier, without doubt, the most impressive designer of his generation.

Apivia is the extension of the Volvo Super 60 project, created around the IMOCA60 before the decision was made to work within the IMOCA60 rule, creating a fully crewed version of what had been just a one and two-hander.

Much of the structural engineering on Apivia was undertaken by New Zealand based Pure Design, who is recognised as the world leader in their field.

Apivia was unveiled with her spectacular foils inserted - looking like an objet d'art - than a highly sophisticated piece of foil design and structural engineering.

Of course, with both approaches, the trick is to know when to push hard, and when to back off, in the best tradition of the fabled hare and tortoise.

First test for both and 65 other crews will be the Transat Jacque Vabre, starting on October 27 from le Harve to Brazil on a 4350 transatlantic course.

In the past the "shake-down" race has turned into a "shake-out" in the 2015 event, a prelude to the 2016 Vendee Globe - only one of the then-new foilers finished - and that was without being in foiling mode.

We have all available images and some reports on the latest IMOCA60s in this edition.

SailGP F50 tops 50kts?

Stay tuned for coverage of the SailGP being sailed at Cowes this weekend. Already a new speed mark of 50.22kts is being claimed by the Brits. However, as Russell Coutts noted only speeds set in racing are official.

Coutts also reported earlier that more rudder differential has been added for Cowes.

"Rumour has it that slightly more rudder differential (load) has been added for Cowes," Coutts said. "Onset of cavitation is about 48 knots of boat speed for the high-speed foils and 43 for the light wind set. The Aussies cracked 48 knots in NY on the light air boards! Going to be interesting in Cowes if we get 16-17 knots of breeze using the high-speed foils!"

Watch or record on SkyTV in New Zealand.

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