Light winds still bedevil ocean race

News that Mike Slade’s 100ft supermaxi ICAP Leopard is the first boat to round the Fastnet Rock will come as no surprise to Yachting Monthly’s assistant editor Chris Beeson who is competing aboard Orca, an Open 40. Well before the race Chris was bemoaning the light airs predicted for the Fastnet: a forecast which has been uncharacteristically accurate.

Karl Kwok’s Farr 80 Beau Geste passed the rock at
approximately 04:44 GMT, followed by the IRC Class SZ leader on
handicap, Niklas Zennström’s Judel-Vrolijk 72 Ran 2 at 05:08 GMT.
Behind them were a gaggle of boats led by the first two IMOCA 60s,
Sam Davies and Sidney Gavignet on the fully-crewed Artemis Ocean
Racing, ten minutes ahead of Seb Josse’s BT IMOCA 60, the first
doublehanded entry in the Rolex Fastnet Race.

Behind them at 08:00 GMT, en route to the Pantaenius buoy, the offset
mark southwest of the Fastnet lighthouse, were two more IMOCA 60s,
Volvo Ocean Race winner Mike Sanderson on Pindar, just ahead of
Frenchman Marc Guillemot on Safran. The Italian America’s Cup team on
the STP65 Luna Rossa rounded later, at 07:54 GMT, having suffered
slightly by approaching the Fastnet Rock from a more northerly angle.

At the time, the Italians had Dee Caffari’s IMOCA 60 Aviva on their
tail. Earlier Caffari reported: “We had more breeze than we
anticipated overnight which means we will be rounding the Fastnet
Rock just in time for breakfast. We have sight of at least four other
IMOCA 60s showing just how close this race is.” Roger Sturgeon’s US
entry, the STP65 Rosebud/Team DYT was expected at the Fastnet Rock an
hour after Aviva.

The forecast is showing an area of high pressure encroaching on the
southwest of the British Isles over the course of today. In order to
remain in the strongest breeze, ICAP Leopard has taken a radical
northerly route towards Bishops Rock, the next mark of the course,
located to the west of the Scilly Isles, 150 miles southeast of the
Fastnet. While Slade’s super-maxi is on a heading taking her towards
the Bristol Channel, Beau Geste and Ran 2 are sticking closer to the
rhumb line. With conflicting forecasts it remains to be seen which
will be the better tactic – Slade’s approach is longer but should
ensure they stay in breeze, the direct route is more risky, but shorter.

This morning the bulk of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet are between the
Lizard and one third of the way across the Celtic Sea towards the
Fastnet Rock. Midway to the Rock, the Jamie Olazabal-skippered Swan
56 La Floresta Del Mar is still leading in Class IRC Z, while the
three small IRC Classes all have French handicap leaders: the Grand
Soleil 43 Codiam in IRC 1, while Didier Darbot’s Sphinx 33 Parsifal
still leads IRC 2 and is located just to the north of the Scilly
Isles, just ahead of Fabrice Tropes’s Dufour 34, Major Tom, the new
IRC 3 leader.

Depending upon her progress today, ICAP Leopard is expected in
Plymouth late this evening.