After four days of playing a bit part in a slow-moving drama, Plymouth has now firmly grabbed centre stage and the pace of the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race has lifted with yachts finishing in ever increasing numbers. While the previous 24 hours was all about the first to finish, today and the next few hours are gripped with speculation upon who might win the Fastnet Challenge trophy and Rolex timepiece for overall victory. The 46th edition of the Rolex Fastnet is entering its final phase.
Yesterday a handful of yachts ghosted across the line under leaden skies and frequently heavy rain: as depressing as it can be after the Mediterranean-esque weather experienced earlier in the week. At 16:00 BST on Wednesday a total of 17 yachts had completed the course. What a difference 24 hours makes with 128 now safely berthed in Plymouth Yacht Haven. The weather conditions have marginally improved. The wind has been blowing steadily for much of the day and the rain has disappeared, though so too has the visibility. Plymouth and its approaches are currently enveloped in thick mist.
For the RORC Race Officials in the lighthouse on Plymouth Breakwater the experience is surreal as finishing yachts appear seemingly from nowhere, almost right on the finish line. Thanks to the GPS Tracker on each boat and the requirement to radio in 5 miles from the finish it is not a complete surprise when a boat pops out. According to Ken Ryles, part of the breakwater team, it is “a challenge since the yachts are only in sight for a minute before crossing the line. Still, we are enjoying it because it’s something different!”
Maxi 72 Momo’s position as overall leader was known to be under threat as the building breezy conditions experienced at the Fastnet rock yesterday spread across the course. Smaller yachts started to benefit from the freshening wind in their hunt to move up the standings. First to topple Momo was the GP42 Tokoloshe, which finished just before midnight. Then, this morning the smaller GOA, skippered by Samuel Prietz moved into pole position. Their glory was short-lived as 40 minutes later, the JPK 10.80 Courrier du Léon led by Géry Trentesaux crossed the line under spinnaker in serene style, calmly and emphatically topping the leaderboard.
It remains to be seen whether Courrier can be dislodged. With around 230 of the 312 yachts competing for the overall prize still on the water it is too early to say for certain. An experienced campaigner who raced his first Rolex Fastnet Race back in 1977 aged 18, Géry appeared relaxed about the prospect of winning one of the world’s greatest, classic offshore races: “The race is not over yet. Since it is a handicap race, much can happen. We are going to clean up the boat, have a beer and then a good breakfast. We know we are probably on the podium which is good, we’ll find out if we have won later on.”
The latest video highlights are available to view, share and embed here.
All yachts have now rounded the Fastnet rock, an unlikely situation two days ago when the racecourse lacked any real wind. Last yacht on the water is David Anderson’s Floating Point with 230 nm left to run. At her current pace she is unlikely to arrive before the final prize giving scheduled for Friday evening. The crew will be disappointed to miss the inevitable party, but when they do finish they will have every right to feel enormous satisfaction in persevering with the race and completing the course.
German sailor Mathias Müller von Blumencron from the crew of Red captured the magic of the Rolex Fastnet shortly after stepping ashore: ”It’s such a wonderful race. It is not just a tactical race, it is a technical race, a speed race, and it has human factors too. Basically it has everything that makes sailing what it is. Every time it is an experience, it is an adventure. You can arrive at the rock and the lighthouse is in the dark, so you don’t see it but you hear the birds and the crashing of the waves. It is unbelievable.”
Follow the progress of the fleet still at sea via the official Rolex Fastnet Race tracker.
Daily video highlights will be available throughout the competition, from 16-21 August.
Videos can be viewed, embedded and shared directly from the official Rolex yachting YouTube channel. Click here.