The overnight steady stream of finishers into Cherbourg-en-Cotentin at the end of the Rolex Fastnet Race slowed over the course of today as the wind has gone light over the western English Channel.
This was set to remain the case until late afternoon when the wind was forecast to fill in, but only until around 03:00 Wednesday. Then an even more major ‘glass out’ was forecast, spanning Cornwall to the Finisterre coast with a southwesterly only reestablishing again in the mid-afternoon. Below race meteorologist Christian Dumard provides his latest forecast for the next 48 hours.
Overnight 23 of the 27 IMOCAs still racing crossed the finish line, this morning creating an impressive display of the latest state-of-the-art in offshore yacht racing hardware with the podium finishers, MACIF Santé Prévoyance, Paprec Arkéa and For The Planet berthed by the Rolex Fastnet Race village in Port Chantereyne while the remainder of this superb fleet are moored deeper into the heart of Cherbourg.
Fifth to seventh places in the IMOCA class were taken by boats with female skippers. Following MACIF at 20:23:26, Sam Davies (and Nicolas Lunven) on Initiatives Coeur arrived by 21:16:00, followed by Clarisse Cremer (and Britain's Alan Roberts) on L'Occitane en Provence, and Teamwork, raced by Switzerland's Justine Mettraux (and Julian Villion).
Warm sunrise as PAC 52 Warrior Won and ORC50 Lodigroup round the Fastnet Rock © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi
Cremer has grown semi-British roots recently since her new L'Occitane en Provence campaign and its recent refit have been run out of Gosport by Alex Thomson’s organisation. Her IMOCA is the former Apivia on which Charlie Dalin won line honours (although not ultimate victory) in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe and then again in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race. During that race Cremer was racing her previous 2010 vintage IMOCA. Now she has upgraded to a 2019-built foiling machine which she says is much faster, although still not as fast as the latest generation – for example L'Occitane en Provence was making 30-31 knots on the sleighride back from the Rock while the latest generation boats were touching the high 30s.
Of the Rolex Fastnet Race she says: “It is a bit shorter than what we are used to, because on these boats we usually do longer races, but it is very intense because of where we are going - lots of changes, you go through different weather systems, etc. It is so nice to have these kind of events which mix us up with amateur sailors and other people with a similar passion.”
As to the female performance in this race, she is proud: “There are more and more women coming into sailing. Justine and Sam are brilliant sailors, especially Sam. It is great to see for the first time women who have very competitive boats and a chance to be at the front of the fleet.”
Yoann Richomme's IMOCA Paprec Arkea, on the approach to the Fastnet Rock, finished a close second to MACIF
© ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi
The last of the IMOCAs to arrive was Groupe Setin sailed by Manuel Cousin and Clément Giraud, while the four yet to arrive include British skippers James Harayda and Stéphane Le Diraison on Gentoo and Pip Hare and Nick Bubb on Medallia.
After Bryon Ehrhart’s Lucky secured line honours in the IRC monohull fleet (although MACIF Santé Prévoyance was first monohull home overall), the next arrivals in IRC Super Zero were the Polish-flagged VO65 Wind Whisper at 21:55:44, and at 22:18:42 her VO65 sistership Team Jajo, chartered to American regular maxi yacht charterer Clarke Murphy. However, in a true display of good sportsmanship, prior to finishing, Wind Whisper’s crew had reported themselves over a misunderstanding regarding their IRC rating certificate and had a 5% penalty added to their time. This was enough to drop them to second place, leaving IRC Super Zero honours to go to Team Jajo and Clarke Murphy, his family and A-list crew including navigator Mike Broughton, Dee Caffari and Ian Budgen.
Before the shut-down came the first two arrivals in IRC Zero and two of the race favourites: from Switzerland Max Klink’s Botin 52 Caro finished at 06:25:02, followed at 08:26:38 by American Chris Sheehan’s PAC 52 Warrior Won, winner of the 2022 RORC Caribbean 600 and Transpac. At present in the hunt for IRC Overall, Caro leads from Team Jajo by 2 hours 10 minutes 42 seconds but, with only two IRC Zero finishers these results, as well as the race’s overall prize - the much coveted Fastnet Challenge Cup for the IRC Overall winner - remains a long way from being decided. (See the full report on IRC Zero here)
Late this afternoon, 40-50 miles south of Start Point, a virtual restart was taking place (as occurred in 2021 off the Isles of Scilly.) RORC Vice-Commodore Eric de Turckheim’s NMYD 54 Teasing Machine, winner of the last Rolex Middle Sea Race and RORC Transatlantic Race, and the IMOCA Gentoo had managed to break free. Otherwise 18 competitors were straddling the Channel, from the former Class40 leader Ambrogio Beccaria's Alla Grande Pirelli in the far south, to the most northerly boat, another Class40 BT Blue - Alternative Sailing, a Manuard-designed Mach 40.5 being campaigned by its builder Nicolas Groleau. In between are notable boats such as RORC Commodore James Neville’s new Ino Noir and Christian Guyader's successful ORC50 catamaran Guyader Saveol, skippered by Gwen Chapalain.
Ed Bell's JPK 1180 Dawn Treader has been nipping at sistership Sunrise III's heels, although the class is still led overall by Pintia © ROLEX/Kurt Arrigo
Several boats were making slow progress off the Lizard, including Ermanno Traverso's venerable ketch Stormvogel, originally Cornelius ‘Cees’ Bruynzeel’s 1961 Fastnet Race line honours winner, which returned in 2021 and finished 7th overall in the giant IRC fleet. It was a similar story around the Isles of Scilly where key boats were, including the Fournier family’s J/133, the IRC One leader Pintia with Tom Kneen’s 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race overall winner, the JPK 1180 Sunrise on their transom; both making sub-5 knots.
IRC Two's leader Philippe Girardin's J/120 Hey Jude rounded the Fastnet Rock at 04:56:20 this morning, 1 hour 58 minutes 57 seconds ahead of Maxime Mesnil’s Cherbourg-based J/99 Axe Sail, in turn just 8 minutes 32 seconds in front of Sam White’s JPK 1080 Mzungu! However late this afternoon Axe Sail had edged ahead of Hey Jude under IRC but they were making slow progress, having covered just 35 miles since passing the Rock. Fujitsu British Soldier led by Major Henry Foster was up to third on the water, but had dropped to ninth under IRC. 28 IRC Two yachts had passed the Rock by 17:00 BST. (See the full report on IRC One & Two here)
Gautier Normand's Archambault 35 Locmalo continues to lead on the water in IRC Three and reached the Rock at 12:39:21 this morning, 14 minutes 49 seconds ahead of Cora. Under IRC corrected time Cora was still looking strong, leading 37 minutes 12 seconds ahead of Ludovic Menahes' JPK 1010 Adeosys, with Romain Gibon's JPK 1010 Les P'tits Doudous en Duo a further 14 minutes 21 seconds adrift. By 17:00 the IRC Three leaders had made 20 miles towards Bishop Rock. (See the full report on IRC Three here)
In IRC Four, François Charles' Dehler 33CR Sun Hill III is the only boat to have reached the Rock, passing it at 16:46:56 BST. However under corrected time, 50 miles out from the Rock JPK 960 Elma of Marc Willame was holding a 12 minutes 1 seconds lead under IRC corrected time over Chris Choules’ Sigma 38 With Alacrity with Sun Hill III 1 hours 3 minutes and 19 seconds behind. (See the full report on IRC Four here)
Rolex Fastnet Race meteorologist Christian Dumard reports: “The next front is now expected Wednesday afternoon at the Fastnet Rock. It will move quickly from west to east on Wednesday evening over the Celtic Sea - max wind expected 25 knots, gusting 32-35 knots. It loses its intensity by the time it gets over the Channel on Thursday. It will affect perhaps around the last 100 boats in the Celtic Sea - it’s difficult to say exactly how many, but most of them will be downwind on their way back from the Fastnet and probably less than 25 will still be sailing upwind.”