Ireland’s Fastnet rock is one of the famous emblems of offshore sailing, the foremost of several scenic and imposing lighthouses on the Rolex Fastnet race course. Passing the Fastnet rock is a welcome and rich moment for all those competing in the race, the turning point following the arduous trek across the Celtic Sea and start of the long final leg to the finish in Plymouth. At 15h00 CEST on Tuesday, nine of the 356-strong Rolex Fastnet fleet had reached the rock and given the almost entire absence of wind during their roundings, the majority had plenty of time to admire its rugged beauty.
The leading multihulls rounded the rock late on Monday afternoon with the Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard skippered Spindrift 2 – the largest yacht in the fleet – first to round. Spindrift held her status as first on the water until shortly after lunchtime on Tuesday having endured an arduous journey back towards Plymouth – taking nearly 24 hours to cover 150nm. At that point the 80′ Maxi trimaran Prince de Bretagne made a decisive move in the building breeze narrowing the gap significantly on Spindrift. The duel between Spindrift and the Lionel Lemonchois-skippered yacht promises to go down to the wire. They are both expected to arrive in Plymouth at around midnight.
Jim Clark’s 100′ Maxi Comanche was the first monohull yacht to round the rock passing at 02h00 BST on Tuesday morning. Another American yacht – George David’s 88′ Rambler – is pushing Comanche close. Rambler crawled round the rock at 04h50 BST and currently trails her larger rival by 9nm. This dogfight at the front is captivating with first one yacht and then the other holding an advantage.
Engaged in their own duel some 45nm off the leading monohulls are the Maxi 72 Momo – a race debutant – and Mike Slade’s 100′ Maxi Leopard.
The vast majority of the fleet have passed the Scilly Isles and still some 120nm from rock. Despite the frustrating conditions, some welcome news could be on the horizon with 20-knot southerlies forecast to arrive at the Fastnet rock in the early hours of Wednesday morning. If it does, it will provide welcome relief for the crews and will reignite the contest to secure the coveted Rolex Fastnet Challenge Trophy and Rolex timepiece as overall race winner on IRC handicap.
Despite the trying conditions only four boats have currently retired from the race, testament to the perseverance of the competing crews and their desire to complete the course come what may.
The 2015 edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race is proving to be tactically challenging and a true demonstration of sailing prowess and seamanship