Rolex Fastnet Race – a Mere Four Minutes

Dorade having rounded the Fastnet Rock. pic by  Rolex /
Dorade having rounded the Fastnet Rock.
pic by Rolex /

Jim Clark’s 100-ft Maxi yacht Comanche claimed line honours, but only following a dramatic tussle with fellow American yacht Rambler.

Arriving in Plymouth at 05:22 BST on Wednesday morning, Comanche crawled towards the line as George David’s 88-ft Rambler, who earlier in the race had led the Ken Read-skippered Comanche, made a late surge for the line. Only four minutes ended up separating the two yachts. Comanche completed the 603nm course in an elapsed time of 2 days, 15 hours, 42 minutes and 26 seconds, nearly 24 hours outside of the race record set by Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi in 2011.

For David it represented a significantly different experience from his previous two Rolex Fastnets – the blustery 2007 edition and an ill-fated 2011 race. “It was a light air race,” explained David. “This was placid the whole way. It took us forever to get around the rock. For us to be within a few minutes (of Comanche) is actually remarkable. We thought we may go over them towards the line, we tried. We had a good time.”

“At the Scillies we overtook Comanche for the first time,” explained Rambler tactician Brad Butterworth. “We had a decision to make at the Fastnet rock. We tried to be more aggressive to make our lead longer and ended up losing it. It was light … the highest speed we saw was 19 knots.”

Third monohull on the water, around an hour after the frontrunners, was Mike Slade’s 100-ft British Maxi Leopard, two-time line honours winner.

Around 30 minutes after Leopard arrived Momo, the newly-launched Maxi 72 owned by Dieter Schoen. “It was a pretty tough race; a long race. Getting out of the Solent was tricky,” explained Momo’s Don Cowie, who acknowledged that while the conditions had suited them better than their larger rivals, they had also made real gains through the Traffic Separation System zones that now play a real part in the tactical decision-making.

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