COWES WEEKMORNING dockside rumours of delays and divisions of boats having to kedge on the start line were roundly proven wrong as the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet enjoyed a magnificent, colourful spinnaker start yesterday (Sunday).
First away, punching into the last of the flood tide, were the IMOCA 60s.
With their 'big gear’ unfurled seconds before the start, it was Dee Caffari’s Aviva that made the most positive start towards the pin end.
However she was soon overhauled by Seb Josse on BT IMOCA 60 sailing in slightly better breeze on the island side of the course.
By 2.30pm, the leading IMOCA 60s were already halfway across Christchurch Bay with Mike Sanderson’s Pindar leading, narrowly ahead of Aviva, BT and Arnaud Boissieres’ Akena Verandas.
With the tide having turned favourable to flush the remaining classes west, it was the small IRC classes that were next up.
By the 2.30pm update, they too were out through the Needles, with David Lees’ High Tension 36 Hephzibah leading from the 2005 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Iromiguy, Jean-Yves Chateau’s Nicholson 33 in IRC 3B, just ahead of David Collins’ Swan 43 Cisne, leader in IRC 3A.
With the largest boats catching up the smaller ones, Christchurch Bay was becoming grid-locked mid-afternoon, with the IRC 2 leaders David McLeman’s J/109 Offbeat and David Walter’s J/39 Jackdaw having cruised most of the way through the Class 3 fleet, as had Jacques Pelletier’s X-43 L’Ange de Milon and Andrew Jackson’s First 40.7 Genie, leading their respective halves of IRC 1.
Despite having started an hour later than the IRC 3 boats, even the IRC Zero fleet had caught up, with John Shepherd’s Ker 46 Fair Do’s VII leading on the water from Jack Pringle’s Farr 45 Fraxious.
On schedule at 2.40pm, it was the turn of the Class 40s to take their start. Here it was the two Verdier designs, Giovanni Soldini’s Telecom Italia and the Felippe Cubillos’ Chilean yacht Desafio Cabo de Hornos which made the best starts.
By the time they exited the Solent, Soldini was tied for the lead with Andrew Dawson’s Spliff and Mike West’s Kerlaria.
Finally there came the biggest boats in the fleet, led off the line by Mike Slade’s towering Rolex Fastnet Race record holder, the 100ft super-maxi, ICAP Leopard. Luna Rossa, with Flavio Flavini helming and Volvo Ocean Race winner Torben Grael on tactics, followed in their wake with Niklas Zennstrom’s Ran 2 leading Karl Kwok’s Farr 80, Beau Geste up the mainland side.
By 3pm, ICAP Leopard had already pulled ahead of all the IRC boats with only the IMOCA 60s ahead of her on the water.
Among the Mini Maxis, Beau Geste, thanks to her longer waterline length, had pulled ahead of Ran 2 and the STP65s Luna Rossa and Rosebud/Team DYT, although probably not enough to lead on corrected time.
One of the strongest sub-divisions of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet are the two handed, 28 boats sailing just two up.
The 2007 winners in the class, Simon Curwen and Paul Peggs, both former Mini Transat competitors, aboard Curwen’s J/105, Voador, made a strong start in Class 2, alone in gybing early towards the Island side.
Many will be following up-and-coming British solo sailing star Katie Miller, freshly returned from the singlehanded transatlantic race in her Beneteau Figaro 2, Hot Socks, which she is racing two handed in Class 1 with fellow solo sailor Hannah Jenner.
• The progress of the fleet can be followed by the tracking system fitted to all of the boats racing at http://fastnet.rorc.org/2009-fleet-tracking.html
Rolex Fastnet Race video report
Video by TKZ, visit Cowes online www.cowes.co.uk
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