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FRESH BREEZE AND STRONG EBB CURRENT LAUNCH THE ROLEX FASTNET FLEET
August 13, 2007
It was a picture-perfect day with blue skies and puffy cumulus clouds, and little sign of the severe weather that is forecast ahead. The IMOCA 60 class was first off at 1100 BST, followed by six more classes as the 15 -18 knot breeze and a four knot ebb tide produced a short choppy sea.
Rolex Fastnet Race 2007 ©Photo:ROLEX /Carlo Borlenghi
In the IMOCA 60 start, Hugo Boss shot off the Squadron end of the starting line and tacked up the Cowes shoreline taking advantage of the building breeze.
The strong ebb proved a challenge at the start for a few boats who were swept over the line early and had to fight a tightly-packed fleet to get back to the start and re-cross the line. Likewise, the Gurnard buoy, a mark of the course, caught up some of the boats which, short-tacking up the shoreline, neglected to leave it to port. They discovered their mistake once past and took a significant loss in time in turning around and sailing back around the proper side.
The diversity of the Rolex Fastnet fleet was on full display with boats such as the JPK 9.60 sportboat, Foggy Dew, crossing tacks with Ariel, a Swan 47. The former will probably be expecting a fast, but bumpy ride across the Celtic Sea without the comforts of a full cruising interior.
First out past the Needles was the IMOCA 60 fleet, with the Alex Thompson-skippered, Hugo Boss leading, followed by PRB and Cheminees Poujoulat. Onboard PRB, the cameraman was struck in the head by the boom and sustained a laceration; as a precaution, he was taken off the boat.
The Super Zero class smoked off the start line, with Rambler at the Squadron end at full speed at the gun. Both Alfa Romeo and ICAP Leopard were midway down the line, both with double-reefs tucked in. The Australian entry, the R/P60 Loki, was the solo boat in Class Zero over the line early. They returned fairly quickly to restart but all the way out the Solent they struggled to catch the fleet. The leaders of the Class SZ were at the Needles in an hour. At 1630 BST, ICAP Leopard and Alfa Romeo were neck-in-neck, just east of Portland Bill, sailing at about 15 knots. Rambler, with skipper Ken Read, was sailing a more southerly course at 12.4 knots.
Onboard J/105 Voador, Paul Peggs is sailing in the 2-Handed class with Simon Curwen. About 10 miles off Portland Bill, Peggs was just off watch to report "we're very happy with the start, and we left the Solent in the top half of Class 2. It's a bit lumpy but we're going along well. I'm anticipating the night ahead when we expect the wind to go south and we'll reduce sail, as we're expecting the wind to increase to Force 6-7, possibly Force 8, but we feel we're well prepared and we're looking forward to reaching the Rock.
Best estimates put the leading boats approaching the Lizard around midnight tonight, and with the current weather forecast they could be at the Fastnet Rock by mid-morning. At press time, 11 boats have retired.
New this year for the Rolex Fastnet is the OC Tracker system, which is capable of reporting a boat's position, speed and course at pre-determined intervals, and is programmable remotely.
Friends, family, press and supporters can visit http://fastnet.rorc.org and click the tracking page to follow the race and results. Boats automatically report every 30mins (on the hour and half hour), and results and tracking are updated shortly after the report is received. The results will be overall and based on corrected time.
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photos by Tim Mavers-Chance