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Sailing - 15. August 2007.

Rolex Fastnet Race update

August 14, 2007

The super-maxis were neck and neck reaching up to the Rock at 14 knots in bright sunshine, rounding nearly together and then going on the wind to round the Pantaenius Buoy to port, some fives miles to the south west of the Rock. The 90-foot Reichel Pugh-designed Rambler went past at 18:00:35 BST followed by the Farr-designed 100-foot canting keeled ICAP Leopard at 18:00:38 BST. Subsequently, PRB, Delta Dore and Cheminees Poujoulat from the Open 60 Class have rounded. From the buoy, the distance to the race finish in Plymouth is 251 nautical miles.

Rolex Fastnet Rock 2007 ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

After midnight the breeze is expected to drop and by the early hours of Wednesday the breeze will shift to the northwest and settle in around Force 6/7 (22 - 33 knots). Right now the leading boats are on track to break the race record, which would require a yacht to finish by Wednesday before 1748 BST - but this has been said before in previous races and there is plenty of racing left before the finish. The existing monohull record of 2 days, 5 hours and 8 minutes (average speed 11.13 knots) was set by RF Yachting in 1999.

Earlier in the day on board the US entry, Rambler, skipper Ken Read recapped the race so far, "The predicted first front came with a southerly shift and very squally, rainy and windy conditions for us between Start Point and Land's End..full on and of course it has to be at night! We can report virtually no breakage even after some 40 knot squalls all tight reaching. Sometimes a bad combo as boats this fast tend to be hard to slow down and have a tendency to launch off a wave with bone chilling crashes when you land."

Read continued, "Eight headsail changes and about ten reefs/unreefs, late morning came past Land's End and a completely unpredicted lull. Went from a blast reacher with a single reef, to drifting and slatting in a matter of minutes, and as the sun rose we realized we were in a park up with Leopard, and several of the 60's all around us."

Clearly, enjoying the current conditions, Read described the passage across the Celtic Sea, so far, "about 0700 the southerly re-filled and we have had a very pleasant few hours blasting across the Celtic Sea with our code 0 up and averaging speeds in the high teens. But this won't last long.. we will have the #4 or storm jib up again with a reef or three in order to get to the Fastnet Rock in once piece and try to keep close tabs on Leopard. All in all, an awesome race so far."

In the Open 60 fleet earlier today, Alex Thompson on Hugo Boss was lying in fourth place and said, "We currently have 20 knots of wind from the southwest and a horrible lumpy sea state. We expect to reach the Fastnet Rock at around 20.30 this evening. We are all ok and in good spirits, but we are pretty tired and hungry. I am extremely pleased with the new boat. It was obvious yesterday that she is on the pace. After two years designing and building her, it is very nice to see that we have a fast boat."

Last year's overall Rolex Fastnet Race winner Jean-Charles Chateau on the 33-foot Nicholson, Iromiguy was not to have a repeat performance and retired at 1315 this afternoon. Racing in his fifth Rolex Fastnet, Chateau said, "the seas were very rough and the boat is old. I polled each crew member whether they wanted to carry on and we decided to retire."

Onboard Premier Cru, at 0300 this morning they had two reefs in and a trysail up and were "being thrown like a rag doll in a washing machine", 12 hours later at 1500, they were two miles south of the Lizard still being "bounced around, but spirits are good and the chef is in top form - we're getting ready for Land's End and the Celtic Sea."

Janet Grosvenor, Racing Manager of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, commented "it has been a testing day for the crews in the Rolex Fastnet Race and for those onshore in the race organization. We are very pleased at the way the Coastguard, the RNLI and ourselves have interacted over the last 24 hours in responding in a measured and confident fashion to the situation. There have been a lot of retirements, but importantly there are a lot of yachts that have faced up to the difficult conditions and that are still racing."

At 0700, the Prima 38, Oz Privateer had passed the Lizard and found the conditions manageable. But as they were bearing away, the forestay broke and the mast came down in three pieces. Skipper Nick Barlow, said, "thanks to the safety training directed by the RORC everyone knew what to do and how to do it." The crew were able to bring the boat back to Plymouth under jury-rig and engine power.

As of the latest OC Tracker position update at 1700 BST, leading on corrected time are Rambler (USA) in IRC Super Zero; Chieftain (IRL) in IRC SZ Canting Keel; Courrier Du Coeur (FRA) in IRC Zero; Parallel Blue (GBR) in IRC 1; Foggy Dew (FRA) in IRC 2; Tigo IV (GBR) in IRC 3, and PRB, in the Open 60 class.

As of 1800 BST, 161 yachts have retired from the race, and 110 yachts are still racing.
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