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Henri Lloyd 2016 Freedom

Concise home in Rolex Fastnet Race as Dongfeng Race Team leads VO65s around the Rock

by James Boyd on 8 Aug 8 August 2017

Unchallenged, Concise 10 blazed into Plymouth this morning, first boat home in the 47th Rolex Fastnet Race. Tony Lawson's MOD70 trimaran crossed the finish line off Plymouth breakwater at 05:55:00 BST with a race time of 42 hours and 55 minutes. This time didn't come close to the overall multihull record for the Rolex Fastnet Race but it was still respectable considering they sailed upwind all the way to the Fastnet Rock.

Dockside at Plymouth Yacht Haven, a beaming Tony Lawson commented: "To take the record for the Round the Island Race just a few weeks ago and then this... they deserve it, they have sailed well. Everyone thinks multihulls can't go to weather, but we led three state of the art monohulls around the Rock by about 100 miles and we led them into Plymouth by 200 miles. So if you want to go fast you have to get yourself a multihull!"

Skipper Ned Collier Wakefield said he had enjoyed the start, leaving the Solent amid the giant spectator fleet and the journey back from the Fastnet Rock: "Last night we gybed south and just sat there doing 30+ knots in flat water and brought that pressure all the way in. The moon was out so you could see what was going on." As to their exceptional performance to the Rock he added that the MOD70 was sailing upwind, typically making 21 knots at 50 degrees. "The MOD70 is an amazing machine. Every time we go out we still come back smiling."

Among Concise 10's crew were Paul Larsen, the world's fastest sailor (who sailed Vestas Sailrocket 2 at 65.45 knots average over 500m in 2012) and towering Rio 2016 Finn gold medallist and Land Rover BAR crew Giles Scott, sailing his first offshore race. "It was really good," said Scott. "Upwind, it felt like a long way out to the Fastnet, although I know a lot of the fleet have still got to go through all of that. On the turn round, when we started ripping downwind, Land's End didn't feel that far away at all. The fastest speed I saw was 36 knots."

But fairly pedestrian compared to the 40+ knot speeds he was seeing during the America's Cup in Bermuda? "Not at night in a seaway! These boats are awesome - get the boards set up right and they just fly. They are amazing bits of kit."

Ned Collier Wakefield said of his new crewman: "Giles enjoyed it. We scared him quite a few times! He's not used to heeling over quite so much! He was on the helm on that favourable run back from Bishop and he had a lot of fun. I think he might have the offshore bug - apart from the freeze-dried food... And the lack of sleep... And the cold..."

At the time Concise 10 finished, the first monohull, George David's Rambler 88, still had 224 nm to go to the finish. Her ETA is now around 0300 tomorrow morning.

Back in the race proper the biggest monohulls are now round the Fastnet Rock and, thanks to their now sailing downwind are pulling ahead under IRC. At 0900 CET Rambler 88 was mid-Celtic Sea on a long gybe east, but had pulled into the lead, not just in IRC Zero, but overall under IRC, taking over the yellow jersey from the biggest boat in the Rolex Fastnet Race, the 115ft Nikata. These two giants displaced the smaller French boats Codiam and Pintia from the overall lead, although they remain ahead in IRC One and IRC Two respectively.

The bulk of IRC One is currently setting off across the Celtic Sea with Vittorio Biscarini's Mylius 15e25 Ars Una leading the charge on the water while handicap leader Codiam was astern and to weather. Overnight IRC One divided equally up the sides of the Traffic Separation Scheme off Land's End with the front runners on the water, Ars Una and James Neville's HH42 Ino XXX, taking the eastern route and Richard Fearon's RP45 Katsu and Dennis Maijer's Farr 45 Bucket List leading the charge up the west side, closer to the Scilly Isles. With the wind veering into the NNW, the boats have all tacked and are close to laying Fastnet Rock.

IRC Two are following a similar regime, however their lead trio on the water, Gilles Fournier and Corinne Migraine's J/133 Pintia, Nick and Suzi Jones' First 44.7 Lisa (skippered by RORC Commodore Michael Boyd) and Frans and Carla Rodenburg's First 40 Elke, all headed up the west side of the TSS while James Sweetman's First 40 Joanna of Cowes led the group up the east side off Land's End. The leaders in both groups tacked at around 0400 when they were close to laying Fastnet Rock.

Conversely the first group of boats in IRC Three took the eastern side of the Land's End TSS with Ed Fishwick and Nick Cherry on their Sun Fast 3600 Redshift Reloaded leading (on the water) up the east side alongside Ian Hoddle's sistership Game On. Meanwhile yesterday's IRC Three leader on corrected time, Altikhan - Linxea Valoris & Benefits, the A-35 of France's Johann Bouic, was first on the water heading up the west side of the TSS. However Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret's JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls is now leading IRC Three on corrected time.

Incredibly, the leaders among the smallest, slowest boats in IRC Four are also up among the IRC Two and Three boats. Again, there have been significantly differing tactics here with the two French JPK 10.10s: the Loisins' 2013 winner Night and Day and Noel Racine's Foggy Dew taking the eastern route while the present IRC Four leader, Paul Kavanagh's Swan 44 Pomeroy Swan, had gone west.

Among the professional classes, the stand-out performance remains that of the doublehanded crew of Paul Meilhat and Gwénolé Gahinet on the IMOCA 60 SMA, which is not only 23 miles ahead of the next boat in her class but also 7.5 miles in front of the first fully crewed VO65 Dongfeng Race Team. Among those VO65 crews competing on Leg Zero of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Chinese VO65 was first to round the Fastnet Rock at 07:58 this morning, followed eight minutes later by Team Akzonobel and then Mapfre. Bringing up the rear was Dee Caffari's fledgling crew on board Turn the Tide on Plastic at 08:55. All seven VO65s initially headed south with MAPFRE the first to gybe east.

In the Class40s Phil Sharp and Imerys were back in the lead this morning about two thirds of the way to the Fastnet Rock however, five other boats were looking threatening, especially yesterday's leader, Campagne de France, sailed by Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron, the furthest north of the Class40s at present.

Track the fleet in the Rolex Fastnet Race: cf.yb.tl/fastnet2017

www.rolexfastnetrace.com

Ludde's CQS around the Fastnet Rock (from John Roberson)

Ludde Ingvall's team, competing in the Rolex Fastnet Race on the super maxi CQS, rounded the Fastnet Rock at 06:25 this morning, second on line honours, and turned for the run back to the finish in Plymouth. They reported soon after rounding the famous rock, off the south west coast of Ireland, they were sailing at 14 knots in 15 knots of wind.

The breeze has been fairly consistent all night, and they have maintained their advantage over Nikata, and are looking forward to a fast downwind ride back to the finish.

Speaking from onboard, Kiwi helmsman Chris Dickson commented just before they rounded, "we've had a great night on CQS, we've got Nikata tucked away safely behind us, we've got the Fastnet Rock directly ahead, the sun's about to come up, and we're ready to put the spinnaker up and go for home."

While CQS still trails the American yacht Ramble 88 in the battle for line honours, the conditions for the leg back to Plymouth look much more suitable for Ludde's high tech boat, and they hope to start reeling in the Americans.

With the breeze forecast to stay in the north for most of the next 24 hours, CQS should be able to fly her massive spinnaker and deploy her foils, at least until they turn east at the Bishop Rock lighthouse.

The team will also have to weave their way through the whole fleet behind them, over 350 boats, still on their way to the rock. Once back in the English Channel there will also be two tide gates to negotiate, at the Lizard Head, and Dodman point.

The current estimated time of arrival in Plymouth is approximately 09:00 on Wednesday morning.

Dongfeng first to ease sheets at the Fastnet Rock (from Dongfeng Race Team)

After a night of close-quarters tacking in the Celtic Sea into a 15-knot northwesterly breeze Dongfeng Race Team, which had been in second place in the seven-strong Volvo Ocean Race fleet, was the first to round the famous Fastnet Rock this morning.

Charles Caudrelier and his crew managed to overhaul former class leader AkzoNobel and were the first to ease sheets and begin the leg back to Plymouth with the wind now behind Dongfeng and set to freshen as they head towards the Isles of Scilly.

At 08.30 local time this morning Dongfeng had 246.3 miles left to sail to the finish off Plymouth and was two miles ahead of AkzoNobel, skippered by Simeon Tienpont, with the Spanish entry MAPFRE, skippered by Xabi Fernández, another half a mile astern.

On Dongfeng there were broad smiles and a thumbs-up from navigator Pascal Bidégorry as the crew worked the boat downwind for the first time in this 605-mile classic and with the famous Fastnet lighthouse now behind them.

"It's good, rounding the Fastnet is always fantastic. It is a nice day, not a very windy one. It was not easy to be the first here. We have had a great fight with the Spanish and with AkzoNobel since the beginning of the race and then the whole fleet compressed in a really light spot," said skipper, Charles Caudrelier.

"Now this is a long downwind phase and it will probably be very challenging, because the wind is very shifty and the other boats at the back will try something. So it will be very hard to stay ahead before we reach the Isles of Scilly. After that, things will be more clear."

Marie Riou, who is taking part in the Rolex Fastnet Race for the first time, was also glad to round the rock in first place. "We passed the rock in daylight so I saw it and that was nice. I'm really happy to be here. Now, we have to go downwind and stay focused until the finish line. We overtook team AkzoNobel during the night so we are in first place which is good, but there is still a long way to go. But this is a good start and it's good to be in first place, really exciting!"

Update from Alex Thomson and Nin O'Leary on HUGO BOSS

Update from Phil Sharp on Imerys

"After yesterday afternoon's unstable and light sailing conditions it is good to be back into some decent breeze this morning, even if we are pounding upwind once more.

"It has been unbelievably close racing at the front of the Class 40 fleet, and the battle is really on between us and the boats to the north; Campagne de France and V&B, who seem to have taken a riskier option where the forecast winds are appearing quite unreliable. Currently it is very difficult to predict who is going to come out of top, even though we are in the lead now.

"Life sailing upwind at a constant tilt is never too comfortable, particularly sleeping. There is only one bunk to windward so if a second person is asleep out of 4 crew members (2 on watch, 2 off), the second wedges himself between the structure of the boat to stop him falling from the high side. Quality sleep outside on the deck is difficult and now that we are out into the Celtic Sea it's too cold.

"We are pushing every fraction of a knot out of the boat, and due to reach the Fastnet Rock at about 1900 UTC today. We can't wait as it means no more upwind, and instead a very fast downwind blast under spinnaker. So lots to look forward to!"

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