Fastnet Race 2013: French Domination

Double-handed father and son team takes overall victory and French take the top 10 by storm at the Fastnet Race

Fastnet leader

Not only does this year's Fastnet Race look likely to be dominated by the French, the overall winner is a two handed boat with father and son team Pascal and Alexis Loison from Cherbourg, France. Their JPK 10.10, Night and Day, arrived at 07:19:57 BST this morning making their elapsed time 3 days 18 hours 29 minutes and 57 seconds for the 611 mile race. The Loisons slipped across the finishing line 36 minutes ahead of sistership Noel Racine's Foggy Dew which was fully crewed.
Winning the overall IRC prize in the Rolex Fastnet Race means that Pascal and Alexis Loisin will receive the Fastnet Challenge Cup as well as a Rolex Chronograph.
In such a tactical race for a two handed crew to take the top prize in the world's biggest offshore race is particulary impressive.

Also impressive is the French dominance in the overall standings with the current rankings showing 12 of the top 15 places occupied by French sail numbers, five of them JPK 10.10 models.

Here's the official report on the Fastnet Race so far:

A French whitewash seems on the cards among the IRC results in the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race. The overall leader continues to change by the hour, but at present nine of the top 10 finishers on handicap are French.

As anticipated, Géry Trentesaux, one of France's best known keelboat sailors, well remembered on this side of the Channel for helping turn the 2006 Commodores' Cup in France's favour, performed well in his powerful MC34 Patton Courrier. He seems likely to remain in the top five overall under IRC and is in good shape to claim honours in IRC Two.

"The boat is very good," said Trentesaux. "We didn't sail so badly, but ours is a small boat, so it was quite difficult. We were lucky to have some reaching between the Pantaenius mark and the Scilly Isles. We hit 15 knots - not bad for a small boat. This time it is a race for the small boats, like Foggy Dew and Night and Day."

Trentesaux says that he has promised his wife that this will be his last Fastnet, but he has fond memories of the race. "It is magic - you start from Cowes and you have got the Celtic Sea and the Fastnet Rock and come back and drink a lot of beer in Plymouth!"

For Jean Jacques Godet, skipper of the J/120, Rhapsodie V, competing in this Rolex Fastnet Race was almost psychotherapy. "The last time I did the Fastnet was in 1979 and I have very bad memories of that and I wanted to break that. Now I've done it..."

While the 1979 race was his last Fastnet Race, his first was in 1971, and he sailed three races as part of the Admiral's Cup on board Ron Amey's Noreyma.

Godet, who comes from a dynasty of Cognac makers, only acquired his J/120 in the last two years. This he sails out of La Rochelle with a crew including his two sons Jean-Édouard and Maxime, who work the bow on Rhapsodie V, while Vendée Globe sailor Yannick Bestaven calls tactics.

Aside from his sombre memories, Godet was otherwise thrilled by the results, which earlier this morning had Rhapsodie V as the overall IRC leader. "It was very interesting - a great race. There were a few options, because the wind dropped a little bit when the ridge came in and we played the north side of the course where the wind was a little stronger, because our boat isn't fast when the wind is below 8 knots."

Rounding the Fastnet Rock, the wind dropped and the fog descended. "We passed the Rock during the night," said Godet. "I think we only saw the lighthouse 500m before we arrived at it. It is still a magical place."

At present the top placed British boat under IRC is Andrew Pearce's Magnum 3, one of four Ker 40s competing.

"Tactically it was an upwind race, which caused us some concerns, because this type of boat is more of an off-the-wind, surfing boat. We were thinking this race would be better for the classic 40 footers."

Pearce said that they thought they had done the right thing by diving into Lyme Bay to take advantage of an anticipated header, however it was the boats that stayed offshore that won out. "It would have been better to be five miles offshore, which Hooligan and Baraka did. They came out ahead of us."

For the Magnum 3 crew, the crossing to the Rock was uncomfortable, upwind and in the rain. However they subsequently enjoyed a blistering ride back under fractional spinnaker. "We were coming down there at 17 knots, on our ear, in the driving rain and a black-as-ink night - it was very challenging. We had to rotate drivers every hour or less, because it was very difficult."

Magnum 3's big break was making a late call to go east rather than west of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) that lies west of the Scilly Isles. "We switched sides and came out about 10 miles ahead of the competition," said Pearce.

Pearce praised his crew, who gave it their all. "The guys were hiking out on every surf, because we knew there was everything to play for. When you are at the front end of the fleet you have to do that."

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