It was a start that epitomises offshore sailing, strong winds, reefed sails and submerged lee-rails... The first night out will be a test of endurance for boat and crews as the Fastnet fleet set their sights on the first major landmark, Portland Bill and Lyme Bay
It was a start that epitomises offshore sailing – strong winds, reefed sails and submerged lee-rails… The first night out will be a test of endurance for boat and crews as the Fastnet fleet set their sights on the first major landmark, Portland Bill and Lyme Bay
The forecast was for 20-knot westerlies. However their were a large number of orange trisails set as the 230-strong fleet waited patiently off Cowes for the 1600 to 1700 series of start times. Visibility closed in until Fawley was no longer in sight and before long even the Royal Yacht Squadron became a shadow of its former self.
The wind was by now a steady 30 knots, gusting in excess of 35 knots. Most boats were down to the last reef in their main, and number three jib. Their were not many cheerful faces sat on the lee-rail as the rain began to fall, and many a knowing look that the first night out is not going to be a walk in the park.
Among the fleet of cruising yachts were some familiar racing machines making twice the speed of their smaller counterparts under headsail alone. It was good to see Alex Bennett’s boat out on the water, Ocean Challenger, ex-Aqua Quorum, the Open 50 in which Pete Goss rescued his French rival in the Southern Ocean. Former Team Philips crewmember Alex Bennett is setting his sights on success in the Rolex Fastnet Race with the newly named Ocean Challenger.
“We’re going out to win! The Open 50 is in great shape and we’ll be opening her up full throttle on the 608-mile challenge.”
Bennett is fresh from his short handed training exercise on the Brixham to Santander race where he and partner Chris Pontet took overall honours and pushed the ex-Aqua Quorum to an average speed of 15 knots and top speeds of 21 knots.
Bennett is joined by crewmembers Shane Dickson – also from the Team Philips camp and now Alexs’ business partners in their corporate hospitality company, Ocean Challenges; newcomers James Bird and Ian Long.
This will be the second Fastnet Race for Alex. He first competed in 1995 in the Youth Challenge taking second place in the Sigma 36 class. Alex’s exploits hit the headlines in 1999 when he came fifth in the Mini Transat, the best showing for a British yachtsman for 25 years.
Team SEB is also sailing in the Fastnet, and is up against her rivals, News Corp’, Assa Abloy and Illbruck Challenge. The Fastnet serves as a good opportunity to for the Volvo Ocean race, and the last offshore race in which to put right any teething problems prior to the start of the Volvo next month.
Mike Slade’s Skandia Leopard, probably the largest boat competing in the Fastnet, will be hoping to set a good pace against the likes of the Volvo 60s and the ‘all black’ Stealth. The finish is at Plymouth, and with some of the faster boats making anything up to 300 miles a day, the leaders should cross the line sometime on Tuesday.
ybw will be at Plymouth to record the action and bring you the latest from sailing events around the country.