The Botin 52, Caro has won the class in IRC Zero in the Rolex Fastnet Race - while their corrected time also puts them top of the leaderboard for the IRC prize, though the race win is still too close to call.

Max Klink’s Botin 52, Caro, crossed the Rolex Fastnet Race finish line at 06:25:02 on Tuesday 25th July to earn the class win IRC Zero – while their corrected time also makes them current leader on the IRC leaderboard, though the overall race win is still too close to call with so many fleets still racing.

Caro completed the the course in 2 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes, 2 seconds. With a two and a half hour advantage over nearest rivals Warrior Won on corrected time, Caro is now unbeatable in IRC Zero.

Launched in 2021, Caro came into the Rolex Fastnet Race on strong form. The team finished top of a strong contingent of 52-footers in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race in 2022, finishing 3rd in class and overall.

For this year’s Fastnet the Caro team saw tactician Adrian Stead step onboard, who has won the Fastnet Race twice before with Rán.

“It’s my first time racing Caro,’ Stead explained. “Max is a great owner, he’s got a fantastic team with a really well prepared boat and those are all the boxes you need to tick for a race like the Fastnet.”

It was a rough start for the whole fleet leaving Cowes upwind in 25 knots heading into 40 knots overnight. But Caro showed their intention to race hard from the start and while many set off heavily reefed – some even choosing storm jibs for the race start – Caro crossed the startline under full mainsail and J4, sailing with confidence after a thorough training session earlier in the week.

“We had a really good start” Stead reflects. “We’d actually practised the start and all the way out to the Fairway Buoy on the Wednesday before, with similar current and luckily we had 25 knots for that so we were acclimatised to what we were going to see, where we wanted to place the boat and where we wanted to be on the startline.

Caro closing in on the Rolex Fastnet Race finish/ Photo: Paul Wyeth / RORC

“We’d identified that the first 8 hours were going to be survival mode and the goal was to get to Lyme Bay in good shape. I have to say the Portland Race was horrendous. We had two reefs and the number 4 jib there.

“Conditions were still pretty extreme to the west of Portland and we found ourselves all sitting in the cockpit and sailing at 5-6 knots just to get through, just to make sure we didn’t break the boat.”

Despite a conservative approach and meticulous planning, Caro was not immune to damage and lost their wind indicator while passing Portland. They attempted a fix in flatter water off Falmouth to no avail, so were forced to sail the majority of the race with a significant disadvantage.

“Losing the wand early was pretty disconcerting,” Stead explained. “Andy Green our navigator from Australia is on his first trip to sail in the Solent and first Fastnet. But he did a phenomenal job and what instruments were working were reliable so you just had to sail what you had.

“It was hard work sailing at night with no instruments, no wind angle, but it keeps you honest.”

In IRC overall Caro was always in contention and led the the IRC Zero fleet around the Fastnet Rock, before blasting back to the finish in Cherbourg in almost exactly 24 hours – a very impressive time to cover the distance and where they saw some big gains against many of the contenders around them.

The start of IRC Zero and Super Zero. Photo: Paul Wyeth

Fastnet Super Zero

The Volvo Ocean 65 Wind Whisper was first to top the IRC leaderboard for much of yesterday, with the team relishing the early conditions in the well-tested VO65, until Caro overhauled the Polish flagged VO65 in the closing stages of the race.

Wind Whisper were later penalised with a 5% discretionary penalty when they were found to have an incorrect TCC rating, which was adjusted after the race from 1.658 to 1.662. The team issued a statement saying: “As a WindWhisper Racing Team, we respect fair play and honesty as the core values of our sport.

“Yesterday while still racing, we realised that we had made a mistake related to our IRC rating and we reported it to the Race Committee. Sportsmanship always comes first.”

The Juan K designed, Lucky (ex-Rambler 88) had been hopeful of setting a course record before the start but missed out on claiming line honours by just 15 minutes, coming in behind the leading IMOCAs, including Fastnet Race line honours winner, Charlie Dalin. The crew, led by America’s Cup legend Brad Butterworth were the first IRC boat to cross the finish line but it was quickly clear they would be overhauled at which point all eyes turned to the VO65s and the fastest 50-footers.

Wind Whisper revelled in the strong winds at the start of the Fastnet Race. Photo: Kurt Arrigo / Rolex

Waiting game for IRC overall win

Going into the race Stead reckoned there were 12 boats capable of beating Caro in the highly competitive IRC Zero and Super Zero fleets. “We knew that we had Warrior Won, INO [Noir] and Teasing Machine all in our class, so there were plenty of boats that we knew we would have to push hard to beat.

“We knew our target boats and the goal was to win our class. Once we knew we had done that, then we looked at working really hard Monday night [into the finish] to see if we could get our time a little better against the Volvo 65s and Lucky.

“We knew the tide was going to be against [in the vital, final miles into Cherbourg]. So we were watching our watches and we pushed really hard through the channel last [Monday] night. So we had the FR0 up, 2 staysails and reefed main and were sitting at probably 18-20 knots in the dark with only boat speed and heading so it was quite lively.”

“We knew our target boats and the goal was to win our class. Once we had that, we were working pretty hard Monday night to see if we could get our time a little better against the Volvo 65s and Lucky.

“So we achieved that and now we’ll see what happens with the rest of the fleets,” Stead concluded, as the early leaders wait to see if any other yacht can yet beat them on corrected time.

The bulk of the IRC Zero fleet now slowly closing in on Cherbourg are out of overall victory contention thanks to a shut-down of breeze in the Western Channel last night, and with light winds currently to the south of Ireland the smaller boats have hit a big slow down too. However, the wind is forecast to build again from the south-west overnight and during the course of the day on Wednesday 26 July, which could yet bring some of the smallest boats faster conditions towards the finish.

Follow all our Rolex Fastnet Race coverage.

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