American VO70 Wizard wins the Rolex Fastnet Race overall, while French JPK yachts dominate the IRC classes

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The stars’n’stripes liveried American Volvo 70 Wizard has been confirmed as the overall IRC winner of this year’ Rolex Fastnet Race.

Brothers David and Peter Askew from Detroit finished in 1 day and 27 hours to score an unbeatable corrected time on their first attempt.

The victorious Wizard crew. Photo: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures

Wizard is the former Volvo Ocean Race-winning Groupama 4, and was sailed with a hugely experienced crew including Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, Rob Greenhalgh and navigator Will Oxley.

The Wizard crew were able to keep boatspeed up to stay with the bigger maxis during the light winds transition phase on the first night of the race, pushed the robust VO70 hard through the 25-knot plus conditions on the approach to the Rock, and finished within two hours of the line honours winners Rambler 88 to take the Fastnet Challenge Cup, the overall IRC prize.

The Fastnet trophy is the latest in an impressive winning streak for the Wizard programme, which has seen them take the RORC Caribbean 600 overall prize in February this year, and then win the Transatlantic Race last month.

David and Peter Askew’s Wizard has won the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race overall

David said after the Fastnet finish: “[Our winning streak] can’t last forever – you just try to make it last as long as you can. That being said, we definitely have a formula. We decide what we want to do and then find the right machine and the right people to get it done.”

Navigator Will Oxley added: “The crew work was just excellent. Every manoeuvre was done really well. We used all the sails in the right order. We never had the wrong sail up. Charlie made an excellent call that we change directly from the masthead Code 0 to the J2, so we were under-wicked heading out to the Rock for the first hours, but then we didn’t have to do the change from the J1 to the J2.

“On these boats they are hanked sails and trying to get rid of the J1 and put the J2 up in those conditions is very difficult so that was another key moment.”

Apart from Wizard’s win in IRC Overall and Zero, and USA 25555 Rambler 88’s monohull line honours win, it has been a near clean sweep for French entries in this year’s race.

Jacques Pelletier took IRC 1 in his Milon 41 L’Ange de Milon, which he describes as a ‘prototype’ of the JPK 1010, also designed by Jacques Vader, who draws the successful JPK line.

Géry Trentesaux’s JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé took 1st place in IRC 1

Their win was the first of a near total command of the smaller IRC classes by the Valer-Jean Pierre Kelbert partnership. In IRC 2 Géry Trentesaux’s well-sailed JPK 11.80 Courrier Recommandé took 1st place, with three of the top four boats being 11.80s.

In IRC 3 their domination was even more complete. Jean Pierre Kelbert himself was sailing with Alexis Loison, overall race winner in 2013. The double-handed pair sailed the JPK 10.80 Léon to class win, with no fewer than six of the top seven boats in class in being 10.80s.

Léon fishing into Plymouth

The only exception was 2nd placed Henry Bomby and Hannah Diamond on their brand new Sunfast 3300 Fastrak XII. Léon and Fastrak XII were also 1st and 2nd respectively in the exceptionally competitive double-handed division.

The pattern repeated yet again in IRC 4, with JPK 10.10s taking the top two places and filling half of the top 10 in the 87-boat fleet. Noel Racine’s Foggy Dew added another trophy to the cabinet to take the class win.

Alexis Loison and Jean-Pierre Kelbert won IRC 3 and the double-handed division on the JPK 10.30 Léon. Photo: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures.com

But as crews await tonight’s Rolex Fastnet Race prizegiving, the stories of the race have been much more about the winners – the teenage crew of Scaramouche from Greig City Academy who pushed on despite shredding two spinnakers, Susan Glenny’s team on Team Tigress who had to sail almost the entire race with two reefs in after ripping the mainsail in the early stages of the race, and the beautiful classic yachts who have sedately arrived into Plymouth over the final days.

The Greig City Academy school team Scaramouche crossing the line. Photo: Paul Wyeth/pwpictures

Among the classics, Lulotte was awarded this year’s Sparkman and Stephens Trophy. Owner Ben Morris bought the S&S yawl a decade ago in the Caribbean, before sailing it across the Atlantic with no engine and battling 10 days of gales that blew out most of Lulotte’s sails before arriving in Dartmouth where she was lovingly restored.

“Going around the Fastnet Rock we have a little tradition – we have a family house on Heir Island overlooking the rock. As we rounded the Fastnet Lighthouse all of the wonderful crew enjoyed roast lamb,” said Ben, a veteran of eight Fastnets.

Lulotte goes to windward well, but off the breeze with a mizzen staysail up you are having to work the wheel quite hard, but she looks after us and you never feel in danger. We hit 15 knots surfing down a wave coming home – she’s a Devon girl!”

Around 11 yachts are still racing, including the Rogers family on the Contessa 32 Assent, who have around  70 miles still to go on Thursday evening.

For all our Fastnet videos from Cowes and the finish in Plymouth, visit our You Tube channel.