The ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, the largest yacht ever to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race, is first monohull

The monolithic Skorpios, the largest yacht ever to take part in the Rolex Fastnet Race at 42.6m/140ft (including bowsprit!), has taken monohull line honours in the 2021 edition.

The ClubSwan 125 crossed the Fastnet finish line in Cherbourg as first monohull at 2015 BST this evening, having completed the 695-mile course from Cowes to Cherbourg with an elapsed time of 2d 8h 35m 5s – and set a new benchmark time for the new course format.

The winning Skorpios crew, first monohull in the Rolex Fastnet Race

Extraordinarily, owner Dmitry Rybolovlev was taking part in his first ever offshore race. Rybolovlev is a relative newcomer to sailing, though already a ClubSwan One Design World Championship winner, having raced his ClubSwan 50 in 2019.

Among the 27-man crew on Skorpios was Rybolovlev’s daughter Anna Rybolovleva, also experiencing her first ever offshore race.

“We’re very pleased with the boat,” she commented after finishing. “We want to thank the whole team for such great efforts.

“We were trying to stay conservative, especially in the high wind at the start, but we’re excited to see what the boat can do in future races. Rounding the Fastnet Rock was kind of magical, it felt like a really special moment.”

Skorpios takes line honours in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race

Skipper Fernando Echavarri confirmed that they sailed conservatively in the initially tough conditions. “The boat is very strong, we backed off on speed coming out of the Solent, but so was everyone else.”

Just ahead of the Rolex Fastnet Race, Yachting World‘s Toby Hodges got aboard Skorpios for a very special sail and onboard tour:

Whilst the spectacular black and gold ClubSwan 125 was always favourite for first past the post prize, victory was not assured. The highly complex design, which carries a C-foil, has only recently been launched and this is its first competitive outing.

Surprisingly, their nearest competition was not George David’s Rambler 88, which has scored the past three back to back monohull line honours victories, but the IMOCA 60 Apivia.

Apivia, Sail no: FRA79, Owner: Charlie Dalin, Boat Type: IMOCA 60, Division: 2H IMOCA 60

Despite being literally half the waterline length of the giant Swan, Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat made a bold navigational call on Apivia, the first boat to cross the Vendée Globe finish line, by heading as far south of Guernsey on the outbound leg. 

It’s a tactic that was successfully adopted by multihull line honours winner Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and also many of the French IMOCAs, but Dalin and Meilhat took the most extreme southerly line, which saw them take a huge lead over the rest of the IMOCA class when the fleet reconvened off Lands End.

Apivia is expected into Cherbourg in the early hours of Wednesday morning, followed by Rambler 88.

Elsewhere first home in the competitive MOCRA fleet, which takes in all the multihulls after the giant Ultimes, was Jason Carroll’s MOD 70 Argo, which finished at 1522 (BST) this afternoon.

“The start in 27 knots was spectacular, but everyone pulled off a good port tack start and was safe, which was good,” recounted British multihull and ocean racer Brian Thompson, who was onboard Argo

By contrast, Thompson says that the trimaran rounded the Rock in champagne conditions. 

“It was such clear skies and a pleasant 10 knot breeze. The sun was shining, it was warm: It was Mediterranean sailing on the south coast of Ireland.”

The 84ft racer cruiser Allegra at the 2021 Rolex Fastnet start

The first of the ‘cruising catamarans’, Adrian Keller’s 84ft Nigel Irens-designed Allegra is expected tomorrow. Although considerably more luxuriously appointed than the multihulls ahead, the racer-cruiser Allegra is competing hard, with Australian Paul Larsen, officially the fastest sailor on the planet, skippering.

“It was pretty fruity [on the first] night, but we are all good,” Larsen reported. “Obviously, we have a bit more of an asset to manage in those rough conditions, but we chose the right side of the course. We had everything stacked in the main saloon, all the sails and all the crew which made it easier, pitching over the waves.”

Tuesday brought an entirely different story for many of the smaller boats in the IRC fleets. After a brutal, and often boat-breaking start, many were left battling dying winds and strong tides off the south coast over the second day.

For Day 3 of the Rolex Fastnet Race many IRC fleets have been spread along England’s south coast and into the Celtic Sea

Brian Skeet and Nicolas Malapert racing doublehanded on the Sigma 38 Marta passed Start Point, only to drift backwards past it and have to sail past it once again as they were drawn backwards at the mercy of the tide.

“There was absolutely no wind overnight – we were pretty much dead in the water,” described Skeet. 

“When there was some wind we were following it around. There was a lot of mist and fog that came in. It was quite hard work. There was no chance of kedging because it was too deep, so we had to keep moving.”

Tomorrow the IMOCA, IRC Zero and IRC 1 fleets are expected to begin arriving in Cherbourg.