The brand new IMOCA Macif, skippered by Charlie Dalin, was first monohull home to take line honours in the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race and set a new monohull course record of 2 days 07 hours 16 minutes and 26 seconds.

In the battle of the big boats it was the brand new IMOCA Macif, skippered by Charlie Dalin with Pascal Bidégorry which was first monohull home to take line honours in the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race and set a new course record in the process.

Dalin crossed the finish line after 2 day 07 hours 16 minutes and 26 seconds. This shaves over an hour off the time set by the giant ClubSwan 125 Skorpios in 2021 when the race first sailed the new course to finish in Cherbourg.

It’s also a back to back win for Dalin who also took IMOCA class victory in the 2021 edition – though on that occasion it was Skorpios that took line honours.

It was Yoann Richomme’s IMOCA Paprec Arkea that led the fleet in the early stages, before being overhauled by Dalin in the final approach to the finish. In the end Dalin squeaked to victory by just 4 minutes to claim the win from Richomme. British skipper Sam Goodchild rounded out the podium, with an impressive performance on his second race in For the Planet

IMOCAs in Rolex Fastnet Race

This year’s Fastnet was long heralded as a mouth-watering proposition for IMOCA 60 fans to follow, with a clutch of brand new designs, as well as skippers who’ve newly joined in the fleet lining up in their biggest race to date. And it didn’t disappoint.

Twenty-nine IMOCAs lined up for the start in Cowes, making one of the most spectacular starts of the whole race as a series of strong gusts came through shortly after they crossed the line. Many of the foil-assisted designs took flight with streaming white water rooster tails as they blasted away along the Isle of Wight shoreline.

IMOCA skippers were exercising caution at the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race 2023 in breezy conditions. Photo: Paul Wyeth/RORC

Charal was one of the first away, with the enviable pairing of Jérémie Beyou and Franck Cammas. However, Charal was called OCS at the start of the Fastnet Race, incurring an automatic 2 hour penalty. Pip Hare, sailing with Nick Bubb on the newly refitted Medallia was also called over the line early. Sadly Hare, sailing her newly modified Medallia with co-skipper Nick Bubb, suffered furler and sail damage early on which put them out of contention.

The latest generation designs quickly stamped their authority on the race, with Dalin’s Macif – launched less than a month previously – first out of the Solent. Along with Charal other early leaders included Thomas Ruyant, also with a brand new boat, the Antoine Koch/Finot-Conq-designed For People. Sadly Ruyant later joined the long list of Fastnet retirees on Saturday night after incurring damage in the strong winds and severe sea state. 

“We had two objectives at the start,” explained Dalin on the dock after finishing. “Our first was to survive the exit of the Solent, and survive the first 10 to 12 hours of strong wind so that we could concentrate on racing afterwards – and then that’s what we managed.”

Closely matching Ruyant was his team mate Sam Goodchild sailing For the Planet, who is building up to his first Vendée Globe campaign, and Yoann Richomme, also on his first IMOCA programme with his new Paprec Arkea. 

Fast run from Fastnet Rock

There was a slight split in the fleet after exiting the Solent – Dalin leading a group that opened to head into Studland Bay, Richomme leading a group that headed south before tacking west. On the cross, it was Richomme that took the lead, though the two packs quickly merged.

“It was 30, 35 knots up wind, so not very comfortable, but I was thinking more from all the smaller boats and all the people hiking on the rail compared to us, who have got a big roof on their cockpit to keep us warm and dry. Yeah, the first 12-18 hours were the most difficult bits, but they went fairly well for us,” said Goodchild of the first day’s racing.

30-knot conditions for the IMOCA fleet in the Celtic Sea, here onboard Initiatives Couer.

At the Fastnet Rock Richomme’s Paprec Arkea led Dalin’s Macif, rounding at 2114 last night with Dalin just 20 minutes behind.

The run from the Rock saw the foiling designs posting boat speeds of 25-30 knots, Paprec Arkea hunting down, and then overhauling, the 88-footer Lucky (ex-Rambler 88), which had been an early prediction for the line honours win. 

“We weren’t expected to be that windy,” added Goodchild. “We’re expecting 20 to 25 knots. We had 35 in the end, so we had a bit of a hairy night, but it was obviously quick, as we went round the Rock at sunset and went round the Scillies at sunrise.

“So it was a quick cross in the Irish Sea and we didn’t get much sleep because the boat was a bit of a bucking bronco. But, it went fast and it was a good, fun ride.”

Macif stayed close in touch and after Bishop’s Rock moved up to challenge Paprec for the lead, the two matching each other gybe for gybe on the run back to the Scillies.

IMOCA Macif foiling around the Fastnet Rock. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Fastnet first monohulls

The Casquets TSS is fast becoming one of the key deciding points in the race, and, with boat speeds down to just 5 knots at times, it was here that Macif took a more southerly line, moving into the lead for the final 30 miles of the race, the two boats separated by less than 2 minutes.

“We had a crazy leg from the Fastnet to the Scillies, we reached 30 or 40 knots several times – crazy speeds and that was great. The boat was just flying,” said Dalin. “And a crazy battle in the end with Yoanne [Richomme]  and Jan.

“We caught them, they took off again, we caught again, managed to overtake and just at the end we had a 2 miles lead and we got some seaweed in the keel! So we tried everything to shake it off but couldn’t. We lost like 1.4 miles due to this seaweed. So we’re pretty relieved when we got rid of that and managed to extend again to the finish.”

Behind the leaders, the lightening conditions had also caused a big compression in the fleet, and behind Goodchild in 3rd, Maxime Sorel’s V&B Montana Mayenne, Sam Davies on Initiatives Cover, and Clarisse Cremer with her newly relaunched L’Occitane en Provence closely packed.

Paprec Arkéa, skippered by Yoann Richomme, is one of several new IMOCA 60s that was contesting the Rolex Fastnet Race 2023, finishing 2nd.

“The IMOCA fleet is great. We had a very tough battle with a lot of other teams, there’s a really high level of sailors. And that’s what make the class interesting. You got these very skilled skippers with a very talented team developing the boats, engineers, architects, and you get this amazingly competitive racing.

“There’s a lot of team that with the same skippers, same sponsors, same team, but with another new boat. It’s getting a bit close to Formula One. I think that’s amazing.

The 88-footer Lucky rounds the Fastnet Rock in the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race, finishing as first IRC yacht. Photo: Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

First IRC yachts finish

Ten minutes after the first IMOCAs finished, Lucky crossed the line at, making them the first IRC boat home. However, they no longer hold the advantage on IRC overall, with the VO65s Wind Whisper and Team Jajo, who finished within the hour currently topping the IRC overall lead, though there are many boats still racing who could yet be in contention.

Follow all of our Fastnet Race 2023 coverage.

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