An eclectic selection of yachts line the pontoons in Plymouth as the first finishers of the Rolex Fastnet Race arrive
The beer tent remained (nearly) empty in the Rolex Fastnet Race village for most of today, because the biggest contingent of finishers, the seven Volvo Ocean 65 crews, all arrived between 0400-0500 this morning. They can perhaps be forgiven for going for a bit of a nap.
The IMOCA 60 fleet largely headed straight for France after their finish – most having craning out slots booked immediately on their return in their busy schedule ahead of this October’s Transat Jaques Vabre.
First monohull home, Rambler 88, arrived in time for last orders last night. They opted instead for a brief rum and champagne toast on the dock before heading back on their way.
The first monohull home attracted quite a media welcome, and one cruising family in the yacht haven wandered down the pontoons to see what all the fuss was about. Their two young boys were granted an access all-areas tour of the canting keel maxi by some of the pro crew – a generous touch from the Rambler team, given nobody had had a hot dinner at that point.
But as a north-north-westerly built in Plymouth Sound during the course of the day, it brought an eclectic selection of finishers to Plymouth Yacht Haven and the bar staff opened for business.
First overall on IRC when they arrived mid-morning were Ron O’Hanley’s crew on the fully optimised Cookson 50 Privateer. Boat captain Scott Innes-Jones took the time to talk us through some of the changes the boat has had made in her eleven years of campaigning, including a completely new rig and rudder after a fishing boat collided with the yacht three years ago, spinning Privateer so violently that they were concerned the rudder stock was structurally damaged. Long since fully repaired and optimised, the robust canting-keel design gave the team a smooth run in this Fastnet, putting them top of the leaderbaord in another offshore classic, having previously won two Caribbean 600s.
But O’Hanley and the team from Newport, RI might have a fair wait to see if they get to keep the trophy – currently a Contessa 32, Christophe Declercq’s Lucas, has until 0202 on Friday 11 August to cross the line for the overall win.
The Ker 51 Tonnerre 4 arrived mid afternoon, the crew exhilarated after a 10-hour downwind sprint from the Rock, and celebrating fourth overall in IRC (for now).
Tonnerre reported a close encounter as they rounded the Rock. The yacht caught an unfortunate shark on the rudder as they turned for England. Captain Frank Gerber recalled how one willing volunteer took a quick dip over the side into the Celtic Sea to wrestle it by its gills from the foils, although during the course of its telling the shark in the tale did grow from 3ft to twelve.
Also catching their breath after a somewhat wild ride home were French skipper Charlie Capelle and his two team mates on Acapella. As the 50-footer monohulls reported an intimidating wave state on the return leg past the Scillies, Capelle arrived on his sea-skimming 35ft vintage wooden trimaran Acapella.
The 1978-built Walter Greene tri, which was famously raced as Olympus Photo by Mike Birch to win the first ever Route du Rhum and is a modified sistership to Loick Peyron’s beloved Happy, now sports carbon floats as well as immaculate original features – all in bright canary yellow, naturally. Yet she still sails remarkably low to the water, and Capelle commented that Acapella was a little yellow submarine at times. Watch out for a closer look at this remarkable and beautiful little boat in a future issue of Yachting World.
At the other end of the development scale, the DSS foiling Infiniti 46 R Maverick arrived in today ahead of many larger IRC Zero fleet, while the highly competitive Classe 40 fleet have also begun pouring into Queen Anne’s Battery this afternoon. First home in the 26-boat fleet was Maxime Sorel’s V and B, with British skipper Phil Sharp on Imrys taking second. Sharp described the early stages of the race ‘like a never ending day’ with conditions too uncomfortable and the competition too close for sleep.
Sharp also reported an entrapment by the deep. “We had a very strange incident as we approached the Scilly TSS exclusion zone. Sailing under spinnaker the boat suddenly lurched to a stop and the object holding us, perhaps a huge mooring rope, began to drag us towards the no go zone… We rapidly took down the spinnaker, and then became free. This then happened again just five minutes later and soon we were surrounded by both Campagne de France and also V&B, who soon shot off into the distance!”
The crew of Lucas, the little Contessa 32, will need fortune on their side in their race against the clock to Plymouth.