Dozens of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet have retired overnight as the first gale hit. Elaine Bunting reports

For as many as a third of the fleet this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race has been short and sharp. Overnight, the fleet met gale force south-westerlies, which has prompted a spate of retirements to ports along the south coast.

The leaders are now past Land’s End. The fleet is being headed up by Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard, which leads from American George David’s 90ft maxi Rambler and a clutch of Open 60s. In the 60s, Alex Thomson’s early lead has been taken over by Vincent Riou on PRB and Bernard Stamm on Cheminess Poujoulat.

Among the high profile retirements, RORC commodore David Aisher’s IRC 46 Yeoman XXXII ran for Plymouth last night, as did Roland Jourdain’s Véolia, which has just emerged from a major Juan Kouyoumdjian-inspired refit. Neville Crichton’s canting keel maxi Alfa Romeo also ran into problems and returned to the Solent.

As I forecast on my blog yesterday, Pete Goss has gone to Plymouth in his little Seacart 30 trimaran. No surprise there!

We’ll update news throughout the day.