Yachting Monthly and Motor Boats and Yachting photographer Graham Snook reports on the Rolex Fastnet Race from the deck of the Joint Services Command and Staff College’s chartered Farr 65 Spirit of Minerva
“It seems everyone’s start was remarkable in one way or another. We were manoeuvring behind the line when our main winch exploded but still made an excellent start, despite 35 knots whistling across the deck.
“The problems didn’t end there however. While beating up the Solent, our starboard genoa sheet parted as we hobby-horsed our way through the 16ft swells at Hurst Narrows. The sheets were to give us more trouble the next day.
“While tacking up the coast of southwest England, we noticed a tangle in the staysail sheets and while sorting that out we noticed the other genoa sheet was about to pack up too. Both problems had just been fixed when the bilges were checked. More trouble.
“It seems the stern gland had been leaking and we had taken on a fair bit of water overnight. A classic bit of joint services ingenuity with a few sail ties soon stemmed the flow and thoughts turned back to the Fastnet Race.
“At 1900 last night, we were south of the Lizard experiencing eight knots true, within half-a-mile of the two leaders: Clipper star Alex Thomson’s Juno lay off the starboard bow with Spirit of Diana off to port. Isis, nursing a split genoa, had fallen back a little.”
The light winds Graham reported could become a feature of the next few days. The westerlies associated with a new Atlantic low south of Iceland were expected to replace the southwesterlies of the previous low, now over Norway. A ridge of high pressure stretching right across northern Europe is slowing up the low pressure systems, leaving Fastnet competitors with light and variable, predominantly southwesterly conditions for the next day or two.
This means a pleasant, if less than thrilling, ride across the Irish Sea to Fastnet Rock. We can safely say now that all the race records are safe and crews will be more concerned with getting back to work on time than surviving this somewhat benign Rolex Fastnet Race.