Rambler pips Leopard to the Rock 3 seconds ahead. Elaine Bunting reports

What an incredible Fastnet Race this is turning out to be. After match racing all the way across the Celtic Sea, the two big maxis Rambler and ICAP Leopard have rounded the Fastnet Rock only three seconds apart.

George David’s 90 Reichel Pugh-designed Rambler rounded the Rock at 18:00:35. Right behind, Mike Slade’s Leopard went round at 18:00:38. Conditions there were slightly foggy, with 30 knots of wind from the south-west and the two boats reached up at about 14 knots.

Earlier today, Rambler’s skipper Ken Read reported: “We have had a very pleasant few hours blasting across the Celtic Sea with our code 0 up and averaging speeds in the high teens. But this won’t last long . we [have had] the No. 4 or storm jib up again with a reef or three in order to get to the Fastnet Rock in once piece and try to keep close tabs on Leopard.

“All in all, an awesome race so far.”

The two boats will be able to pour the power on as the wind veers tonight and, if all goes well, they will be in Plymouth before breakfast to claim a convincing new monohull course record.

Roughly 10 miles behind is leading Open 60 PRB. The two-handed IMOCA class has also had an amazing race so far: the powerful batch of new Open 60s have kept pace with much larger maxis, crewed by up to 20 people, for nearly 400 miles – much of those upwind.

Photo courtesy of Paul Todd/www.outsideimages.co.nz.