For Nicorette, third across the line, the Rolex Fastnet Race was always going to be a bit of a gamble

For Nicorette, third across the line in the 2001 Rolex Fastnet , the race was always going to be a gamble. The 79ft winner of the 1999 Sydney-Hobart race relies so heavily on getting the right wind direction, but crossing the start line with several broken mainsail battens, leaving her 20-30 minutes off the pace coming out of the Needles, was not in the game plan. The boat, skippered by Ludde Ingvall, clawed back up the fleet and had a finish that was closer than anyone could have hoped for as it sailed slowly into Plymouth with a timid breeze but drenched in glorious sunshine.

Britain’s Europe class Olympic Gold medallist Shirley Robertson was onboard for her first experience of offshore racing. and Yachting World caught up for an exclusive as the boat arrived in Plymouth.

Asked what the highlight of the race was, Shirley answered that, for her at least, it was battling in big seas and heavy rain around the Fastnet Rock: “To see the lighthouse in the middle of nowhere was truly amazing.”

Apart from the rounding of the rock, it was the sun of the Scillies combined with the dolphins swimming alongside the boat that brightened Robertson’s forray into offshore racing. Where she really came into here element was approaching the finish when the 608-mile race turned into a head-to-head match race between Nicorette and Morning Glory.For Ludde, who describes the race as ‘miserable’ the choice to head offshore on the approach to Plymouth to try and find some breeze paid off. For the first time in the race, Nicorette was able to raise the code zero and make some speed, then out of the dense fog that has dogged Plymouth for the last 16 hours, they spotted Morning Glory. The battle for position was on, Nicorette was in front but stopped 100 metres from the line allowing Morning Glory to catch up – an offshore race and match race in one. Nicorette managed to hold on to the lead by minutes.

When asked whether he would compete in another Fastnet, Ludde was not so sure. The boat is not set up for the reaching conditions that the 2001 Rolex Fastnet has dealt, his crew had to work extremely hard to keep the pace against those far more suited to the wind direction. For Ludde and Nicorette the Sydney Hobart is their race, there are other boats more suited to reaching, Stealth and Morning Glory to name but two.

All crew are now off to relax before setting off for Cowes to prepare for the Americas Cup Jubilee, where hopefully the wardrobe of spinnakers will be used more productively than as an expensive mattress for the crew and the boat can show her true colours.