Light airs continue to slow the fleet in the Irish Sea

ICAP Maximus passed the Fastnet Rock at 0333 hours this morning, and continues to hold a significant lead in the Rolex Fastnet Race. The other big Maxi in the race, Skandia Wild Thing, rounded the Rock at 0918 hours, while a group of Open 60s and the Volvo Open 70 Movistar are still making agonisingly slow progress in a glassy Celtic Sea.

Boat captain of ICAP Maximus, George Hendy, said at 1000 hours this morning: “We’re now 23 miles from the Fastnet Rock, on our way back to Plymouth. We’re making 6 knots boatspeed in 4.5 knots of wind, which is the most wind we’ve seen in a long time.” Hendy said the boat was flying a Code 0 headsail and that they were on a close reach back towards the Scilly Isles.

He would not be drawn on predicting an estimated time of arrival (ETA). “The wind is meant to come up in the afternoon, the forecast is quite favourable. But it’s just a minefield out here. There are huge holes in the wind. You could easily sail into one of those holes and stop for three or four hours.” Hendy said one of the crew was going up the rig every so often to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding sea, and look for the best patches of wind – and those dreaded holes.

Skandia Wild Thing was drifting in glassy conditions, just three miles past the Rock at 1000 hours this morning. Helmsman and trimmer Graham Taylor said: “The wind gods aren’t playing their hand for us, or anyone else for that matter. We’ve seen a lot of zeros on the instruments over the past few hours. Currently we’re making 0.2 knots boatspeed. We’ve probably done about 35 or 40 miles in the past 12 hours. But we think there are still plenty of passing opportunities. There are quite a few gates left in the race yet.”

Skipper of VO70 Movistar, Bouwe Bekking, reported in at 0900 hours this morning. “We’ve just done 120 miles in 24 hours. We’ve broken our all-time slowest record,” said the Dutch professional, who also set the 24-hour monohull sailing record aboard Movistar earlier this year, with a distance of 535 miles. At 608 miles, the Rolex Fastnet Race course is not much further, and yet the powerful VO70 was still 30 miles from the rock when Bekking reported in. “We’ve just got some breeze back now, and we’re making 8 to 10 knots’ boatspeed in 6 knots of wind. We can see quite a few Open 60s around us – Ecover two miles to leeward, Pindar a mile further to leeward, and Sill three or four miles behind. We’re all in a big line heading towards the Rock. As for the big boats – they’re gone. They’re out of sight.”

Ecover has made up good ground in the 14-boat Open 60 fleet. Skipper Mike Golding said: “The wind went soft for a while during the night so we changed to a Code 0, but we are now back under genoa and main. The boat is fully loaded up and we are doing about 9-10 knots through the water. We are currently lying to the left-hand side of the fleet and can see Virbac to weather of us. The guys have kept the boat moving really well and we have had a cracking few hours,” commented Golding over a fry-up breakfast this morning.

Some of the smaller yachts in the 285-boat fleet have yet to round Lands End. It could be the weekend before they get back to Plymouth. The slowest rated boat in the fleet, Ian Coglin’s Contessa 32 Moonshadow II, passed the Lizard at 0617 hours this morning, and was one of a number yet to pass Lands End. It appears that skipper Coglin is having to deal with an increasingly mutinous crew: “Crew [is] consulting small print of brochure,” he reported. “Apparently [it’s] not what I promised.”

Picture shows Skandia Wild Thing rounding the Fastnet
Carlo Borlenghi