After a frustratingly slow race the 98ft New Zealand Maxi crossed the line at Plymouth

ICAP Maximus crosses the finish line
Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex

ICAP Maximus has won line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race, after crossing the Plymouth finish line at 0822 hours this morning. The 98-foot New Zealand Maxi led the race from start to finish, never seriously threatened by her Australian rival Skandia Wild Thing.

Co-owners Charles St Clair Brown and Bill Buckley celebrated with champagne and bacon butties and praised the crew and the boat, whose performance has exceeded expectations. “I think our performance was a surprise to most people, and to ourselves to some extent. We tried some sail combinations, some by design some by accident, which have produced some amazing speeds.”

Designer Greg Elliott said the 130-foot rotating rig would have helped them in the frustratingly light conditions that have dominated this race. “When it’s glassy on the water, and there is no wind visible on the water, we’re recording 4 knots wind at the top of the mast,” he said. “That’s wind that the smaller yachts may never get.”

ICAP Maximus enjoyed a good run back along the south-west coast of England, at times getting up to 15 knots boatspeed and completing the final 90 miles in just 8 hours. Skandia Wild Thing has also found a 12-knot north-easterly breeze, and at 1000 this morning reported a boat speed of 14.5 knots sailing upwind, just as they were passing the Scilly Isles. This means they would have approximately 100 miles of sailing to Plymouth. Even if the wind holds for her, she still won’t arrive until early this evening.

Meanwhile, out in the Celtic Sea, the smaller yachts have made painstakingly slow progress from the Fastnet Rock. Bouwe Bekking, skipper of Volvo Open 70 Movistar, spoke at 1000 this morning: “We’ve just picked up some good breeze for the first time in a while, 7 knots blowing from the north-west, so we’re running with spinnaker. I think some of the Open 60s that went further south are doing better than us. There is a lot of separation in our group now.” Bekking said he could see the TP52 Patches behind him, and that they were 62 miles from the Scilly Isles.

The crew of ICAP Maximus will be encouraged by this news, as Charles St Clair Brown is keeping his fingers crossed for the double – to win both line honours and on IRC handicap. “That’s we’re really hoping for now, to be able to beat Patches. She’s got an amazing rating, and we’ve got to give her a lot of time.” A lot of time amounts to around 22 hours, which means Patches will have to finish before 0602 hours tomorrow morning if she is to beat ICAP Maximus’s handicap time. To cover 160 miles in such fickle conditions is a tall order for Ian Walker and his crew.

Then again, perhaps another boat will come and steal their thunder. Currently leading the standings on handicap, based on the time of rounding the Fastnet Rock, is Nico Poons’ Swan 45 Charisma. The Dutch yacht was leading Patches by just 13 minutes on corrected time, so a close battle could ensue. There are a number of other teams still very much in the hunt, notably Nick Lykiardopulo’s 55-foot Aera and the 2001 Rolex Fastnet winner, Piet Vroon with his brand new Lutra 56, Formidable 3. The current IRC handicap rankings reflect the international appeal of this classic race, with six different nations represented in the top 10.

At 1100, 72 yachts had rounded the Fastnet Rock.

The Rolex Fastnet Race entails 608 miles of racing from Cowes to Plymouth, via the Fastnet Rock off the southern tip of Ireland. In addition to the two main prizes – the Fastnet Challenge Cup and the Fastnet Rock Trophy, there are more than 30 trophies to be awarded at the conclusion of this year’s race. The prizegiving will take place at the Royal Citadel, home of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, in Plymouth on Friday 12th August.