Plymouth, 9 August 2017. In his four attempts at the race, American George David has witnessed first-hand the Rolex Fastnet Race’s compelling, complex and capricious nature. Monohull line honours victory for his 88-ft Maxi yacht in 2017 follows three contrasting races over the past decade. Twice David’s Rambler has finished second on the water and in between a race which ended dramatically in the Celtic Sea.
“It was a good race,” reflected David dockside in Plymouth on Tuesday evening immediately after completing the 47th edition of the race, one which took his crew 2 days, 9 hours, 34 minutes and 21 seconds to negotiate. Monohull line honours was rarely in doubt. Rambler 88 led her rivals throughout the 605-nm race from Cowes and her nearest competitor, the 100-ft Australian Maxi CQS, crossed the finish line nearly five hours later. “We’ve had two windy races, one with no wind two years ago, and this one with decent wind, a tough windward-leeward course. 360-nm upwind is a challenge especially in the cold.”
David’s first Rolex Fastnet Race in 2007 on the 90-ft Rambler was defined by an epic contest with Mike Slade’s 100-ft Maxi ICAP Leopard. The two yachts provided a spectacle of raw intensity as they duelled around the Fastnet Rock before Slade’s British yacht eventually claimed victory by a little over an hour. Second on the water, David also finished runner-up on IRC handicap to eventual winner Chieftain, a Cookson 50 from Ireland.
With a clear ambition, David returned four years later with a new 100-ft Rambler. The race started positively. Leading the monohull fleet in record-breaking conditions and having rounded the Fastnet rock, Rambler 100’s keel snapped off. David and four crew members ended up in the water, while the remainder of crew found safety on the upturned hull. Thanks to the presence of a photo boat and the efforts of the Irish coastal services all were rescued safely.
Understandably, David has built an affinity with the people who came to their rescue, contacting them during the 2017 race. “We called the Valentia MSRC, the search and rescue unit for Ireland, and had a talk to them on the radio and the Baltimore RNLI. We know those people very well having met them in the direst of circumstances. They are wonderful people and it was nice to connect with them.”
Returning to the race in 2015 with his current 88-ft Rambler, David this time found competition from a rival American yacht, Jim Clark’s 100-ft Maxi Comanche. The finish was a close affair. Unable to overhaul Comanche on the arduous final passage into Plymouth, Rambler 88eventually finished four minutes off the pace.
Of the 21 people involved in the 2011 race, six featured as part of the Rambler 88 crew in 2017, helping fulfil David’s decade-long ambition to be the fastest monohull at the Rolex Fastnet Race. David closes: “We have wanted line honours since 2007 and have been bridesmaids the first three times. I thought we had a good chance at the start of the race and this time we did it.”
Neither Rambler nor Concise 10, confirmed as the fastest mutilhull yacht in the early hours of Tuesday morning, were able to break the current race records, both set in 2011.
The focus now turns to the progress of the remainder of the record-breaking 362-strong fleet. At 13:00 BST, 28 yachts had arrived in Plymouth and there had been 22 retirements. Currently leading in the race on IRC handicap is the Cookson 50 Privateer, owned by Ron O’Hanley. She is hoping to become the first American entry to win the Rolex Fastnet Race since 1989. Tim Dawson, the boat’s tactician, was one of the sailors on Rambler 100 rescued in 2011, and is sailing his third Rolex Fastnet: “We had very favourable currents and conditions. For us it was about managing our plan versus the similar speed boats around us. To use a basketball term we stayed between them and the hoop.”
With most of the fleet having now rounded the Fastnet Rock and on the return leg to Plymouth, how the weather develops over the next 24 hours will play a decisive role in determining the eventual overall winner of the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Elsewhere, Dongfeng Racing Team from China was the fastest Volvo 65 to Plymouth arriving on Wednesday morning at 04:18 BST and defeating the Spanish entry Mapfre by a mere 54 seconds. In the IMOCA 60 fleet, French sailors Gwénolé Gahinet and Paul Meilhat sailing SMAheld off the opposition to win their class. In the Class 40, V and B holds a small lead over Imerys, with both expected to finish this afternoon.
Follow the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet at www.rolexfastnetrace.com
A NATURAL AND SUPPORTIVE PARTNER
Rolex has always sought to associate with activities that, like itself, are motivated by passion, excellence, precision and team spirit. Naturally, Rolex gravitated toward the elite world of sailing, forming an alliance that dates back to the late 1950s. Today, Rolex is Title Sponsor of some 15 major international events. From leading offshore races, such as the Rolex Sydney Hobart and the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race, through to the highest-level grand-prix competition at the Rolex TP52 World Championship, spectacular gatherings at the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup and the Rolex Swan Cup, as well as its close relationships with the most prestigious yacht clubs around the world such as the New York Yacht Club (US), the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (Italy) and the two clubs at the very heart of the Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex has established an enduring relationship with pinnacle of yachting.
Race organizer the Royal Ocean Racing Club (London/Cowes, UK), was founded in 1925 immediately after the conclusion of the first Fastnet Race. The club has long been a pioneer and innovator, not only organizing and promoting offshore racing activities, but also in developing standards of excellence, particularly in issues of safety. The Royal Yacht Squadron (Cowes, UK), an exclusive and active club, celebrated its bicentenary in 2015 and has enjoyed a close partnership with Rolex since 1983. In recognition of its privileged relationship, and to mark the 200-year anniversary, Rolex presented the Squadron with a unique clock that does more than simply tell the time – it gives details about the state of the tide and barometric pressure: essential information for race officers and sailors alike.
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