While the majority of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet is still toughing it out in the Channel, at 08:00 BST this morning Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was the first Ultime to reach the Fastnet Rock.
While not a record time – in 2019 she led around the Rock at 06:33, but nonetheless highly impressive given that this time the boats have been upwind down the Channel and then fetching across the Celtic Sea.
Thomas Coville’s second placed Sodebo Ultim Voile is some 43 miles astern of her.
Most surprising have been the tactics of the Ultimes and some of the IMOCAs, which forged off south after leaving the Solent yesterday and going south of the Casquets Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS).
While the Ultimes tacked close to Alderney, some of the IMOCA dived even further south, looking for flat water in the Alderney Race, sheltered by the Channel Islands and to be first into the west going current off the north French coast.
Leading the charge among the monohulls is Russian Dmitry Rybolovlev’s mighty ClubSwan 125 Skorpios.
At 07:00 this morning, the largest single-hulled vessel ever to enter the Rolex Fastnet Race was passing between Land’s End TSS and the Scilly Isles, having allowed American George David’s Rambler 88 to split up the east side of the TSS.
Perhaps most surprising was that only three miles astern of her at the time was the lead IMOCA, Apivia, a boat less than half Skorpios’ length and being sailed by two talented Frenchmen – Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat – their advantage being that their boat has giant foils enabling it literally ‘to fly’.
The big boats were looking good overall under IRC corrected time this morning, especially I Love Poland, the VO70 skippered by Grzegorz Baranowski, which was following the route up the east side of the Land’s End TSS astern of Rambler 88, which lies second overall under IRC.
There have been ten retirements from the IRC 1 class, including three favourites; Lann Ael 2, Didier Gaudoux’s 2017 overall race winner; L’Ange De Milon, Jacques Pelletier’s defending champion in this class and Philippe Frantz NMD 43 Albator. Also out is Cracklin Rosie of former RORC Commodore Steven Anderson.