Jim Clark’s 100-ft Maxi yacht Comanche has claimed line honors at the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race but only following a dramatic tussle with fellow American yacht Rambler.
Arriving in Plymouth at 05:22 BST on Wednesday morning, Comanche crawled towards the line as George David’s 88-ft Rambler, who earlier in the race had led the Ken Read-skippered Comanche, made a late surge for the line. Only four minutes ended up separating the two yachts. Comanche completed the 603-nm course in an elapsed time of 2 days, 15 hours, 42 minutes and 26 seconds, nearly 24 hours outside of the race record set by Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi in 2011.
For David it represented a significantly different experience from his previous two Rolex Fastnets – the blustery 2007 edition and an ill-fated 2011 race. "It was a light air race," - explained David. "This was placid the whole way. It took us forever to get around the rock. For us to be within a few minutes (of Comanche) is actually remarkable. We thought we may go over them towards the line, we tried. We had a good time."
"At the Scillies we overtook Comanche for the first time," - explained Rambler tactician Brad Butterworth. "We had a decision to make at the Fastnet rock. We tried to be more aggressive to make our lead longer and ended up losing it. It was light … the highest speed we saw was 19 knots."
Third monohull on the water, around an hour after the frontrunners, was Mike Slade’s 100-ft British Maxi Leopard, two-time line honors winner. "We made a great start going through whole fleet, getting clean away. We were level all the time with Rambler way down into Start Point," - explained Slade. "It all got very difficult around the Scilly Isles. There was no wind there which helped Comanche and Rambler take off. It was catch up after that. We had a great race. I don’t think we could have done any better."
Around 30 minutes after Leopard arrived Momo, the newly-launched Maxi 72 owned by Dieter Schoen. "It was a pretty tough race; a long race. Getting out of the Solent was tricky," - explained Momo’s Don Cowie, who acknowledged that while the conditions had suited them better than their larger rivals, they had also made real gains through the Traffic Separation System zones that now play a real part in the tactical decision-making.
Momo currently leads the race on IRC handicap and must play a patient waiting game to find out which contenders might emerge from the record 356-strong to challenge her position. The strong conditions currently covering large parts of the course and finally propelling the yachts towards Plymouth are not expected to last. This afternoon the fleet at sea was split in two groups; those charging through the Celtic Sea towards the Scillies and others still heading towards the Fastnet rock.
Maxi 72 MOMO crossing the finish line in Plymouth
Ahead of the excitement generated by the early morning monohull finishes, multihull line honors had been claimed late yesterday evening by the Dona Bertarelli-Yann Guichard skippered Spindrift 2, the largest boat in the fleet at 40m/131-ft. Arriving in Plymouth at 22:57.41 BST on Tuesday evening it posted an elapsed time of two days, 10 hours, 57 minutes and 41 seconds.
"It was a fantastic race - quite difficult from the start to the end." - explained Bertarelli. "The winds were light so not really made for this type of boat. We are the biggest and the heaviest and so it was difficult to make a good start in the light winds. All the way up to the rock, the famous, beautiful, magical rock we had light winds but we managed to take the lead and keep it and on the way back all day today it was neck to neck with Prince de Bretagne. Tactically we kept on pushing ourselves hard and we made it."
Late this afternoon, 17 yachts had completed the race; 287 had rounded the Fastnet rock and 9 had retired.
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