For the first time in more than 50 years, the Rolex Fastnet Race has a back-to-back handicap winner.
Following on from her victory under IRC in 2009, the Royal Ocean Race Club has confirmed that Niklas Zennström's Rán (GBR) is once again the overall winner of the Rolex Fastnet Race and the prestigious Fastnet Challenge Cup.
Past double winners of the race include Jolie Brise (1929 and 1930), yacht designer Olin Stephens' Dorade (1931 and 1933), John Ilingworth's Myth of Malham (1947 and 1949) and most recently Richard Nye's Carina II (1955 and 1957). It should be noted that Carina II is not the same boat as the one of this same name being campaigned in this year's Rolex Fastnet Race by American Rives Potts.
The Judel-Vrolijk designed 72ft Rán finished in Plymouth on Tuesday at 12:53:44 and even then she was looking like a strong contender for the overall prize, but on Thursday afternoon her win was officially confirmed by the Royal Ocean Racing Club.
Under IRC, Rán's time corrected out so that she beat ICAP Leopard (GBR) by 4 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds, and Mike Slade's 100 foot supermaxi in turn a massive 10 hours, 40 minutes ahead of third placed Vanquish (USA), the Oakcliff All American Offshore Team's STP65.
"It's fantastic. It's still hard to believe almost. Everyone on the team is very, very happy and very pleased," said Zennström of his second consecutive Rolex Fastnet Race victory, adding that defending their title was one of his sailing team's primary objectives for the year. "You may say 'we're going to race to win', and that is really what we were going for, but also these races have so many different variables that you cannot really take into account. Its great when it works out."
Navigator Steve Hayles agreed: "We like the Fastnet Race and it has treated us well again on Rán. It was a bit of everything and felt like a pretty tough race at times. It was great."
While their campaign in 2009 was well planned, this year Zennström says he tried to take their campaign to a new level. "The way we sailed as a team - we've never sailed better and because we were very well prepared, I think we executed very well. We sailed the boat very hard, we were never relaxed, we were very focused all the time and we pushed the boat a lot. When we rounded the Rock, on the way back, we pushed the boat as hard as we could, and I think that we pretty much held our time on the water. I think we lost maybe 40 minutes or even less on Leopard on the way back, so we sailed very, very well. The strategy was great, well-implemented and we didn't have any crew mistakes. The team did a very good job."
Rán herself has seen a marked change compared to her two year old self with 500kg shed from her keel bulb at the beginning of 2010. Since then there haven't been any major changes, although the team have been constantly making small refinements.
According to Zennström, the boat is now well-developed and the crew very comfortable sailing her. "This is the third year we have been racing the boat, and we have done quite a few offshores and I think that is important because not only do we know the boat very well, but we also have very, very good confidence. Having done two Sydney Hobarts with the boat, and one Fastnet Race, and one very windy Middle Sea Race without breaking, we knew even if it was rough the boat could take it and we were confident we could push harder and harder. So that is very important: sometimes not making so many changes in a boat can be a good thing, because you feel the boat is in very good trim."
Navigator Steve Hayles felt the forecast, while favouring the upper echelons of the Rolex Fastnet Race fleet, wasn't quite as favourable for them as compared to two years ago. "We knew there was a bit more reaching, and our boat is better upwind. We had to work hard on getting out of the Solent and the Channel and that went pretty well and then we hung on for dear life to be honest...as close as we could."
Their main competition had been Karl Kwok and Jim Schwartz's Beau Geste, and there was some friendly rivalry between the two boats as Gavin Brady skippered the Farr 80, but is also acting as tactician this year on Zennström's TP52 in the Mediterranean. "He slammed (tacked) on us a couple of times in the Solent and once down the Channel. It was a good race," recalled Hayles.
So will Rán be back to defend her title for a second time? Zennström says it is too early to decide at this stage, but it is something they would certainly strongly consider. "The achievement of winning two back-to-backs is pretty amazing and more than we could have hoped for. After the first win - and when we started to think about this year's planning - this was the thing we had to go for."
As of 1700 BST today, backmarker the Pilot Cutter Morwenna still is 30 miles short of the Fastnet Rock with 281 miles to go to reach Plymouth. At present 168 boats remain at sea with 39 retired and 107 finishers
Further information and live race tracking may be found at www.fastnet.rorc.org
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