We have a winner. At 10.29.54 the 60-foot trimaran Eure et Loir crossed the finish line in Plymouth, Great Britain to be first boat home in the 2001 Rolex Fastnet Race.
The partnership of French singlehander Francis Joyon and British Olympic medallist Rodney Pattisson had recorded a time of 1 day 18 hrs 19 mins 54 secs for the 608-mile course, just two hours outside the record set by Loick Peyron in 1999.
Pattisson said "It was a great race with no serious problems, sadly we had to beat all the way to Lands End but were surprised that we might even break the record. It went light at Bishop Rock and so we realised we didn't have much hope. We can always try again."
It was at 01.37 this morning that the black hull and grey sails of Giovanni Agnelli's aptly-name Stealth rounded the Fastnet Rock as the leading monohull. The 92-footer had over an hour's lead on the two 80-footers chasing it, Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory, with the core of the Team New Zealand America's Cup defence squad on board, and Ludde Ingvall's Nicorette, on which Olympic Gold medallist Shirley Roberston is making her Rolex Fastnet debut.
This trio was followed by a trio of VO60s, locked in their own private battle ahead of the Volvo Ocean Race, which starts 23 September. Jez Fanstone had, for a long time, held on to the lead he had taken in NewsCorp as they and the fourth boat in their class, Gunnar Krantz's SEB, had left the Solent.
But both Fanstone and Roy Heiner, in Assa Abloy, had taken a more northerly approach to the Rock and that had paid dividends as Fanstone found himself sandwiched between the two. The leading pair were just two minutes apart but Heiner had lost 15 minutes as, first, a large shark became impaled on the rudder.
Clearing the shark, said Heiner, cost them about two miles on illbruck and they were then slowed again as the wire halyard which hoists the mainsail broke. That, he estimates, cost him another mile and a half.
Stealth is expected to cross the finish at about 21.00 this evening; the first VO60 should be a couple of hours behind.
The leading Open 60 is Catherine Chabaud's Whirlpool. The current holder of the Fastnet Challenge Cup was four hours behind Stealth, but determined to complete her career in ocean racing with a class win. But, there are more than just rock stars in the Rolex Fastnet. The majority of the 233 starters are club racers achieving the ambition of completing one of the world's ocean racing classics. As Eure et Loir was picking up its mooring just off the Queen Anne's Battery breakwater, James Ralph, on the Sigma 38 Aquadanca II, was only 10 miles west of Land's End and on the way out to the Rock. "We saw the tri going home the other way this morning. We still have 22 hours to go before making our own turn for home. Congratulations to them, but it is still a long haul for us. At least we are beam reaching." The retirement list grew to 23 overnight, but there were no reported serious injuries or damage.