This morning, the tally of arrivals on the Rolex Fastnet Race is up to 43 after a busy night with the leading boats in the Class 40 and Zero fleets arriving.
Making possibly the best entrance last night was Robert Lutener and Martin Elwood's IRC-optimised TP52, Cutting Edge. She crossed the finish line off Plymouth breakwater at 2100, at the same time as the British Fireworks Championship lit up Plymouth Sound.
"We had 20 knots reaching into Plymouth, just about made it past the breakwater to be greeted by 10,000 people. We got cheered coming in. We felt like proper rock stars," recounted crewman James Grant, for whom this was his first Rolex Fastnet Race and first race longer than about 10 hours.
For an inshore sailor like Grant, the Rolex Fastnet Race was an unusual experience, including, for the Cutting Edge crew, anchoring for six hours off Portland Bill to await the tide to turn. Their boat was originally Patches, a one time Rolex TP52 Global Championship winner, and built for round the cans races. However some offshore optimisation remains to be done, as in the seaway the crew found themselves having to bail 14 buckets of water every hour.
"And all our instruments went down," continued Grant. "Averaging 16-17 knots and broaching in the pitch black with the waves getting bigger and bigger in the Irish Sea - I was pretty scared at times to be honest. And we saw porpoises and pilot whales. That might sound romantic, but it was fantastic. In all, it was awesome, amazing experience."
Two slawarts of British yachting arrived shortly after dawn. Former Commodore of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, David Aisher, finished at 04:23:20 UTC on board Yeoman XXXII, 32nd boat home and just ahead of Richard Matthews' Oystercatcher XXVI. On handicap Yeoman is currently 12th, while Oystercatcher is fourth in IRC Z.
Yeoman had got off to a fantastic start, until they fell into a large wind hole off Lymington. They then went too close in to Portland Bill and were forced to anchor for around 40 minutes, although Aisher says it ended up costing them more like 90 minutes .
Unconventionally, en route up to the Fastnet rock, Yeoman went to the west of the Scillies rather than between the Scillies and Land's End. "It is just where we were at the time with the tide," explained Aisher. "We were going out from the Lizard and the wind was such that it was due to lift us and when it lifted us we just stayed on the wind and came up round outside the Scillies. If we had flicked over and gone inside we wouldn't have got the long lift and we would have been fighting the tide through the gap, so we just went out and round."
Racing on Oystercatcher was former America's Cup helmsman Andy Green
, who says he wishes they had gone outside of the Scilly Isles. "It would have been a big call, but we don't have particularly advanced routing software."
Of their Rolex Fastnet Race Green commented: "We had a great time and I think we did alright. It was not too heavy at any point. It was reasonably windy to the rock, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing more than 20 knots, on the wind, and tiller steering, so you know about it after three hours. Then downwind from the rock, we were doing 12-14 knots all the way home, and in a 42-footer that is pretty good going. We didn't make too many mistakes and we had a good time. It was great." Like Yeoman they had to anchor for around an hour.
The major competition that concluded shortly after dawn this morning was that of the Class 40s. In the end, Tanguy de LaMotte's Initiatives Saveurs - Novedia Group managed to maintain her advantage from yesterday to take first place, de LaMotte sailing three up with Liz Wardley and Guillaume Lebrec.
De LaMotte arrived at 03:59:30 UTC, just over two hours ahead of Italian Giovanni Soldini's Telecom Italia, scoring his best Class 40 result to date. "It was quite a big race, there are a lot of boats and it was very close between the top three at least. I was third in the Quebec-St Malo and I had a third with Liz on a doublehanded race and now a win ahead of the top guys. So I am looking forward to the Class 40 Worlds next week."
Soldini says Telecom Italia came into her element yesterday in the slightly stronger downwind conditions to Bishop Rock and on to the finish and during this time caught up to within five miles of the leader. At the Lizard, shortly before the finish, they tried to coax the French boat inshore. "We tried to make some 'gybes' - you never know! - we were doing some suicide gybes! But he didn't fall for it," said Soldini.
Portimao Global Ocean Race winner, Boris Herrmann and his Beluga Racer came home third, just nine minutes after Telecom Italia.
"We never sailed together before and we knew the boat very little compared to the first and second placed boat, so we can be very happy with the result," commented Herrmann. They had been slow to get out of the Solent, but were one of the few boats that managed to pick up places sailing along the south coast of the UK, moving up to second by day two, neck and neck with the leader. "After six hours side by side eating 50m out of him, we got in front, so it was a really exciting day with a lot of trimming and steering. But suddenly a sail slipped from the deck into the water and it was our very important Code Zero. So we made a crash gybe and got it back out of the water, but lost 250m and it took about six hours to get it back!"
Under handicap, Niklas Zennstrom's J-V72 Ran 2 is looking favourite for an overall win under IRC, while Amanda Hartley's Spanish-registered Swan 56 La Floresta Del Mar is looking equally strong in Class Zero, almost 90 minutes ahead of Piet Vroon's Tonnerre de Breskens. French boats continue to lead the smaller classes. Yet to finish, Codiam still leads Class 1, while Marc Alperovitch's A-35 Prime Time has taken over first place in Class 2 and Fabrice Amedeo's X-332 Bateaux Mouches du Pont de l'Alma is ahead in Class 3.
The progress of the fleet can be followed by the tracking system fitted to all of the boats racing at http://fastnet.rorc.org/2009-fleet-tracking.html