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9 August 2005, 10:24 am
Leaders Round Fastnet Rock
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Rolex Fastnet Race 2005

ICAP Maximus is maintaining her lead in the Rolex Fastnet Race and rounded the Fastnet Rock off Southern Ireland at 0333 hours local time this morning. Just under six hours later Skandia Wild Thing followed at 0919, with these two the only boats to have rounded at press time.
Yesterday saw the big boats maintaining good speeds whilst the smaller competitors struggled. At 1400 yesterday afternoon, a helicopter pilot logged the 100 foot New Zealand Maxi ICAP Maximus as making ten knots boatspeed in just six knots of breeze.

The boat's progress appears to be exceeding the predictions of the navigator Mike QUILTER with the lightweight canting-keeled Maxi appearing to be one of the few boats enjoying any sort of useable breeze. Yesterday afternoon she was seven miles ahead of Skandia Wild Thing, with the Volvo Open 70 MoviStar another half mile behind the Aussie Maxi. Some miles further back was the Volvo Ocean 60 ABN Amro and two Open 60s locked in a close duel that has been going on since the Solent.

The most recent update put Pindar as having regained the lead with Virbac-Paprec just 0.3 miles back in second and 3.5 miles to third place Cheminées Poujouylat. While the bigger boats continue to make measurable progress, the majority of the fleet is still scattered along the southwest coast of Great Britain, trying to eke out what speed they can from the little breeze they can catch in their sails.

Nick HAIGH's Farr 40 Too Steamy has been outperforming other boats of her size, but was wallowing off Lands End in a virtual flat calm. A few miles further south, Simon LE BON and his crew on the old Maxi, Arnold Clark Drum, were making just two knots speed in two knots of wind. But crewman Phil WADE said they were enjoying the sun and the calm sea, a stark contrast to the raging gale in this race 20 years ago, when Drum capsized and the whole crew's lives were put in danger. 'It's chalk and cheese,' said WADE. 'Today [yesterday] it's a beautiful sunny day, we're in our shorts with shirts off. Twenty years ago, we had three reefs in the mainsail, a Code 5 genoa [the smallest sail for heavy weather], it was driving rain with one mile visibility. So we're very happy to be back here in different circumstances.' LE BON celebrated passing the point where Drum capsized, off the Falmouth coast, with a bottle of champagne this afternoon.

Alcohol seems to lie at the heart of Berrimilla's success in this race so far. This double-handed 33-footer, sailed by Australian friends Alex WHITWORTH and Peter CROZIER, is beating boats far larger. In the absence of other crewmembers, WHITWORTH admits to 'consulting with Dr Murphy in the day and Dr Gordon in the evening', referring to his two morale boosting tipples. There is not much rest for these two sailors, as the three hours on/ three hours off arrangement is not always feasible when the sailing gets difficult. 'We're trying to run with a very flat spinnaker at the moment, which is taking all of our concentration. But we just passed one of the Global Challenge boats [more than twice Berrimilla's length], so we're going well.'

Earlier in the day, the two of the rivals for IRC handicap victory had gone their separate ways, with Patches staying inshore while Aera gybed offshore in search of more breeze. Patches skipper Ian WALKER had been very uncertain about the outcome but was relieved to discover his inshore strategy had paid off later on in the day, when both boats converged back towards the course gate at the Scilly Isles. 'I reckon we have a three- or four-mile lead on Aera now,' he said. 'We are sailing in five knots breeze with the spinnaker, on a course that is taking almost straight to the Fastnet Rock. As long as the breeze keeps us going downwind then we should be fine, but then of course we've got to turn around and come back upwind again.'

The Patches crew has a sweepstake bet running on board, with bets taken for the estimated time of arrival (ETA) at the finish in Plymouth, Great Britain. WALKER's estimate is the most pessimistic, but he is happy about that. 'It costs £10 to enter, and you get a chance to revise your ETA every day, provided you pay another £5. I've just paid my £5 and I'm very happy to be holding the bet for the latest finish time. We've got a long, long way to go yet.'

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Skandia Wild Thing rounded Fastnet Rock this morning:© Carlo Borlenghi/Rolex
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