Having rounded the Rock at 0333 hours yesterday morning, ICAP Maximus and despite managing to sail in a straight line towards the finish the going was still slow on with the giant Maxi reduced to just two knots yesterday afternoon.
The Maxi's owner, Charles St Clair BROWN, yesterday said the conditions were extremely frustrating, 'We parked up a fair while. Everyone's working pretty hard to keep the boat going.' However he has still allowed himself the possibility of winning that rare double of line honours and handicap victory. 'It's a big ask, but it's possible,' he said.
Veteran Fastnet navigator Mike BROUGHTON, who is sitting out this race but still watching the weather closely on the internet, believes the light winds work in favour of the big Maxis. 'Their rigs are higher, and that makes all the difference. There is a lot of surface friction at sea level. So if the wind was blowing, say, four knots at sea level, it could be 25 to 30 per cent stronger at the top of a Maxi rig. Also, with a canting keel you can drop it to leeward to help heel the boat over.' He also thought the breeze might give ICAP Maximus a reasonable passage back to the finish, although there is scant likelihood of stronger winds arriving until Friday night at the earliest.
With the first 52 yachts now having rounded a fog bound Fastnet Rock, off the south of Irleand, the Swan 45 Charisma is provisionally leading the Rolex Fastnet Race on handicap. Calculated on corrected time under the IRC system, the Dutch entry of Nico POONS' is just 13 minutes ahead of Eamon CONNEELY's Irish TP52 Patches. Nick LYKIARDOPULO's Ker 55 Aera is almost an hour and half further back with, fourth place ICAP Maximus 2 hours and 12 minutes behind the leader.
Patches was leading on corrected time until Charisma rounded the Fastnet Rock at 2039 yesterday evening. Patches skipper, Ian WALKER, was delighted to be racing in amongst the Open 60 fleet and other larger and more powerful yachts. The eighth boat round, Patches passed the Rock at 1437 hours yesterday afternoon. The sleek lines of the TP52 are proving very slippery in the unrelentingly light and glassy Celtic Sea. 'We had a very good night,' commented the double Olympic medallist. 'Upwind in the light airs I think we're quicker than the Open 60s. We can see 16 boats around us. We're no more than five boat lengths away from Ecover. We rounded inside them at the Rock.'
WALKER believes their strategy of approaching the Rock from the south was the key to their big gains. But while he is pleased with progress to date, he is certainly not feeling comfortable. 'There have been some massive gains and losses, and there will be plenty more. The race hasn't even started yet.'
In the closely fought Open 60 fleet, Pindar led around the Fastnet Rock, passing the waypoint at 1348 hours, just 13 minutes behind the Volvo Open 70 MoviStar. Pindar skipper Mike SANDERSON commented, 'We are pushing very hard. The reason we are here is that we wanted some intense racing and that is what we are getting. It's fantastic. If we can get out cleanly from what looks like a transition zone in the wind, we should have a better run. But we'll be fighting all the way to the finish. It could be down to the last headland coming into Plymouth. There are plenty of fun and games out here yet.'
Further back, many yachts still have a long, slow battle to reach the Fastnet Rock. Simon LE BON and his crew on Arnold Clark Drum continue to enjoy life at sea, but are hoping for things to speed up. Alex WHITWORTH, the skipper of double-handed Australian entry Berrimilla, commented at 1530 hours yesterday, 'We're 40 miles northwest of Lands End. The breeze is very soft and gentle. We've had three hours of glassy calm. We're hard on the wind, but we're more or less pointing at the Rock. We've got a lot of boats around us, ranging from a Sigma 33 to a 45 footer.'