At 14:03 BST Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard's 131-ft Maxi Trimaran Spindrift 2 was the first boat to round the Fastnet Rock, the symbolic halfway point of the 611-nautical mile Rolex Fastnet Race.
Spindrift 2 rounded the Rock on the south-western tip of Ireland mere seconds ahead of the Armel le Cleac'h-skippered Banque Populaire as the two multihulls enjoyed a intriguing tactical tussle, attacking the final approach to the Rock from opposite directions. The speed machines are currently engaged in a gripping duel to the finish in Plymouth. At 17:00 BST Spindrift 2 retained a narrow lead, travelling at a consistent 30 knots some 200-nm from the finish. The arrival of the first multihull is expected in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
As forecast, Esimit Europa 2 has assumed leadership of the monohull fleet. The 100-ft Maxi guided by Jochen Schümann moved ahead at 19:30 BST on the first evening having taken time to force her way through the fleet after starting in the final group. She is expected to reach the Fastnet Rock later this evening. Her nearest rival on the water is Mike Slade's two-time line honours winner ICAP Leopard with the two Volvo 70s Team SCA (SWE) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (UAE) stacked narrowly behind.
Niklas Zennström's Rán 2 (GBR), in pursuit of a third straight overall Rolex Fastnet Race victory, is currently second best in the duel with fellow 72-ft Mini Maxi Bella Mente. At 17:00 BST, Hap Fauth's American crew had created a 5-nm gap between the boats still some 360-nm from the finish. With the light conditions forecast for the continuation of the race, a third win for Zennström is in the balance. Despite the intensity of the contest, there was still time for some humour from the Bella Mente crew: "We seem to be an enjoying an English summer: overcast, upwind and cold!"
The bulk of the fleet is clustered on the approach to Land's End facing a second tactically demanding night at sea as they make slow progress to the Rock. Of the 336 race starters, seven have retired, the most high profile being the Maxi multihull Prince De Bretagne who reported a technical failure.
How to follow the Rolex Fastnet Race
The Rolex Fastnet Race is organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and has been sponsored by Rolex since 2001.
For more information about the RORC and the Rolex Fastnet Race, please visit www.rorc.org