At 1733 BST on Monday New Zealand-born Neville CRICHTON brought his Super Maxi Alfa Romeo around the Fastnet Rock in first place.
Rounding the Rock after just 31 hours at sea puts Alfa Romeo in with a chance of breaking the race record for monohulls, which currently stands at 53 hours and 8 minutes.
Alfa Romeo has led the RORC-organised Rolex Fastnet Race on the water since passing Portland Bill just over 24 hours ago. Taking the lead at the time from the American boat Zephyrus V, Alfa Romeo has enjoyed a relatively straight forward passage across the Celtic Sea and has managed to average a speed of 11.2 knots over the 348 miles from Cowes to the Fastnet Rock.
The current race record is held by another New Zealander and was set in 1999 by Ross Field sailing the Bruce Farr-designed Maxi RF Yachting. Crichton and his multinational crew now have until 1518 Tuesday afternoon to cross the finish line in Plymouth if they are to claim the Rolex Fastnet Race record.
To achieve this the 258 miles back to Plymouth must be covered at an average speed of 11.8 knots, 0.5 knots better than the speed sailed so far. The conditions at the Rock at the time of rounding were 10 knots from the North West. This will mean a long downwind run to the Bishop Rock lighthouse to the South of the Scilly Isles before the final section via the Lizard and in to Plymouth.
Emotional Rock Rounding © Guido Cantini
On rounding the rock, Crichton said, "We¹ve had a big day today. We left the English coast in a lot of breeze, we even had a reef in for a while. It was fast sailing close reaching, fantastic. But as we got further from the land the wind started to drop and for the last 50 miles to the Rock we have been on the wind in 10 knots of wind."
"We left six crew behind in Cowes, deciding to sail with just 18 people to keep the weight on board as light as possible. We always knew that the return leg would be the hardest. We only have one spinnaker left as we destroyed one on the way down the Solent.
Rock rounding times are available on the event website at the address below.