The Rolex Fastnet Race has seen a flurry of new finishers arriving in Plymouth all day. A total of 40 boats have now finished the course and the last boat round the Fastnet Rock.
The victors of Class Super Zero and Zero have been determined and the overall Rolex Fastnet winner is almost certainly going to be Charles Dunstone's Maxi Nokia who finished nearly two days ago.
The fleet still at sea is now enjoying the steadiest winds of the race so far with 10-18 knots Easterlies blowing right across the Celtic Sea and the Western Approaches.
Open 60 Class
All five boats have now finished, the final three crossing the Plymouth finish line in close formation with Dominique Wavre's Chaman 3 beating Mike Golding's Ecover and Nick Maloney's Skandia Set Sail.
Class Super Zero
Although the two line honours contenders stole much of the limelight yesterday afternoon, the real glory for Class Super Zero has gone to Charles Dunstone's Nokia that finished in Plymouth just over two hours later, under a shower of fireworks - Plymouth is also hosting the UK National Fireworks Championship this week. The slightly smaller 76-foot Reichel/Pugh designed Maxi skippered by David Bedford and navigated by Jules Salter, won class by more than six hours on corrected time. Dunstone's grey hulled boat is also now a serious contender for overall honours in the IRC category. Several boats are still theoretically able to beat the British boat, but realistically will be unable to get near the finish line before their corrected time advantage runs out.
Winner of the 2001 Rolex Fastnet Race was Dutchman Piet Vroon sailing his boat Tonnerre of Breskens. This year Vroon was back to sail his 20th Fastnet and although he won line honours in class his boat didn't perform as well in the light airs of this year's race. Class Zero was left to smaller boats this year and Chris Bull's J-145 Jazz crossed the finish line in Plymouth at 01:02 this morning to take Class Zero honours from sistership Roxy 9 owned by Robert Davies. Jazz had lead Roxy by more than three hours at the Fastnet Rock, but was held up just past the Bishop Rock Lighthouse in foul tide and no wind for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. The white-hulled J Boat was forced to anchor twice in 75 metres of water just to the East of the Scilly Isles but with all crew grinding the anchor and chain up from the sea bed each time, Bull managed to stay in control all the way back to Plymouth.
"I've done six Fastnets before, but this is my best result. It was really enjoyable, comfortable. We were never wet or cold. It was an intellectual challenge with the light conditions. That is the sort of racing I like."
"The chance of overall victory went at Portland Bill. Normally at least a third of the fleet makes it past Portland on the first tide. But with the light conditions across Poole Bay on Sunday only a few of the Maxis actually made it. From that point on it was obvious to me that the overall winner would come from that group."
, commented Chris Bull, owner/skipper of J-145 Jazz, Class Zero winner, who collects the West Mersea YC Trophy and sixth overall in IRC.
The Dutch boat Holmatro lead the fleet at the Fastnet Rock by four and a half hours. By the time the Grand Soleil 44 had reached the finish line this had grown significantly. By the time the first boat was home the rest of the class One fleet were dealing with upwind conditions with winds from East.
Jeronimo still appears to be leading the largest class, the 75-strong Class Two fleet. Jonathan and Lisa Gorings J-105 rounded the Bishop Rock Lighthouse at 05:40 this morning and had Easterly winds to help them sail the last 96 miles to the finish in Plymouth.
The last boat in Class Three Garath Davis' Contessa 32 Kalimari, rounded the Fastnet Rock at 13:10 today. The rest of Class Three appear to be all between the Fastnet and the Bishop Rock Ligthouses. The Easterly winds will be making progress steady but relatively slow as the fleet works to windward in the building seas.
Tony Bullimore brought his 100-foot monster cat Team Pimsic into Plymouth at 22:46 last night, Ross Hobson's much smaller Mollymawk crossed the line just four hours later.
The Easterly winds are forecast to freshen to between 15-20 knots over the next 18 hours which will mean that most of the fleet should have finished by this time tomorrow in time for the Rolex Fastnet Race prizegiving, to be held at the Royal Citadel in Plymouth at 17:00 Friday.