Är det det här som är “the shit” – John van der Starre och Robin Verhoef var första doublehandedbåt runt Fastnet i sin helt nya J/111. Kanske detta är det naturliga steget efter Watski Twostar och Gotland Runt?
Racing offshore Two-handed is not for the faint-hearted. It requires all-round seamanship, determination, stamina and above all, courage. 28 yachts started the Rolex Fastnet Race in the Two-Handed division and they endured a tough beat up to the famous rock. Despite having two crew, most of the time sailors are alone on deck whilst their teammate sleeps. Two hours on and two hours off are common watch systems. Autopilots are permitted but hand steering is far more conducive to better performance, the vast majority of the yachts are modified production yachts and do not have sophisticated equipment. During the 2011 RORC Season’s Points Championship, 49 yachts have raced with the Club in the Two-Handed division.
For the Rolex Fastnet Race, J-Xcentric leads the Two-Handed Class on the water and after time correction. At the rock, John Van der Starre and Robin Verhoef’s J/111, J-Xcentric was just nineteen minutes ahead on corrected time from Nicholas de la Fourniere’s X-34, Exile/Mirabaud, the defending Rolex Fastnet champion for the Two-Handed Class. Peter Olden’s A 35, Solan Goose of Hamble was just four minutes behind Exile/Mirabaud after time correction. Mike Jaques J/120, Nunatak and Paddy Cronin’s HOD 35, Psipsina were also going well and very much in the hunt.
Robin Verhoef, co-skipper of J/111, J-Xcentric is no stranger to short handed racing. In 2002, the Dutchman won the grueling Two Handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. However, J-Xcentric is a brand new yacht, as Verhoef explained before the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race:
“We only got delivery of the boat two weeks before the race and our first sail was a 300-mile qualifying passage. It is the first J/111 in Holland. It is a one design, which is growing in popularity; there is a good fleet in the USA and the European fleet is growing fast.”
At 1100 BST today, J-Xcentric was 143 miles from the finish. Solan Goose of Hamble was 41 miles astern of the class leader and Exile/Mirabaud 66 miles behind. The wind was in the 10-13 knot range from the northeast and was forecast to drop, as a windless zone blankets the racecourse.
After three days at sea, fatigue will become a very important factor in the performance of these yachts. The thrilling conditions experienced in the early part of the race have been replaced by tricky, shifty conditions. As the adrenalin-buzz dissipates the sailors will begin to feel the effects of physical exertion and lack of sleep.
As far as the difference between the top three yachts, J-Xcentric is the lightest of the three and has an excellent power to weight ratio but also carries the highest rating in the class, which could be a disadvantage if the yachts are becalmed. Solan Goose of Hamble and Exile/Mirabaud are a similar weight but radically different hull shapes. The X-34, Exile/Mirabaud may well have an advantage upwind and the A 35, Solan Goose of Hamble more speed downwind. These two yachts may well choose a different approach to the final stretch of the Rolex Fastnet Race. However, the class may well be won by several other contenders, especially as the wind is due to fill in from the south west on Friday, giving the yachts at the back of the fleet, a downwind sleigh ride to the finish in Plymouth.
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