Let’s start with answering the obvious question; ”how was it”?
It was fantastic.
Compared to most other offshore races I’ve done there was another dimension, that I can’t really put my finger on. It might be the fantastic nature and animal life with whales and hundreds of dolphins. It might be the intense competition with some of the worlds best offshore racers. It might be the mix of legendary landmarks and teams that inspired me to go offsore when I was young. It might be the welcoming atmosphere both in Cowes and Plymouth that made us fit right in.
It doesn’t really matter what it was.
All I know is that I was on an emotional high for 96 hours straight and that the team worked harder than ever.
This is a race we should have done a long time ago.
I’ll write a separate article (in Swedish) on preparations, as I know of several Scandinavian crews who want’s to do Fastnet in 2017. This year there was 8 Swedish boats, and all did very well. And I’d expect even more to come along in two years.
We decided to do the race in December 2014. The alternative was J/111 Worlds in Newport, but none of us had done Fastnet (we all had it on our bucket list) so that would be the bigger challenge and demand more from the team.
It’s so much easier to focus on one major event, so all spring training, qualification races and even transport were designed as a build up. And looking back I wouldn’t want to do anything different.
Start -4 days
We arrived in Cowes a week before the race, and hade the boat ready-to-race when the crew arrived Wednesday. We spent two days sailing on the Solent from the start (at the correct time to match the current on Sunday) to the Needles to get a feel for the tide, and got to ask questions not even the locals had answers to. My take is that good homework beats local knowledge every time, and this would prove true in this case as well.
We also worked together with Aksel Magdahl on weather scenarios. We wanted to race as a team without any pros or local guys on board, but three of us worked together with Aksel to analyze the weather situation.
As Squid Sailing decided to give all their high-res models away for free to Fastnet competitors, we knew that everyone had good data. The big thing was to determine the impact of a low pressure and associated fronts over Ireland, and to manage a number of transitions; one at Plymouth on the way out and one at Scilly Isles.
NOTE: open up the YB Tracker in a separate
window to better understand our race below.
I’ll add Expedition screenshots soon.
Start – Needles
Naturally there’s a lot of drama in the morning. Check-in with the orange sails up, watching Spindrift and Comache swosh by, cheering on other boats, and having old and new friends wishing loch from everything that floats. Chaos. But a friendly chaos…
We watched the IRC3 and IRC2 starts and it was obvious that the tide took it’s toll with many OCS in both classes. Good boats as Refanut and Courier du Leon spent a long time under spinnaker trying to get back to restart.
We had decided to be conservative, and we were in good company. With 4 minutes to the gun most of the fleet was sailing eastward, away from the line to avoid being early. With 25 boat-lengths to the line we got going.
We were about a third up along the line from the squadron and lost out to the boats that were closer, but soon hit the favorable current along the southern shore. We traded tracks with Ker 40 Keronimo and some other seriously fast boats and managed to hang on to them for quite a while.
We worked the south side down towards with our navigator monitoring currens closely. As soon as we lost just 0.2 knots we tried to get back in maximum current again. Here our work earlier in the week payed of and we managed to find a good balance between currant and wind pressure.
Before the start we decided on a number of boats we would monitor on AIS. This would help us keep our pace up but also serve as indicators of wind and current. Naturally the J/111s were perfect, as all of them were in IRC2 that started 20 minutes before us. And as most of them went right we could see that they were considerably slower than us due to less current.
Splitting tacks with some Scandinavian friends.
For a while we struggled, but decided to make one more tack in under a dark cloud in Newtown bay before changing sides to make the most out of the passage at Yarmouth and Hurst Castle.
Photo: Dolores Burkert who followed the race from J/111 Top Job, strategically placed just after Hurst Castle.
After Hurst we found that the strongest current was further south than expected and worked hard to stay with it. Most local boats, following ”common knowledge”, went hard right towards the Shingles and lost out. Super effort by our navigator, Patrik Måneskiöld, who nailed it.
The pay-off came at the Needles, where we were leading in IRC1… Absolutely amazing!!
This was one of the stages I worried about before the race, but in the past we’ve proved we can win the trickiest stages in Denmark and the Stockholm archipelago without any local knowledge. But by doing our homework.
Needles – Start Point
As the wind lightened throughout the evening, our routing had us going south along with most of the fleet. But we wanted to be on the right side to be able to make the most of the northerly that was supposed to fill in during the night. A short port tack put us in a position with 20% of the boats to windward, which felt very good.
Looking back, we might as well continued south, but before the race we decided to be very conservative. We should stay with the fleet and not take any chances. We knew we had speed and trusted our ability to hang in there, even if we didn’t get 100% out of every opportunity.
And we got the proof early on when we passed the other J/111s. As they started 20 minutes before in IRC2 and we caught them in less than 3 hours of sailing. That was a boost for everyone on board. Afterwards we got good grades from the crew on British Soldier: ”You guys are really quick”.
During the night the wind went further and further west, and the current took the fleet south.
We made progress towards west, but away from the expected northerly wind, so we decided to tack north again to meet the shift. One alternative would be to anchor, like First 40 La Reponse, to be in a good position, but we valued a position further west and kept sailing.
Looking at the track, it’s very similar to Courier du Leon (green), and it’s hard to see that we could have done it very different? At 19.00 we were within sight of each other. The screenshot shows us at 02.00 just after the transition, and at 06.00 in the morning we had extended our lead to 14′.
After the northerly filled in we went to Code 0 and charged westwards. Here the fleet divided into a northerly group aiming to take advantage of the sea breeze in the morning and one southerly offshore group. Together with very experienced Grand Soleil 43 Quokka and La Reponse we lead a bunch of boats committing to the inshore route. We felt confident that those two boats and our routing all agreed on the same thing.
Corby 40 Crackling Rose and Ker 40 Hooligan was good benchmarks as they went south just ahead of us.
Start Point – Lizard
In the morning Quokka slowed down, then we and La Reponse. We though our positioning was ok, in front and to the right, but as others caught up they went even further north to avoid stopping. The process repeated itself as more and more boats came along, leaving us in a tough spot.
We managed to keep some speed, but still lost out to the group that went by on the inside. All the 14′ we had on Courier du Leon were gone.
When we finally got going we went right, to be on the right side of the pack when the northerly wind came back.
When we got Internet access the tracker showed us as 26th in IRC 1. Not fun after being in the lead, but still something to work with. Spirits were high and we sailed very agredssevly up the coast towards Lizard Point.
And we timed the northerly wind perfectly, went to Code 0 and then A3 ten minutes later. We found a good line slightly east of the majority of boats, that included both Alphalink and Excentric Ripper. We had slightly more current against, but better pressure. So we were able to catch the boats ahead, one by one. British Soldier opted for an offshore route that didn’t pay.
Lizard – Scilly
At Lizard Point we went back to Code 0 and hit the corner and current (that now was with us) perfectly. Passed a bunch of boats and had great pace towards the TSS east of Scilly.
We knew we were hitting another transition with light winds, and we didn’t want to be caught on our own. We gave up some westerly distance to position ourself ahead in a more conservative spot. Better safe than sorry…
It was a fantastic night. When I came on watch at midnight it was warm and we had hundreds of navigation lights astern. The lighthouse swept over a black sky filled with stars. We were the fastest boat in sight but didn’t make a saound as we left a long trail of glowing sea sparkles together with dolphins and schooling fish.
A magical show that gave way to a beautiful sunrise at the Scilly Isles.
Scilly – Fastnet
Looking at the results we were again in the lead. Apparently we managed to crawl back from 26th to a 9th south of Fowey and then 6th at Lizard Point.
And now we could see both A13 Teasing Machine (committed to the south after Scilly) and Swan 45 K-Force (committing to the north).
Here’s the situation at 10.04 Tuesday morning. We wanted to be left of the pack to get the SW breeze first, but not invest to heavily as each port tack was wasted distance when the wind hit. Again the strategy and positioning was very similar to Courrier du Leon:
At one point just after lunch we couldn’t hit our targets. We found kelp around the rudder, and after som investigation with the GoPro, around the keel as well.
We stopped the boat, and Simon Kindt did a wonderful dive to clear he keel. Pretty absurd thing to do in the middle of the Celtic Sea. And yes, it’s on film.
In the afternoon the wind increased at forecasted. We went from Code 0 to J2 to one reef when the wind topped 20 knots during the night. We struggled with performance, and had a hard time pushing the boat. Here it was obvious we hadn’t trained in pitch black, fog and short waves. Also some of the crew got sea sick and we became somewhat passive for a few hours.
Compared to Courrier du Leon we lost 7.8’ between 22.00 and 05.00 when they got to the TSS. That’s more than 1’ per hour or 10% of pace. Despite very similar routes.
Naturally the JPK 10.80 is a better machine at TWA 80-110 in 18-22 knots, with huge stability and ability to carry more sail. But the key factor was experience with 4 helmsmen with huge offshore and Figaro experience being able to push the boat during the night.
Hats off to Géry and his crew.
One of the most capped of all RORC sailors, Géry Trentesaux finally won the Rolex Fastnet Race on this, his 13th attempt, following his first attempt in 1977. The French sailor, who previously led France to Commodores’ Cup victory in 2006 and was part of their winning Admiral’s Cup team in 1991, this year sailed a JPK 10.80, the latest model from the French manufacturer based near Lorient, whose 10.10 model won the race overall in 2013.
Courrier Du Leon’s performance this year was all the more remarkable, after an uncharacteristic and costly error caused her to be over early at the start. In no wind and adverse tide it took her almost 40 minutes to return to recross the start line successfully. Despite this, the French team managed to gain the lead in IRC 3 on the water while passing the Lizard late on Monday evening. They then pulled ahead of all of IRC 2 amid the giant armada of boats setting off across the Celtic Sea to the Fastnet Rock.
Ultimately Courrier Du Leon won by 2 hours and 20 minutes over her sisterhip Arnaud Delamare and Eric Mordret’s Dream Pearls, which finished second both in IRC 3 and under IRC overall.
Aside from having a good boat, Trentesaux also had one of the best crews – Aubry Arnaud, Antoine Carpentier, Jean Louis Couedel, Francois Lamiot, Pierre Ghewy and Figaro sailor Jean Pierre Nicol. Five had sailed with him regularly since the 1999 Rolex Fastnet Race, while Lamiot has raced with Trentesaux ever since they both competed in the Figaro during the mid-1980s.
“I think we are very tough on the boat,” said Trentesaux. “If I ask them to hoist the spinnaker, then five minutes we take it down and five minutes we put it up – there are no questions…
Fastnet – Scilly
When the morning broke we could see Fastnet Rock through the fog. The rough conditions was exactly how we imagined the rounding, and it felt great to be able to tick the box.
This was a moment to remember for all of us.
And a great achievement to be able to be here as 9th boat in a super competitive class.
I dowloaded the latest weather that indicated that the low over Ireland would stay there and we would sail into less and less wind on the way to the finish. We decided to make the most of it and set out big ”whomper” A2 and went low in the stronger winds. We would have the opportunity to come back up in the lighter winds.
Fast and fun sailing when we passed boat after boat. We tried to do the most out of the conditions and peeled between A2, A3 and A5 to maximize our speed towards the TSS west of Scilly.
Unfortunately we didn’t really do our homework on the TSSS. We were so focused on hitting the SW corner that we didn’t really evaluate the option of going on the inside. It would have been faster to stay low and head up with the current close to the islands, but 80% of the boats stayed south so that might still have been the conservative choice?
We’ll put this up as a beginners misstake. As this was our first race, it was hard to change perspectives. Going from the big picture, with many options, to managing each leg, and then back up again to re-evaluate is hard when everything is new. When the competition have done 10-15 races, they’ve seen (or even tried) most alternatives.
Scilly – Finish
Not very dramatic, but we still worked hard. Changed back and forth between A2 and A3 in the pitch black night to make the most out of every change in conditions. At Lizard Point we tried to find maximum current, but obviously the pay-off was much smaller this time.
In general, in 8-12 knots downwind we don’t really have an edge over other boats, but we stayed in contact with Farr 45 Nature and some other fast boats.
After short gybe behind the breakwater in Plymouth we passed the finish line at 12:31:58.
Photo: Linda Bottinga (who raced on Farr 45 Nature.
1 GOA Ker 39 FRA35439 1.117 Samuel Prietz 3 – 21:11:03 4 – 08:05:12
2 Tokoloshe II GP 42 GBR1682R 1.267 Michael Bartholomew 3 – 10:31:57 4 – 08:34:07 0.5%
3 Teasing Machine A13 FRA38757 1.168 Eric De Turkheim 3 – 17:36:32 4 – 08:39:47 0.6%
4 Lisa First 44.7 GBR4947R 1.103 Nicholas Jones 3 – 23:34:55 4 – 09:25:37 1.3%
5 Codiam Grand Soleil 43 FRA36777 1.101 Nicolas Loday 3 – 23:48:28 4 – 09:29:04 1.3%
6 Blur J/111 SWE69 1.110 Peter Gustafsson 3 – 23:11:58 4 – 09:40:17 1.5%
7 Moana First 47.7 BEL4701 1.107 Mathieu Goubau 3 – 23:33:39 4 – 09:47:09 1.6%
8 Jings J/133 GBR8633R 1.109 David Ballantyne 4 – 00:19:06 4 – 10:49:01 2.6%
9 Erivale III Ker 39 GBR236R 1.112 Michael Greville 4 – 00:05:09 4 – 10:50:51 2.6%
10 Desperado of Cowes Swan 65 GBR1665 1.102 Richard Loftus 4 – 01:03:23 4 – 10:57:22 2.7%
11 Coin Coin Sydney 43 GTS NED342 1.189 Bastiaan De Voogd 3 – 18:13:06 4 – 11:16:11 3%
12 Imagine X 41 GER6960 1.125 Streckenbach Holger 3 – 23:32:20 4 – 11:28:53 3.2%
13 Cracklin Rosie Corby 40 GBR851R 1.107 Steven Anderson 4 – 01:20:10 4 – 11:45:04 3.4%
14 Antix Ker 40 USA1253 1.210 Anthony O’Leary 3 – 17:09:48 4 – 11:53:15 3.5%
15 Rebellion Carkeek 40 Mk 2 GBR8449R 1.267 Whitehead/Blue 3 – 13:21:38 4 – 12:09:07 3.8%
16 Warhorse First 50 FRA36780 1.120 Nicolas Gourio 4 – 01:11:03 4 – 12:50:47 4.4%
17 Baraka GP Ker 40 NED40010 1.203 Harmen J de Graaf 3 – 18:33:13 4 – 12:56:10 4.5%
18 Keronimo Ker 40 GBR6889R 1.191 Andrew Williams 3 – 19:28:09 4 – 12:56:23 4.5%
19 Noonmark VI Swan 56 GBR5698R 1.176 Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy 3 – 20:46:33 4 – 13:06:16 4.6%
20 Leu JV 45 One Off GER6009 1.180 Claus Loewe 3 – 20:31:05 4 – 13:10:17 4.7%
21 Night Owl II Mat 12 GBR562R 1.136 Ed Hall 4 – 00:06:12 4 – 13:10:24 4.7%
22 K-Force Swan 45 USA18 1.179 Jan De Kraker 3 – 20:39:03 4 – 13:14:07 4.7%
23 Lady Mariposa Oyster 625 GBR6255X 1.155 Daniel Hardy 3 – 22:59:48 4 – 13:43:16 5.1%
24 Vinga Swan 45 GER7193 1.170 Philipp Kay 3 – 21:49:25 4 – 13:46:25 5.2%
25 Hooligan VII Ker 40 GBR741R 1.193 Edward Broadway 3 – 20:05:53 4 – 13:52:23 5.3%
26 Andrasta Iceni 39 GBR917R 1.168 Henry Bateson 3 – 23:03:57 4 – 15:02:13 6.3%
27 Eclectic Azuree 46 GBR759R 1.132 Colin Campbell 4 – 02:09:09 4 – 15:06:31 6.3%
28 Incisor Corby 45 GBR8248 1.163 Cowes Race School / James Gair 4 – 00:09:46 4 – 15:50:14 6.9%
29 Merena Class40 BEL8000 1.185 Alexis Guillaume 3 – 22:29:01 4 – 15:57:47 7%
30 Bienne-Voile M34 SUI22 1.154 Thierry Bosshart 4 – 01:30:06 4 – 16:31:01 7.5%
31 Visione ILC 40 AUT15764 1.162 Nikolaus Knoflacher 4 – 00:52:50 4 – 16:34:31 7.5%
32 Palpatine Stimson 42 GBR907R 1.126 Mr Richard Thisby 4 – 03:58:42 4 – 16:34:32 7.5%
33 Anna Mobile 53 RUS931 1.228 Mikhail Mataruev 3 – 19:55:44 4 – 16:53:19 7.8%
34 Katsu Reichel/Pugh 45 RP45 1.242 Richard Fearon 3 – 19:19:15 4 – 17:25:14 8.2%
35 Broader View Hamburg Andrews 56 GER5500 1.238 Torben Muelbach 3 – 19:46:52 4 – 17:37:30 8.4%
36 Titania Swan 68 GBR6821R 1.249 Richard Dobbs 3 – 19:05:42 4 – 17:46:40 8.5%
37 Persevere Hanse 545 USA60545 1.157 Colin Rath 4 – 03:07:34 4 – 18:41:20 9.2%
38 Bingo Pogo 40 FRA37573 1.176 Yves Haudiquet 4 – 01:38:12 4 – 18:49:15 9.3%
39 Nature Farr 45 GBR4545R 1.210 Jur Ringers 3 – 23:09:21 4 – 19:08:19 9.6%
40 Juno IV AC 45 GBR8217T 1.124 Mr Peter Burwood 4 – 06:39:25 4 – 19:23:11 9.8%
41 People Farr 45 GBR4512R 1.210 Pieter Visser 3 – 23:39:44 4 – 19:45:05 10.1%
42 Lutine X 55 GBR809 1.195 Neil Armstrong 4 – 01:50:37 4 – 20:55:23 11%
43 Hope & Glory/UNICEF Humphreys 50 GBR641 1.143 Robert Gibson 4 – 08:34:14 4 – 23:31:27 12.9%
44 Cv7 Clipper 68 GBR9356T 1.215 Adrian Bannister 4 – 03:52:06 5 – 01:20:24 14.2%
45 Pogo 1 Class40 GER6002 1.175 Thomas Wentzel 4 – 07:41:10 5 – 01:49:52 14.6%
46 Challenger 1 Challenge 72 GBR8871R 1.210 Stephen Durkin 4 – 05:21:27 5 – 02:38:33 15.1%
47 CatZero Challenge 72 GBR2289L 1.206 Daniel Watson 4 – 08:05:55 5 – 05:32:35 17.1%
48 Challenger 2 Challenge 72 GBR8872R 1.210 Ricky Chalmers 4 – 15:38:10 5 – 15:04:47 22.9%
49 Endeavour Challenge 67 GBR7801T 1.124 RNSA Richard Tarr 5 – 00:19:20 5 – 15:14:32 23%
50 Challenger 4 Challenge 72 GBR8874R 1.210 John Farndell 4 – 15:54:49 5 – 15:24:56 23.1%
51 Challenger 3 Challenge 72 GBR8873R 1.210 Elizabeth Terrell 4 – 16:27:50 5 – 16:04:53 23.5%
52 Nightfall Arcona 430 GBR6643R 1.121 Tom Sperrey 5 – 01:50:43 5 – 16:35:19 23.8%
Our goal was to finish Fastnet Race in the best way we could and get the most out of bopth the boat and the team. We were all new to the race, but wanted to do it without local knowledge or other expertise on board, as this would be more demanding (and maybe rewarding).
We had no expectations in regards to results, so to finish 6th in IRC1 which included over fifty of the best pro teams in Europe is absolutely marvelous. And to beat legends as Antix. Erivale and Hooligan really makes our result something out of the ordinary.
Personally I had three moments that defines our accomplishment:
1. Leading IRC 1 at the Needles, after a tricky start we trusted our speed and homework and beat the rock-stars at their own game.
2. Coming back from 26th place to lead again at the Scilly Isles. No negative vibes. Just focus, hard work and confidence in the team.
3. Rounding the rock :-)
I’m especially proud of our team effort. Everyone worked harder than I’ve ever seen before and also helped each other reach a higher level. I’ve done more and more shorth handed racing in the last few years, but when a crew perform at it’s full potential it’s magical.
Our watch schedule with two hours on, two hours stand-by and two hours off (three watches) let us push the boat hard and when fresh guys came up every two hours it really felt like a well oiled machinery.
Blur Sailing Team (left to right): Peter Gustafsson (helm + skipper), Pelle Pedersen (helm), Mattias Bodlund (trim + mast), Andreas Turesson (trim + bow), Patrik Måneskiöld (navigator + trim), Mats Björk (keyboard), Simon Kindt (bow) and Magnus Hansson (helm).
The team also include David Johansson (bow). We usually race with nine, but IRC limited our crew to 8. David still did the race with SunFast 3600 La Primera, and has a big part in getting both them and us to Cowes and around the rock.
It was great to see eight Swedish teams on the starting line, and I’m sure we’ll see even more in 2017. Let us know if you’re interested and we’äll do what we can to support you.
IRC1 6th J/111 Blur Peter Gustafsson
IRC2 3rd Arvid Laurin 48 Classic Anahita, Carl Urban
IRC2 12th First 40 Tarka II of Hamble, Rolf Tannergård
IRC2 14th S&S 63 Refanut, Fredrik Wallenberg/Gustav Dyrssen
IRC2 26th Sun Fast 3600 Laprimera, Peter Lundgren
IRC2 38th First 40 Sailplane, Jonas Sandberg
IRC2 61th Reflex 38 PRD Konsult Puma, Peter Westerlund
VO65 1st Team SCA Carolijn Brouwer
A big thank you to our partners. Without you we wouldn’t be able to perform: GVA, Henri Lloyd, North Sails, Liros, Spinlock, 24Hour Meal and Happy Yachting.
I’d also like to thank RORC and all local sailors that welcomed us with open armes, helped us in every way and hosted some great parties.