Rolex Fastnet Race fleet facing gale-force winds


Strong winds and short steep seas are taking their toll on the 271-boat Rolex Fastnet fleet, with approximately 90 boats retired as of 1100 BST.



Boats have been streaming into Plymouth the race finish and other ports along the Devon and Cornwall coastline after they elected or were forced to retire and head for shelter. For some boats it was not so much the wind, but the accompanying sea state that was proving exhausting for the crews.


One of the race leaders, the super-maxi Alfa Romeo retired last night at 2250. With the wind at 30 knots, gusting to 40 knots, the sea state wasn't too bad, but owner Neville Crichton and crew were concerned with the expected conditions at Land's End. He said, "We had made a decision before the race to assess the conditions at Land's End. It's hard to just throttle back -- we were match-racing along the coast with Leopard, on port tack with a triple-reef in the main and had just cracked sheets when the mainsail tore. While this damage was minor we were more concerned with the possibility of damaging the rig." The boat retired and eventually made their way to Gosport.


According to the Coast Guard, three yachts have already experienced rig problems: Jambalaya, a J/105 was dismasted and under tow for Salcombe in Devon, the Swan 47 Ariel has problems with the forestay and is anchored off Plymouth Sound, and Oz Privateer was dismasted.


Onboard Dominic Chappell¹s IMX 40 Maverick 2, the crew were sailing along comfortably in 35-40 knots of wind, when the mainsail ripped and they had few options but to drop out and head for Plymouth.


According to Janet Grosvenor, RORC Racing Manager, ³The boats are doing exactly what we expected given the conditions. They are going safely into nearby ports the Race Office is in contact with local Coast Guards to monitor the boats and situation.²


The current race leaders, which include Leopard, Rambler and several of the Open 60 fleet are north of Bishop¹s Rock.


At Fastnet Rock, winds were reported to be northeasterly at 15 knots.