I crossed the Atlantic in 11 1/2 days this summer. For someone of my generation this was special. I never expect to repeat this experience. But I am still on a slow boat in today’s world.
The America’s Cup will never go back to non foiling boats. I still predict that the next Olympics will have at least one foiling class, if not two. No one is looking back, unless it is to true classic yachts. That is for different reasons of beauty and elegance.
The challenge on this year’s Rolex Fastnet Race will be coaxing yachts around the course in ultra light winds
Skippers preparing ready for the Rolex Fastnet Race 2015 on Sunday were warned that it could be a slow race with very light winds ahead. “If you really want to win this race you are going to have to be good at kedging!” joked Eddie Warden Owen, CEO of organisers the Royal Ocean Racing Club.
A record number of 370 yachts will set off from Cowes on Sunday on the 604-mile classic to the Fastnet Rock lighthouse and back to Plymouth. During its 90-year history the race has seen some intense and stormy weather, but this year it promises to be quite the opposite, with some of the lightest forecasts ever seen.
Ian Walker, skipper of the victorious Volvo Ocean Race team Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, also joked about the weather ahead. “There is another isobar approximately in Iceland,” he said.
But the fleet this year includes some of the world’s fastest monohulls and multihulls, which are capable of making enough speed to set off a virtuous circle of apparent wind. These include the 100ft supermaxi Comanche, the big MOD70 trimarans and the 40m trimaran Spindrift 2.
Kenny Read, skipper of Comanche, says: “I don’t think any of us do very well in absolutely no wind, but we all have to play the same game. Whatever the breeze is we just have to adapt. Certainly dragging around a boat with a seven metre-plus beam in very light air is no fun.”
But he did admit that, in flat water, Comanche does only need five knots of true wind to get going.
While the forecasts are making predicting finish times a bit of a nightmare, this is another indication of the potency of these big machines. Spindrift’s likely elapsed times in these conditions, as predicted on routeing software, is somewhere between 1 day 18 hours and 3 days 15 hours.
This race will also be a tough one for the new IMOCA 60s, especially those with the new L-shaped foils. These are great when power reaching, which is what they have been designed for as the optimal configuration for racing round the world, but they are draggy and reported to make more leeway in light conditions.
Morgan Lagravière, the skipper of Safran, who is new to the class but comes from a very strong Olympic 49er and Figaro background, admitted as much at this morning’s media briefing. “I’m not sure this year’s Fastnet will be for us. We will try to do our best. It will be very interesting learning how to use this new boat with the foils and to race with other IMOCA boats, especially Banque Populaire,” he said.
A large contingent this year is the two-handed crews. This is a growing area of offshore sailing, one that fits into a kind of sailing Enduro category. Some 59 boats in the IRC fleet are also sailing doublehanded. The lowest rated is Lucinda Allaway’s and Tom Barker’s Contessa 32 Hurrying Angel.
Like many of the smaller and lower yachts the Rolex Fastnet Race is most likely to favour them, as the breeze will pick up later in the week. Could this be a small boat year?
It is a year also when retirements could be lower than usual – the average is around ten per cent of the fleet. That would be good news for the event as a whole, and the Commodore of the RORC, Michael Boyd, concluded the briefing today by saying: “We are delighted that this is a record year and by the quality of the competition. There are a lot of fantastic sailors, who have put their effort, energy and money to be with us for this special race.
“We wish you all a very successful race and a safe passage.”
Read more at http://www.yachtingworld.com/blogs/elaine-bunting/youll-have-to-be-good-at-kedging-light-winds-endurance-ahead-for-rolex-fastnet-race-2015-66820#vrRt82RB41D4B5bt.99
With a minimum of fanfare, Team New Zealand recently appointed just the third skipper in their 20-year existence.
The fact Glenn Ashby is not a New Zealander and not even a helmsman has created no ripples. Probably it is because the manner of his predecessor’s departure captured all the headlines; possibly it is because he’s such a driver of the team culture that he is viewed among his teammates as an honorary Kiwi.
“I’m honoured to have the team put me in this position,” the 37-year-old Victorian, who is also director of sailing, said. “I really feel as a group we’re in a really strong position going forward and that’s one of the reasons I rejoined Emirates Team New Zealand.”
It wouldn’t have been because of money. Ashby’s multihull pedigree – he was an Olympic silver medallist in the Tornado and the owner of eight consecutive A-Class world championships – and form meant he was a hot commodity after the last America’s Cup.
He could have signed for a lot more with other teams, but eventually chose to stay because, well, he liked the place.
“Having come from Oracle in the [Valencia] campaign, the Team New Zealand culture suits me very well.
“The work ethic, the culture of the team where everyone has everybody’s back and we crossover [between design, build, shore and sailing] to make sure no stone is unturned in any department is something I really enjoyed.
“It was a big influence for me re-signing. While things have been tough over the past 12 months, I [believe] that the people who are really important to the team are still with the team. It gives us the opportunity to step forward and make some big gains.
“Culturally, Team New Zealand is the strongest team in the America’s Cup at the moment.”
That might be surprising to hear given that there has been a big, black cloud hovering over Halsey St that has proved difficult to shift. The threat of closure if more Government money wasn’t forthcoming did not play out well and the departure of popular skipper Dean Barker was messier than mealtime at a daycare centre, but Ashby’s optimism remains undimmed.
After the first week of racing in the America’s Cup World Series, which saw Team NZ finish a creditable second at Portsmouth, his belief has increased. This was his first regatta as skipper and wunderkind Peter Burling’s first time at the helm and he liked what he saw.
“I recognised three or four years ago that continuing to raise the bar right through our sailing programme was really important. He [Burling] was recognised not just by myself, but a lot of the other team members as well. Peter and Blair Tuke were the sort of guys with the attributes we were looking for going forward.
“They were certainly identified as huge talents … . They’re at the top end of their [49er] Olympic sailing programme and in the high-performance world of yachting that we’re now in, this type of sailing really suits those younger guys.”
Ashby said that as a wing trimmer, he had no aspirations to be skipper. Certainly the move has caught some by surprise, though its logic is hard to fault. While it is normal for the helmsman to be skipper, Team NZ bosses feel there is already enough pressure on Burling, 24, without him having to deal with the peripheral issues.
Finally getting back on the water made the elevation feel more real, Ashby said.
“Absolutely. For me, being a yachtsman, the racing side of things for me is the thing that makes me tick.
“The last America’s Cup, that was tough how it ended, and the past 18 months have been tough, but that’s sport, that’s life, and I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.”
• Just Team NZ’s third skipper.
• Hails from inland Bendigo, Victoria.
• Lives at the Mornington Peninsula, Australia, and Pt Chevalier, Auckland.
• Silver medal at the 2008 Olympics with Darren Bundock.
• Multiple multihull world champion.