It was a fast and furious start to the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race with four dismastings and one yacht sinking in the winds of 40 knots

Caro, a Botin 52 owned and skippered by Max Klink, is the overall winner of the 50th Rolex Fastnet in a punishing race that saw one yacht sink and four yachts dismasted in gale-force winds, with close to 90 yachts pulling out in the first 24 hours.

Four-metre waves, and gale-force winds gusting up to 43 knots hit the fleet shortly after the start from Cowes on Saturday as a record 443 yachts headed off on the famous 695-mile yacht race round the Fastnet Rock off the south coast of Ireland and across the Celtic Sea to Cherbourg, France.

HM Coastguard reported that they had responded to 28 incidents involving yachts participating in the Fastnet Race in the first few hours, with a search and rescue helicopter and RNLI crews from Yarmouth, Poole, Swanage and Weymouth responding to multiple incidents.

The winning maxi trimaran SVR Lazartigue from France was the first yacht to round the Fastnet rock Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The most serious incident was the sinking of the Sunfast 3600 Vari in the western Solent. Only 20 minutes elapsed between the crew of Vari raising the alarm that they were taking on water and the yacht sinking. The two French crew were recovered from their life raft by an RNLI lifeboat at Yarmouth and taken ashore to hospital. They are both safe and well and now back in France.

Golden Globe Race skipper Tabio Lehtinen was dismasted on his Swan 55 Galiana, which is due to compete in the Ocean Globe Race, a retro edition of the historic Whitbread race, in September. Sun Fast 3200 Mirabelle was also dismasted as was Royal Naval Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Yoyo and Sun Fast 2600 Diablo

Oida ran around off Beaulieu after the anchor dragged and CF520 Oystercatcher XXXV suffered deck failure. There were several MOB/EPIRB distress alerts as devices got covered by water, proving to be false alarms.

The winner Caro also did not escape unscathed. ‘The first 12 hours we were just in survival mode, trying not to break anything, trying to keep the boat at 100 percent,’ said the Swiss owner. ‘I wasn’t thinking about any title or trophy, it was just about getting through the conditions.’

‘At one point we just had everyone in the cockpit, no one was hiking. And keeping the boat speed to no more than six knots and trying to just get through this really bad sea state.’

Strong wind against the tide led to heavy conditions early in the Fastnet Race Photo: Rolex/kurt Arrigo

Caro also sailed largely without instruments after damage to the top of the mast. Tactician Adrian Stead, twice a winner of the Fastnet, added: ‘We lost the wand off the top of the mast in the Portland tidal race and we lost all our wind instruments, so we were running blind.’

‘We pretty much straight lined it all the way (back from the Scilly Isles) and we realised we had a very good shot at winning IRC Zero so pulled out all the stops, got out some extra chocolate bars and had everyone hiking hard on the rail for the last few hours into the finish.’

Caro completed the course in 2 days, 16 hours and 40 minutes, two hours ahead of nearest rival Team Jajo on corrected time, although this may change as there ere are several yachts yet to complete the race. 

Multihull line honours went to SVR Lazartigue under skipper François Gabart with a new record of 1 day, 8 hours, 38 minutes, beating the exiting multihull record by 30 minutes and reaching the finish line an hour before rival Banque Populaire under skipper Armel le Cléac’h. 

The American yacht Warrior Won rounds the Fastnet Rock at dawn during the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race. Photo: Rolex/Kurt Arrigo

The new IMOCA 60 Macif, skippered by Charlie Dalin, was the first monohull home, taking line honours in an incredibly close race between the giant IMOCAs. 

Macif beat Paprec Arkea, skippered by Yoann Richomme by only four minutes and Sam Goodchild, the skipper of For The Planet was only 13 minutes behind them. 

Macif set a new monohull course record of 2 days, 7 hours and 16 minutes, shaving over an hour from the time set by Skorpios, a ClubSwan 125, in 2021 when the race first sailed this new course.

RORC Racing Manager Steve Cole said the committee had considered postponing the race but that there was another low pressure system developing to the west of Ireland and in a seven-day race for some yachts it is difficult to avoid bad weather. 

‘The feeling was that, although it’s better not to have bad weather at all, if you have to have it, better along the English coast where there are places to shelter than, in the Celtic Sea,’ he told Yachting Monthly. 

‘Undoubtedly the forecast would have put some people off, but our rules are flexible enough to allow people to take shelter and then resume racing later. A lot of people did that and good for them for taking the right decision at the time,’ Cole added.

‘We put the races on and hopefully people are well prepared and well informed and the ones that get through it are the ones that deserve to finish.’ 

Yarmouth RNLI Coxswain, Howard Lester said: ‘This weekend’s Fastnet race was the busiest one for Yarmouth lifeboat, responding to six incidents in some very challenging conditions in the western Solent and beyond.

‘We were very fortunate that all our call outs were to crews with means of calling for help and were equipped with either lifejackets or had life rafts accessible onboard.’

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