On Wednesday 12th August at 01:09:36 BST ICAP Leopard crossed the finish line to take line honours in the prestigious Rolex Fastnet race for the second consecutive time. The 100ft super-maxi racing yacht, owned by Helical Bar PLC Chief Executive Mike Slade, completed the 608 mile course in an elapsed time of 2 days, 11 hours, 9 minutes and 36 seconds.
The first start gun for the 300-strong fleet was fired at 12:00 BST on Sunday 9th August and ICAP Leopard, which had a later start time of 14:00 BST, quickly powered her way to the head of the pack. Faced with fickle breezes and complex tidal currents, tactician Ray Davies and the star-studded crew of ICAP Leopard pushed hard to ensure that she remained ahead of her lighter rivals.
Despite the weather, preventing ICAP Leopard from challenging the 44 hour record she set two years ago, she was the first boat to round the iconic Fastnet rock at 01:26 BST on Tuesday 11th August. In freshening breeze the 100ft canting-keel super-maxi then took off downwind, slowly grinding out a lead that she held over her lightweight rivals all the way to the finish.
Owner, Mike Slade, commented: “This race may not have seen the thrills and spills of two years ago but it has been just as challenging, albeit in a completely different way. The Fastnet is a hugely technical race and we needed to sail faultlessly to stay ahead of our competitors. The boat performed well in all conditions and we are delighted to have taken line hours for the second Fastnet Race in a row. We shall enjoy the celebrations here in Plymouth before switching our focus to the Rolex Middle Sea Race and Rolex Sydney-Hobart, where we will aim to repeat this success all over again!”
Having secured line honours in the Rolex Fastnet Race, ICAP Leopard will now look to make history, by becoming the first British boat to take line honours in all three major Rolex sponsored events in the same year: Rolex Fastnet Race, Rolex Middle Sea Race (17th October) and Rolex Sydney Hobart Race (26th December).
Meanwhile, a steady influx of boats has continued to stream into Sutton Harbour in Plymouth's historic Barbican quarter today. At the end of the afternoon, 17 boats have arrived including eight IMOCA 60s led by Sebastien Josse's BT IMOCA 60s, and including Volvo Ocean Race winner Mike Sanderson's Team Pindar, home in seventh place and fourth in the IMOCA 60 class.
“We have amazingly tight racing between quite different boats if you saw them lined up on the dock,” commented Sanderson upon his arrival. “Seb Josse and Vincent Riou [former Vendee Globe winner, sailing on Akena Verandas] are incredibly experienced singlehanded sailors. I knew as soon as they were with us at Fastnet Rock that we were going to struggle.”
According to Sanderson he lost distance on the leaders en route back to Bishop Rock from the Fastnet when he didn't direct Team Pindar far enough north. “North of the rhumb line was pretty advantageous. You saw Safran gain a lot there and Aviva lost a lot on the outside of us. So I need to learn my lessons and believe in the routing.”
This was Sanderson's fifth Rolex Fastnet Race, his previous races on board boats like the maxis New Zealand Endeavour and Sayonara and the Volvo Ocean 60 Merit Cup. Otherwise it had turned out to be a challenging race, much better than the forecast had indicated before the start. “We always love some breezy reaching stuff in Open 60 world. A 600 mile windward-leeward isn't ideal for these boats but it was great, even though the course wasn't great for us to blast along.” His blue IMOCA 60, designed by Juan Kouyoudmjian, who also penned ABN AMRO ONE, his 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race winner, is in the process of being sold but Sanderson hopes to remain involved with the boat when it transfers to its new owner.
The all-important handicap victory is looking increasingly like it will go to Niklas Zennström's immaculately sailed 72 footer, Ran 2. Plymouth sailor Nigel Passmore and his IRC-optimised TP52 Apollo looked vaguely hopeful, but as the latest arrival their elapsed time corrected out to 3 hours 18 minutes outside of Ran 2's corrected time of 4 days 2 hours and 30 minutes. This left Apollo fourth overall with the two STP65s Luna Rossa and Rosebud/Team DYT between them and the race leader.
Aside from the handicap win, one of the toughest competitions remaining on the water is going on in the Class 40 fleet where, once again, French shorthanded sailor Tanguy de LaMotte is leading aboard his Initiatives Saveurs – Novedia Group. At 1600 GMT his blue and white Class 40 was rounding Bishop Rock.
“Once we got around the Fastnet, we've been pretty quick,” commented round the world sailor, Liz Wardley, competing on board. Mid-afternoon they were “hooning along” in 15-22 knots of westerly breeze and relatively flat seas. Wardley reckoned the wind would veer to the northwest tonight and drop as they approached Plymouth tomorrow morning.
Having won the Transat and most recently the Les Sables-Horta-Les Sables race, here on the Rolex Fastnet Race, Italian Giovanni Soldini is in the unusual position of not leading the Class 40 fleet. However, relishing the big broad reaching conditions, his boat has been closing in on the leader. From 13 miles behind this morning, late afternoon he has closed to within six miles. According to Soldini, the reason for catching up today has purely been one of his powerful boat preferring the stronger conditions..
The reason why Soldini is in catch-up mode is partly due to snaring a net around his yacht's keel bulb off the Lizard. “That was very bad for us,” said Soldini. “We'll see if we can catch up Tanguy, but it is very difficult. We are catching up slowly, but I don't think it will be enough. So we need to hope for some tactical opportunity.”
Among the large luxury rides that have reached Sutton Harbour is the well-appointed Performance Yacht 100, Liara, belonging to Tony Todd. Among the benefits of sailing on board this New Zealand-built super yacht has been the opportunity to shower and eat cordon-bleu food and a chance to delve into their extensive DVD collection, where we understand Bad Boys II was the favourite of the trip in the quieter moments.
Leopard follows in the footsteps of super-maxi yachts Ocean Leopard (1988-1999) and Leopard of London (2000-2006). Like her predecessors she is aimed towards top-level race sponsorship, day charters in the Solent and, longer term, charters in the warmer waters of the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
Farr Yacht Design provided Leopard's basic naval architecture and construction engineering, whilst styling and interior was designed by Ken Freivokh. The boat was built by McConaghy Boats in Sydney, Australia, with Chris Sherlock acting as owner's representative.
For more information regarding Leopard, please visit: www.leopard3.com
ICAP is the world's premier interdealer broker and provider of post trade services. The Group matches buyers and sellers in the wholesale markets in interest rates, credit, commodities, foreign exchange, equities and equity derivatives through voice and electronic networks. ICAP has an average daily transaction volume in excess of $2.3 trillion, more than 40% of which is electronic. ICAP is also the source of global market information and research for professionals in the international financial markets. ICAP plc was added to the FTSE 100 Index on 30 June 2006. For more information go to www.icap.com
About the Rolex Fastnet Race 2009:
The Rolex Fastnet Race is one of the world's classic yacht races, sailed biennially over a 608- mile course. The course is a fearsome test of seamanship and offshore racing tactics, with its ever changing weather and tricky tides. The 300 strong fleet will start from Cowes on the Isle of Wight at 12:00 BST on Sunday 9th August, sailing along the south coast of England before sailing north to the Fastnet Rock off the south coast of Ireland. The boats will round the historic lighthouse before returning to Plymouth via Bishop's Rock on the southern tip of the Isles of Scilly. Previous competitors include former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, Sir Francis Chichester, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and 80's pop star Simon Le Bon.