This afternoon the Royal Ocean Racing Club, organisers of the biennial British 608-mile classic offshore race, confirmed that Niklas Zennström's Ran 2 is the overall handicap winner of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Zennström's Judel-Vrolijk designed 72-footer finished the race in an elapsed time of 63 hours, 1 minute and 33 seconds, which corrected out to 2 hours, 19 minutes ahead of the second-placed Italian America's Cup team Luna Rossa on board their STP65.
“It is fantastic, we are very excited about it,” commented Zennström. “But it was also a gradual thing, because as we crossed the finish line we knew we had a good result. We had monitored some of the boats behind us, most notably Luna Rossa and Rosebud, which we thought were always going to be the closest competitors to us. And after we came in we spent the morning and actually the whole day yesterday monitoring the updates on the RORC's OC Tracker and made our own calculations about the likelihoods for the other boats to catch up with us.”
Having failed to complete the last Rolex Fastnet Race, in 2007, the victory for Ran 2 was unfinished business. That race, sailed on board Zennström's Marten 49, had been the first occasion that the present Ran crew had sailed together. Led by Volvo Ocean Race veteran Tim Powell, the all-star line-up includes seasoned race boat navigator Steve Hayles and America's Cup sailors such as Adrian Stead and Emirates Team New Zealand's Andy Hemmings, Richard Bouzaid and Richard Meacham.
Zennström launched his new 72-footer earlier this year, raced it at several events in the Mediterranean, including the Giraglia Rolex Cup, before it was shipped back to the UK, to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race. “One of the key objectives when we were building Ran 2 was to be able to do offshore races, and the most obvious race we put on the calendar was the Rolex Fastnet Race. So it is great we have done so well in it.” Zennström explains.
This year they have also won the Swedish equivalent of the Rolex Fastnet Race, the Gotland Runt, aboard their previous Ran, a modified TP52.
“I think it is a really strong team,” concludes Zennström. “We have been sailing together for two years now and the team is getting stronger and stronger. We have been very thorough in our planning, both in terms of the design of the boat and our race preparations.”
Skipper Tim Powell was equally ecstatic about their Rolex Fastnet Race win: “Obviously it is a big achievement being such a prestigious race and one of the classics.” He adds that they had prepared well, believing some way in advance that a major part of the race would be upwind and, with Ran 2 being very powerful and fast upwind, they stood a reasonable chance. “We were focusing more on our class and the boats around us a lot more. But to have won the thing overall is an awesome achievement.”
Ran 2 did especially well outbound down the English Channel and by the key tidal gate at Start Point, they had pulled out a 10 mile lead over their Mini Maxi rivals. “That first 20 hours up the Channel was all important, tactically and navigationally, and as a crew we sailed very, very well,” says Powell.
Eddie Warden-Owen, CEO of the Royal Ocean Racing Club, says that this year's Rolex Fastnet Race did favour the larger boats. “If you think that we've had spring tides, and really light winds, one of the big gains that the big boats made was on the first night when they came to Portland Bill and they were able to make the tide. You could see on the tracker that those who had managed to make it away from Portland Bill had a huge advantage, whereas the others were stopped and some had to put their anchor down.. So the story of the race in many respects ended there, but we didn't know which big boat was going to win.”
The opportunity for the smaller boats to win fizzled over the last 24 hours when windier conditions that might have provided them with a fast finish to make up for their deficit, caused by missing the tide at Portland Bill on the first night, failed to materialise.
“Ran sailed really well against the opposition and it is a well-deserved victory,” concluded Warden-Owen. “It is a young crew of British guys on the boat, even though it is owned by a Swede and they are very experienced America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race sailors. So, a good effort.”
At the end of this afternoon, 59 boats of 300 starters had reached Plymouth and berthed in Sutton Harbour in the heart of the Devonshire city. The latest arrivals included the first to finish in IRC Class 1, Nicolas Loday and Jean-Claude Nicoleau's Grand Soleil 43, Codiam.
At present La Floresta Del Mar, Amanda Hartley's Swan 56 can't be beaten in IRC Z, having finished at 03:24 GMT this morning. While Codiam remains first on handicap in IRC 1, Marc Alperovitch and Jérome Huillard's A-35 Prime Time is leading in IRC 2 and at 15:00 had just passed the Lizard with 43 miles left to go to the finish. Finally, Fabrice Amedeo's X-332 Bateaux Mouches du Pont de l'Alma remains first in IRC 3, with 15 miles left to go to Bishop Rock. The majority of the fleet have now rounded the Fastnet Rock with the backmarker, the Bristol Channel pilot cutter, Morwenna, midway across the Celtic Sea with just over one third of the race course completed.