Rolex Fastnet Race: Daily Download

Justine Mettraux and Simon Fisher are currently taking on the Rolex Fastnet Race for 11th Hour Racing team. 

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Day 3 – August 10, 2330 UTC

The third and (most probably) last night at the Fastnet Race has fallen. Amory Ross sent us the following review on our crew’s progress:

“It been another good day for 11th Hour Racing. Sifi and Justine managed to lay the Scilly Island TSS without gybing, saving themselves two maneuvers that Charal and Arkea Paprec needed to get around the corner, and a bucket of miles in the process. After turning left and entering the English Channel they’re now just 5 miles back from Charal. 2nd through 5th are very close, and as the winds in the Channel generally softened, the trailing fleet enjoyed the eastern-most winds of the big low and have sped into the leaders. Only Apivia seems to be free from the threat…

With 120 miles left to Cherbourg, there is still very good potential for a move up, or down, in the results. The breeze will remain consistently stronger on the norther half of the Channel – most of the fleet is already gybing to stay there – but at some point everyone must go south and across the transition. How far north do you go looking for more wind? How far south do you dare for fewer miles, fewer maneuvers and more leverage? Hard to say at this point which seems more predictable but I would imagine a lot of the tactics will be driven by AIS and what your competitors around you are doing. Or – just how much you have to lose or gain. Big gambles could pay off, or lose you everything!”

Day 3 – August 10, 1130 UTC

A brief update in from Sifi after rounding the iconic Fastnet Rock in the early hours of the morning under a moonless sky: “We’ve had a good night, good speed all through yesterday and we did a reasonably good job of getting the wind shifts into the Fastnet. As we approached the wind got lighter and lighter making for one of my slower roundings of the rock, but also my closest, I think!

After we got past the rock and following a few sail changes we were getting back to good wind again as we escaped the Irish coast. This has meant we have extended on the boats behind a little making our 4th place a little more comfortable. It feels like we have done a good job through the early hours of the morning, staying fast while we could and then choosing a good moment to peel to the spinnaker.

We are now back on the reaching sails again as the wind has backed some more so it’s feeling good to have the boat speeds back in the teens and the chances of closing in on the boats in front a little is becoming a possibility.

We had a couple of sail changes overnight, we were happy that they all went smoothly. Feels good to be learning and improving as well as racing hard.

It’s nice to be going downwind, and a bit more straight-line sailing. It means there is a bit more time to rest and relax!

11th Hour Racing Team round Fastnet Rock on the second night of 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race.
11th Hour Racing Team round Fastnet Rock on the second night of 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race.
Justine Mettraux during the 20210 Rolex Fastnet Race
Justine Mettraux enjoys the sunrise on the second morning of racing.
Sunrise onboard 11th Hour Racing Team during the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race
Stunning sunrise after a moonless night of sailing.
Enjoying nice and easy downwind conditions, straightline to the finish.
Day 3 – August 10, 0600 UTC

050° 40.366N, 008° 48.093W
Course: 137° @ 12.5 knots
19°C at 5m above sea level

Amory Ross gives his review on how 11th Hour Racing Team’s Justine Mettraux and Simon Fisher got on overnight. “A good night for the squad. Justine and Sifi have closed the gap a little on Arkea Paprec and legged out on Initiatives Couer, who only rounded Fastnet Rock early this morning. 11.1 is now closer to 3rd than they are 5th, with a little less than half the track left to go; they are roughly 300 miles from Cherbourg.

“Last night’s NWerlys made it a difficult one for anyone who didn’t get around early. The bulk of the fleet was nowhere near layline and ended up making Irish landfall well to the east, with a long upwind leg to the Rock. Meanwhile, the remaining breeze helped the leaders extend downwind. It will be interesting to see if there is a reverse exchange coming, as the last of the steady wind exits to the east and the back half of the fleet feel the effects of the next low pressure system first. The forecast is still for variable 8-12 knots from the west / northwest through much of today. Still going to be a lot of VMG downwind sailing back towards Land’s End and the Scillies.

“Stronger 15-18 knot prefrontal southerlies start appearing near Ireland around 1400 today and then gradually work their way east, reaching the English Channel sometime tomorrow morning. Where the leaders will be and where the trailing fleet will be could cause the rubber band to stretch or retract a bit, but for now the top four boats have managed to build a decent buffer.”

DAY 2 – august 9, 1800 utc:

051° 32.176N, 008° 11.378W
Course: 314° @ 13.6 knots
19°C at 2m above sea level


Amory Ross – shoreside: 

“Sundown on Monday shows a complicated race course. The right shift came early and northwesterly’s have made it impossible for any of the IMOCAs to lay Fastnet Rock without tacking. Fortunately for SiFi and Justine, the header came from the west so the lead group of Apivia, Arkea Paprec and Charal suffered first, sailing down into 11.1’s line. Subsequent gains on the front pack and they have also managed to stretch out a 10 mile lead over fifth-place Initiatives Coeur after simultaneous roundings of Land’s End.

Apivia has just rounded the Rock (close behind the ClubSwan 125 Skorpios in the race for Monohull Line Honors) and ’11.1’ is roughly 60 miles downwind of the iconic waypoint, approaching the Irish coast and what will be the first of a few tacks early this evening.

Once they’re around, the wind fades further through the night, with the forecast predicting 10 knots from the NW across most of the region. That said, this is an unpredictable phase of weather between two systems and the instability will make for some varied conditions into Tuesday.

It will be interesting to see how much extra distance teams are willing to sail on the downwind fetch back towards the Scillies. The models show a bit of acceleration between the land masses towards Cardiff to the east, but hedging west may get you to the new breeze sooner. Watch for some different strategies on the way south!”

Justine checking the trim
Land's End
Land's End
Land's End

DAY 2 – august 9, 1000 BST:

A little overnight update from our media crew member Amory Ross:

“Through the night, half of the IMOCA 60 fleet opted to sail north around the Casquets Traffic Separation Scheme [TSS], while the other half chose to head south.

SiFi and Justine opted for somewhat of a third, middle option, which required seven tacks since the Needles compared to the leading trio’s one. By the looks of the tracker they were dealing with some heavy current, too.

Since this morning SiFi and Justine have done a nice job climbing back and are currently in a good tussle for ‘first Anglo’ with Sam Davies and Nicolas Lunven in the fight for 4th. They have decided to pass to the north of the Land’s End TSS whereas Apivia, Charal and Arkea Paprec will round its southern flank. They’ll shave some upwind miles off the course, have a bit of reaching to the northen corner, and then hopefully lay the rock from there. The leaders to the south will have a slightly better angle and should leg out a bit.

Winds have backed off to the mid teens from the west, and the conditions are supposed to hold throughout the day. By days end though the breeze will start swinging north-northwest, and the slower boats may have to tack upwind to get around the lighthouse.

Bigger picture – the old low breaks up over Scotland and some significant weather moves in from the west. Right now it looks unlikely there will be any reaching conditions on the return trip and we can rather expect some downwind sailing in 5-10 knots range from the W / NW. General consensus here is our foils perform well downwind so hopefully there are gains to be made!

* APIVIA looks set to be the first monohull around the Fastnet, which is… really impressive. They have shown some incredible upwind pace!”

Follow the racing on the YB live tracker.

DAY 1 – august 8, 1700 BST:

2021 Rolex Fastnet Race – DAY 1

050° 00.849N, 001° 58.274W

Course: 202° @ 14.5 knots

19°C at 1m above sea level

Update from 11th Hour Racing Team media crew member, Amory Ross:

Sifi and Justine got an early start to the day on the trip across the Channel from Cherbourg, dropping mooring around 2am (cheers to Aimee and Ed for the free main hoist before jumping ship).

Conditions around start time were typically English, 20 to 30 knots and rain from the southwest, funnelling straight up the Solent. After several days of rough weather, the leftover chop, winds and wind-against-tide multiplier all combined to paint a pretty heinous picture on the TV… Mark Lloyd, a photographer we worked with for the start, said it was the worst sea state he’s seen in 10+ years of living there. Maybe time to move to Brittany, Mark!

With the rough seas, crowded line (12 IMOCAs + 33 Class 40s) and outgoing tide pushing boats towards (and potentially over) the start line, Sifi and Justine were conservative to begin. There were some unusual angles in the first minutes (from photos it looks like there may have been some jib sheet issues) but they rejoined the fray and the long upwind beat out of the Solent, arriving at the Needles in 9th. With this complicated phase of the race complete (tacking, headlands, navigation obstacles, variable tide lines and lots of marine traffic), the duo hopefully took a deep breath…

Two and a half hours later, 11.1 has climbed to fourth place behind Apivia, Charal and Arkea Paprec, who are leaving the windiest part of the Channel behind and appear to be easing sheets ever so slightly for some ‘fast-upwind’ sailing. Charal is currently doing 18 knots compared to Sifi and Justine’s 14.5.

Tonight could be the toughest segment on the course as residual winds, TSS [Traffic Separation Scheme] zones that must be avoided, numerous upwind maneuvers and a traditionally hectic stretch of water, demand constant attention. The English Channel can be a handful on a good day, so the difficult conditions will test the fleet early. It will be upwind all the way to the Lizard with winds ‘easing’ overnight (not dropping!), and then a righthand turn and long port tack out to the Fastnet, also upwind. As the low pressure system parked over northern UK fades mid-day Monday, the weather picture becomes a lot less clear, but hopefully they’re rewarded with some post Fastnet Rock reaching on those beautiful V3 foils all the way back towards France.

Follow the racing on the YB live tracker.

DAY 1 – august 8, 11 BST:

Justine and SiFi get ready to tackle the 49th edition of the iconic Rolex Fastnet Race in Cowes, United Kingdom.

The race start will be streamed live on the Rolex Fastnet’s website, The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s (RORC) YouTube Channel, and RORC’s Facebook page.

After the start you can continue to follow the race via the YB live tracker.