Spindrift 2 catches just enough of a breeze to win Fastnet
The world’s two fastest offshore racing trimarans had to endure the world’s slowest finish in the early hours of yesterday morning in the Rolex Fastnet Race.
Having jockeyed for the lead since leaving the Solent on Sunday, the Dona Bertarelli and Yann Guichard co-skippered Spindrift 2 was ahead past the Lizard in the early hours of Monday morning, only for the wind to switch off within two miles of the finish in Plymouth.
Even the world’s largest racing trimaran, with her 47m tall wingmast, was unable to find any wind when it counted.
As she parked, with Plymouth tantalisingly near, Armel le Cleac’h and the crew of the 31.5m trimaran Banque Populaire were able to ghost in. As the navigation lights on the French Vendée Globe hero’s maxi-trimaran grew ever bigger, at one point closing to within half a mile, it looked like she might sail around Spindrift 2.
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However, at the last moment, the frontrunner found the lightest zephyr to ghost across the finish line at 02.53.58 BST.
Due to the upwind and light conditions this year, Spindrift 2’s elapsed time of 38 hours 53 minutes and 58 seconds was more than six hours slower than the course record that this same boat managed in the race two years ago.
Despite being so close, it was another 22 minutes 41 seconds before Banque Populaire crossed the line.
“The race went really well,” said Caffari on the dockside at Plymouth Yacht Haven in Mount Batten. “It was tactically challenging and all about getting the strategy right.”
The solo round the world sailor, who is now part of the Oman Sailing team, the third boat to finish the Rolex Fastnet Race added: “We had a strategy and a very clear idea of what we were going to do.
“The big decision was whether to go north or south of the traffic separation lane after Land’s End. We went north and that proved to be a really good decision.”
Caffari, whose partner is Harry Spedding, son of local legend Andrew ‘Spud’ Spedding, said that, although this was the last race of the season for the flagship 70-foot trimaran in what is the broad based sailing project in Oman, it had been a huge step for the women’s programme. To have Raiya al Habsi on board and a significant push for the cultural adjustment for women’s sport in the in the Middle East.
For the boat it was the second visit to Plymouth in two months as it had been part of the Route des Princes multihull tour of Europe in June.
For Bertarelli this was her first ever offshore race, although the conditions at the finish were more akin to those she experienced when she won Switzerland’s top yacht race, the Bol d‘Or Mirabaud in 2010.
“We’re very pleased, very happy to be here because the outcome was not certain,” she said, admitting that she had mentally prepared herself for a more gruelling race in more wind.
“We knew it would be difficult, especially with the light conditions, but we managed to manoeuvre well, keep up good speed and have the right sails up to stay ahead of Banque Populaire.”
Guichard was relieved with the outcome, following the tense, albeit slow finish. He said: “We are so happy to win the first race for the team with this boat. It is not easy to manage 14 people on board, so it is great to win here.”
Le Cleac’h, who has finished second in the last two Vendée Globe solo round the world races, was pleased to have arrived so close to Spindrift 2, despite his maxi-trimaran being 8.5m shorter.
“Off Land’s End we went with Oman Air in a good wind direction and were six miles ahead of Spindrift, so we were very close at the Fastnet Rock, just one or two minutes behind,” he said.
“After that, we had great speed in 20-24 knots, when we were doing 35 knots. We were very happy because we didn’t lose distance to Spindrift. After that it was a better angle for them, but as we approached Plymouth we saw that Spindrift had no speed, and that really motivated us.
“To finish 20 minutes behind is very good for our team and for our crew, we thought Spindrift would be much faster than us.”
For her part, Caffari will now continue with a programme that takes in dingy sailing, keelboat racing and match racing leading up to Sailing Arabia – the Tour which has a the fleet racing from country to country, starting in Bahrain, and in which a team from Plymouth is expected to take part.